Ever since he dropped All I Want is You, Ronald "J-Ron" Jean, has been working hard mastering his unique blend of RnB infused Konpa and Zouk. And he sure has perfected it. Song after song, he drops silky vocals over buttery smooth tracks. We talked to the singer-songwriter about his writing, influences and plans to take his sound worldwide.
1. If J-Ron was not a singer-songwriter what could have been another path?
If I wasn't a singer, I'd probably be a cook, still play football or be a personal trainer. I was a cook at a restaurant when I was 18 years old. I love to cook. I'm a great cook. I'm hooked on the Food Network. I played football throughout my adolescent years and had a great run at it. I was Defensive Player of the Year in Canada two years in a row. I was probably one of the smallest players in the league but surely one of the toughest. And as all my IG and Snapchat followers know, I'm always in the gym and I actually train some of my friends that aspire to be sexy like me. Haha.
2. How much of your writing reflects your personal life, and how much of it is your imagination?
I would say 50% is my life, 25% is influenced by the people around me and 25% is my imagination. Sometimes it's all of them combined. I try to make music everybody can relate to, so I take pieces from everything around me to make a relatable song.
3. From "All I Want Is You" and "Toupie," to "Ou Diferan," all your songs tell interesting stories. Take us through your songwriting process.
Well, I let the beat speak to me. I used to write a lot, but with time my mind started working faster than me, so I don't really write anymore. I just record all my ideas directly, no more writing. I sit down in the studio and listen to the beat and it comes on its own.
First, I put down the melodies and ideas. Then I just mumble how I want it to sound. Once the melody, flow, subject idea and content are are down, my manager/producer, Richard Jean-Pierre, and I find the words to the song based on the melodies, flow and rhyme I put down. If he isn't available, I take input from whoever is in the studio. When I'm in my creative mode, even if that person isn't in the music industry or into music like that, as long as my manager approves, it's a go.
4. Tell us about the very first song you wrote. What was it about?
OMG.. You are making me go back, way back to my RnB days. For those who don't know, I was an established French RnB singer in the Quebec music industry. I worked with artists such as Sir Pathetik, Billy Nova, Sans Pression, just to name a few. I went on two provincial tours in 2008 and 2009. I was nominated RnB Artist of the Year in 2013 and won RnB Artist of the Year in 2014. Funny thing is, I won with my "All I Want Is You" EP which is a Zouk/Konpa project, but it still had the RnB essence to it. Maybe that's why I won. I'm off topic now, but back to your question -- the first song I wrote was "Ce Soir", a track my manager produced and proposed to me when he discovered me. After we wrote and recorded the song, he signed me right away and my career took off from there.
5. You often paint a vivid, intimate image with your lyrics. You sing "Bouge tout sur moi similaire à un film trois x" in Strip. And "Eske w santi m byen, si profond? Apa w'ap grife m, tèlman l bon" in Sex You Up. Do you worry about your music being too sexual for some of your fans?
Well it's all about how you perceive the lyrics. When I say "Bouge tout sur moi similaire à un film trois x" I might be talking about dancing. Maybe it paints a very sensual or sexual dance, but it doesn't necessarily mean I'm talking about a sexual act. When I sing: "Eske w santi m byen, si profond?" I could be talking about my love for her. Asking her if she can feel how deep my love is for her. Maybe that's what I'm talking about. Okay, maybe the "Apa w'ap grife m, tèlman l bon" part. Also the title, "Sex You Up," too.
But the point I'm trying make is people can perceive words or a sentence differently depending the state of mind that they're in. You see, I like to paint a vivid picture of all the aspects of romance and I think sex should never be left out because it's a big part of what we call romance in our day and age. I like to tell a story of a romantic and not just doing IT. Now let's take back my lyric from Strip "similaire à un film trois x", I don't mean I want her to be porn star in bed. But I think in any relationship, you need a little wild side, you know, spice it up a little bit, rejuvenate the relationship in order to always keep it as interesting as the first times. I'm all about romance and love. Freaky or not.
6. What's your target audience?
The world--from an unborn child to the oldest person on earth. Black, white, yellow -- whoever appreciates music, period. I got a lot of fans that are not even Haitian. The other day I met a fan, she knew all the words to all the songs on my EP, word for word, even the Creole lyrics and she was Asian. I was amazed and that's when I realize my music is universal. People might label it as Konpa or Zouk. I just label it MUSIC. Do you think Michael Jackson had a targeted audience? His music was for every audience and I want my music to do the same. Trust me, I'm not comparing myself to the late great MJ. May his soul rest in peace.
But age wise, as far as I know, in Montreal it ranges from 12 to 35. I'm the only Konpa/Zouk artist to ever, I mean EVER, have what I call the Bieber Effect on High School kids in Montreal. The Bieber Effect is when the fans go crazy just knowing you're in the premises, like about to faint when they see you. You can check on YouTube. There's footages of my "WE DO IT FOR THE KIDS" High School tour I did last year. Trust me, they go CRAZY.
7. How would you describe the J-Ron sound? How did it come about? And why did you chose that specific sound?
I describe it as Neo-Konpa with a fusion of the essence of RnB. I remember as a teen, my friends and I used to see Konpa as old people music. We listened to hip hop and RnB and our parents listened to Konpa. It's when I got in my 20s, I started appreciating and understanding Konpa/Zouk. So I told myself when I got in this game to keep this music fresh and appealing to the younger generation.
I'm new in this HMI. Unfortunately, I didn't grow up listening to Konpa like most, if not all of these other HMI artists in the game, but that same misfortune is what sets me apart from them. That's what makes me different. That's what makes my sound and approach to a song different. I still have a lot to learn in this HMI. I'm still a student of the game. Don't get it twisted, I do my homework. I do go dig up them old records, Skah-Shah, Tabou Combo, Mizik Mizik, Fantom, System Band, Missile 747, Sweet Micky, Zin, just to name a few. Although my style is closer to the Carimi and Harmonik, I still had to go to back to the roots to get a better understanding of this genre of music. I'm just trying to add to the culture, not change it.
8. You've worked with Jude Sévère, and more recently, Maxiimus. What do these guys bring to the table?
Jude Severe, we call him "Young Old Man". He's the only young guy I've seen having conversation with old heads without being treated like a youngin'. This guy is younger than me and beside him I feel like a kid. This guy gained so much experience at such a young age being part of one of the pioneer group of the HMI, Zenglen. He taught us a lot. He was a real mentor for Richard and I. He taught us how to deal in this HMI. Showed us the good and the ugly side of this HMI. He showed us the standard we needed to set for GoodLife in this game. The different approach and structure we need to bring to make a change in this HMI. Let's be honest with each other, there's a lot of flaws in our Haitian Music Industry. Trust me I lived it many times. Good thing he had prepared us for it.
But Jude is the one that was able to put together that sound we talked about. We had the idea of what we wanted it to sound like but he crafted it. If you'd hear the original drafted version of the songs on my EP, you would see or hear exactly what I'm talking about. Us crossing paths was perfect timing for the both of us. He wanted to create and different sound when he left Zenglen and we needed someone to create a new sound when we got in the game. And poof! Magic happened. We owe him a lot. Now Jude is a busy man, he's cooking up something and he doesn't want to share what it is. I just hope when he's done, we can get back in the studio and create some more masterpieces.
When it comes to Maxiimus, what can I say? He's gifted. We understand each other when it comes down to creating music. He used to always play around in studio and when I told him let's make a song, we made Pa Bezwen Pale. From that point on, we've be in the studio making hit after hit. He understood the sound I wanted to put out and quite frankly, I think he mastered it. He took the sound we created with Jude and took it to new heights. He also comes up with great ideas and hooks for songs. He's a real producer, like a Pharrell Williams, Timbaland or Rodney Jerkins. He comes and brings you a reference track. Maxiimus is just that great of a producer. We didn't have choice but to sign him to GLE. Y'all be on the lookout for him. He's about to do some big things. A lot of good music coming soon. We working.
9. Are there any producers or artist that you would like to work with?
I want to work with everybody. I need some J-Beatz, Ti-Klod from Xtassy, Mark G from 4Real, Makenzy from Paris--this kid is talented, Power Surge and Shelby Abraham. There's a lot of talented producers in Montreal I'd have to work with too, like Sweetness, Pascal Laraque (he doesn't like to take credit for his production, but y'all have been vibing to a lot of his music), Nicolas and Raynaldo from Koneksyon. Actually Nicolas was the first to ever produce me a Konpa track to which I wrote "Back To The Future." Although the version that came out was a revamp produced by Pascal Laraque, I still give Nicolas his credit. He kind of started all this. He probably doesn't even know it.
And I definitely have to get production from Peter from Kompasoul. The production on their album "No Rules"...just amazing. By far, one of the best Konpa albums I've heard in a while and it's a Montreal product. I just hope the HMI gives them the right exposure because it's a brilliant album. They set the bar so high for me, no lie. Then I would have Nickenson Prudhomme overseeing the whole project. Like a Dr. Dre, he goes over it and adds his final touch to make it a masterpiece. It's funny how Nickenson has always been my favorite producer, even before I got into the game, and the producer that created our sound is his protégé Jude Severe. Imagine me having a song produced by Nickenson and Jude Severe. Just imagine!
As for as artists in our new generation, I'd like to work with X-Tassy, 5Lan, Rutshelle, Phyllisia Ross, Mac D, Nickenson or Harmonik all together, Carimi, T-Micky. I'd like to get a track with Arly Lariviere. Sort of a wise man to a youngster kind of concept. Matter of fact, I think I already have the track if he's interested. Haha. Alan Cave. We all know what that one would be about. Haha. I'd want to work with Mikaben. Have him write that perfect song for me. Also J Perry, get that international sound. Enposib, Koneksyon and KompaSoul. I think 9 would be good for Montreal. I should already be in work with Koneksyon and Kompasoul by the time you're reading this.
I'm currently in the studio with Ronald BS and we should have a single dropping soon that will be part of his upcoming compilation. There's Jessie Simmons from my GoodLife team. Some artists that are not in this genre of music such as RnB singers Nicole Musoni and Elita J. Like I said I want to work with everybody.
10. You've ventured outside of Montreal. How has your music been received outside of your home base?
From what I know, my first project was well received. "All I want is you" and "Sex you up" did well in the states. "Toupie" and "Strip" did well in France. I was lucky enough to go out on a month tour. We did Ottawa, Boston, Atlanta, Orlando, Tampa, Ft. Lauderdale, New York and ended it home, in Montreal. People knew the music and were finally able to put a face to the voice. It was fun, but there were some few bumps at times. You know this business. Not all promoters do straight business. Luckily, I have my team whereever I go. I let them handle the business. I focus on taking care of my fans. Whatever bs might be going on, I don't let it affect my performance. I always give 100%. There could be 10 people in the crowd. These 10 people will have the show of their lives. Trust me, they'll leave and talk about it and next time I'm around there'll be 50 people. That's an increase of 500%. Good stats, don't you think?
But before I did all that, I made sure I was king in my own town. What's the saying: "You ain't king in your own town." Well that wasn't the case for me. I made sure I established myself home before I went out there. My manager always told me this one thing: How serious are they going to take you if they ask about you in Montreal and people say we don't know him. Or J-Ron who? And he's right. I've learned in this game that's it's not all about talent but also how you weigh in the game. Now, I'm just waiting on the opportunity to hit Europe, Haiti and les Antilles. It's coming.
11. How did your latest single "Ou Diferan" come about and what was it inspired by?
" was all inspired by Maxiimus. He came with the concept about a girl that fronts on you at first but later down the line ends up being your girl, and switches up. His verse was on there as a reference, but I wasn't going to be the one rapping, so Richard was like we're keeping him on the song. I added my part, he mixed it and we got a hit. It really made the difference in the song. Li fè'l diferan. It was a smart move.
12. What's your formula for coming up with these catchy hooks? When do you know you've nailed the hook?
I don't quite know if I got a formula. I guess it comes from my RnB background. In Urban music if your hook isn't catchy, your track is not hot. I always ask myself: If that was RnB, would it work? Would the club love it? Would the ladies sing along? Or even the fellas? The beats talk to me. The melody comes, the words follow. If I close my eyes and I don't get that "Awwww! We got another one" feeling, I scrap it and redo it until I get it right. Then I test it out on random people who come to my studio. Look at their reaction to the hook. It's all in their facial expressions. Then I test it out on my team. No yes men around me, so if it's not up to par, they'll surely let me know. They give me the final stamp of approval.
13. What's next for you? When can we expect another video and album?
Well for now we're doing that "#FMR: First Monday Releases" thing. We'll be dropping a song every first Monday of each month. Basically giving out an album for free. We're hoping to get about three videos off of that project. We want to get the fans involved, so we're going to let them choose what songs to shoot. I also want to perform two concerts to back it up. One after the 6th release, the other after the 12th.
We're prepping them for the album we hope to drop in 2017. Hopefully, more features with my fellow HMI artists. I have a lot of music and I'm still working on some every day. With Maxiimus in the studio almost every day, it's worst. We're two workaholics. Add that to the team I got, working day and night to make everything happen. All I'm saying is we're working hard! GLE ia all we got!
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