J. Holiday Interview

J. Holiday
Artist:J. Holiday
Label:Music Line
Next Project:Round 2
Twitter:J. Holiday on Twitter
Website:J. Holiday's Website

2008 was a great year for R&B fans; with new albums from Mary J. Blige and Ne-Yo, as well as strong freshman efforts from rising stars Karina Pasian and Jazmine Sullivan, competition for the genre’s ‘Best Album’ Grammy is stiff.  Rounding out the lineup of nominees is J. Holiday, whose gold-certified debut album, Back of My ‘Lac found him inviting his growing fanbase on a sultry ride through slow-jam territory.  As shown by the chart-smashing success of singles “Bed” and “Suffocate” (as well as the starry-eyed females who flock to his live performances), listeners were more than happy to tag along.

Whether or not Holiday takes home the gilded gramophone on February 8, he’ll be back a month later for Round 2 of his career as an R&B hitmaker.  With lead single “It’s Yours” building buzz at radio and enjoying an extended stay on DJBooth.net’s Top R&B Chart, there’s no doubt that the March 10th release of Holiday’s sophomore album will add plenty of new voices to the chorus of ladies screaming his name.

In an exclusive interview with our very own DJZ,” J. Holiday steps inside the Booth to discuss the key qualities he looks for in a woman, why bringing his fans good music means more than high sales numbers or awards, and who really paid for the Cadillac sitting in his driveway.

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J. Holiday Interview Transcription

DJ Booth:  What’s goin’ on everybody?  It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a singer whose debut album, Back of My ‘Lac, was recently Grammy nominated.  Preparing for the March release of his aptly-titled follow-up, Round 2, please welcome D.C. native J. Holiday – how you doin, my friend?

J. Holiday:  Man, what’s up?  How have you been?

DJ Booth:  I’ve been pretty good.  Currently, in the introduction I just gave you I said, “Grammy-nominated;” the key, though, to long-lasting success in the business, as you know, is “Grammy Award-winning.”

J. Holiday:  Right.

DJ Booth:  Let’s analyze your competition in the category of “Best Contemporary R&B Album;” you’re up against Mary J., Ne-Yo, Karina, and Jazmine, so who wins and why?

J. Holiday:  I would definitely hope me, and the only reason I say that is, with the temperature of the industry as it is right now, I haven’t had the role where I just got signed and, you know, I had the most impressive backing and marketing – most of that was all me.  I would hope it would be me, but I won’t be mad if it’s not, because they’re all great nominees.  They’re definitely all people I respect, and that’s kind of hard to say nowadays, with music. [laughs]

DJ Booth:  Absolutely.  I’ve heard artists say that just to be nominated for a Grammy Award is more meaningful than selling a truckload of units – where do you stand on that philosophy?

J. Holiday:  To me, neither one is really important.  And the only reason why I say that is because, if you look at what my sales are, I’d probably be the lowest-selling nominee for the Grammy thats [ever] been nominated.  It really shouldn’t be about that; it’s just about how good your music is and how good your project is, and how people feel about you.

DJ Booth:  I couldn’t agree more.  If more artists had that ideal, I think music in general would be better.

J. Holiday:  Right, right. [laughs]  I think for the most part the Grammy nomination shows that all of my peers, and everybody I’ve looked up to for so many years before I got into the game now, they’re actually taking note of what I’m doing, so that feels great.  And of course the record sales are great, but that’s never been my focus.

DJ Booth:  Those will come, they’ll definitely come.  Well, on February 8th, you’ll find out if you won that Grammy.  Roughly a month later, you’re set to release the sophomore album that I alluded to in the open, Round 2.  J., what lessons did you learn from the first round, that are going to make you a better-equipped artist this time around?

J. Holiday:  Patience – you know, you get kinda impatient sometimes, especially doin’ what I do, dealing with the hoopla, and the day-in, day-out airport travel and tour bus travel.  So it’s just patience.

DJ Booth:  I bet.  The lead single off the forthcoming album is entitled “It’s Yours,” in which you basically explain that your mind, body, and soul can belong to some very lucky girl.  Have you ever tried using this approach in the club, like, “Hey, baby, you see this?  It’s yours!”  Has that worked for you?

J. Holiday:  No, I haven’t tried the approach, and I think that’s only because, for one, women don’t believe us.  So that’s number one, and, number two, I don’t think you really want to say that to somebody you just met in the club.  Maybe a female that you’ve been dating for a while, and you guys are out together, that’s probably a little more comfortable for me.  But no, I haven’t tried it.  I’m sure it might work for somebody. 

DJ Booth:  Well, I’m sure that when you’re looking for the ideal female, mind, body, and soul are important.  Which one of those things are you looking for first?

J. Holiday:  Well, you’ve got to look for charisma, loyalty, and respect – that’s the first thing you have to look for.  But [they] have to look for those things within themselves.  It’s like, if they’re out and you meet them, and they’re carrying themselves a certain way, or they look a certain way, you know you can’t really even approach them.  You just have to have a certain swag; it’s that swag sayin’, “I respect me, I love me, and you should too.  You want to respect me and love me the same way that I do.”

DJ Booth:  Okay, got it.  That’s a real deep answer.  I didn’t expect the deep answer – I appreciate it.

J. Holiday:  Oh, my bad, man. [laugh]

DJ Booth:  No, no, no; I’m sure all the girls who are listening right now are taking real good notes.  We’ve obviously heard “It’s Yours;” what’s gonna be the follow-up single?

J. Holiday:  I’m not sure, man.  We’ve put so much work into this album, just tryin’ to make sure that the consistency level is real high compared to Back of My Lac, so there’s so many great songs that we can release next, we’re not really sure.  It’s kinda up in the air for us right now.

DJ Booth:  It’s a great problem to have, when you have multiple songs in the can that can all come out as singles.

J. Holiday:  Yeah, great problem.

DJ Booth:  According to two separate ringtone carriers, “Suffocate” was unbelievably successful last year – it was the sixth highest-selling ringtone of 2008.  I’m curious, where does an accolade like that rank on your ever-expanding career achievement list?

J. Holiday:  It’s great.  It’s crazy, because every time my mother’s phone rings, that’s the ringtone that comes on.  I can only imagine how many other people have downloaded it, probably more than once, ‘cause, you know, sometimes when your phone messes up you can’t swap the information, so you have to download it again.  That’s good to know, that people love my music so much that they even want the ringtone. 

DJ Booth:  I spoke with The-Dream shortly after you debuted “Bed,” and it reached number one on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, and I asked him if he ever regretted writing a record, and then handing it over to you or anyone else after it was so successful, and he responded by saying, “No, not at all, but anybody who gets a record of mine, and it turns out to be that successful, they’re lucky.”  Do you feel lucky, or would the word “opportunistic” be a better fit?

J. Holiday:  A little bit of both – I was lucky to take advantage of the opportunity that I had, to get the record.  Some people would have thought about it and said, “Well, we’ll call you tomorrow,” and we just were like, “We want it right now – let’s figure out how we’re gonna do this right now. We don’t want anybody else to hear this record – let’s do it right now.”  And he’s also a great songwriter, and somebody that I’ve also worked with throughout the years, like, he did some work with my group, back when I was still in my group, before I got signed. I think it was also a little bit of a friendly aspect there, too. 

DJ Booth:  If you could press ‘pause’ on your recording career – I know it just started – and enter any other industry, what would your ideal profession be, outside of music?

J. Holiday:  I’m not sure.  I have this thing for [forensics], but I’m not sure if I even have the patience for that, ‘cause that’s very meticulous.  I’m gettin’ better with it, but I’m still learning.  But I do have a thing for [forensics], you know, I love movies… It’s hard to say.  Who knows what God wants me to do next?  I’m not sure.

DJ Booth:  So, are you saying you might be making a cameo appearance on the next episode of CSI?

J. Holiday:  I mean, you never know.  Anything’s possible at this point. [laughs]

DJ Booth:  If I help you get a guest cameo, can you put in a good word for me?

J. Holiday:  Oh, definitely.  I’ll be like, “Yo, I can’t go without Z!”

DJ Booth:  I appreciate that, J.  All right, we’re gonna get into our quick-hit reader questions.  We’ve received a hefty amount of questions for this interview from our readers, some of which included, “Why are you so damn fine?” “Can I be your girlfriend?” and “How do you stay sexy?”  Unfortunately, none of those made the cut – we’re going to choose a few others.  The first one is from Tiffany of Virginia, and she wants to know, “How often do you get your hair braided?”

J. Holiday:  Honestly, I used to do it every week, but I’ve been growin’ my hair for a very, very long time, so it’s not a big fad for me anymore.  It’s a part of who J. Holiday is, so I get it done when I need to. 

DJ Booth:  Okay, so it varies – got it.

J. Holiday:  Yeah, it varies.

DJ Booth:  Second quick-hit question comes from Reisa of London, England, and she wants to know, “Who is your favorite female singer of all time?”

J. Holiday:  Well, if she sings, it’s her.

DJ Booth:  We’re gonna assume she doesn’t, so who would it be after her?

J. Holiday:  Well, since she doesn’t… [laughs] Man, that’s a pretty good question.  I’d have to say Sade.

DJ Booth:  Sade, that’s a great pick.

J. Holiday:  When you talk about consistency with records, that’s somebody that never fails to hit the mark every time.

DJ Booth:  Last one is from Dan of Momence, Illinois, and Dan wants to know, “Do you feel comfortable singing about clichéd topics,” so fancy cars, fine women, “when that’s not necessarily the lifestyle you’ve always lived?”

J. Holiday:  I think we definitely have to stop giving out this misconception.  The first thing that I got when I came off tour is a house, and that’s only because I have a little girl.  I have a three-year old daughter, so I needed space for her.  And then people started to realize who I was and where I lived, and it was just kind of uncomfortable.  The car that I got, it’s a Cadillac, but it’s not an Escalade or an XLR; it’s not 90 thousand dollars.  So it’s just a misconception because, a lot of those things, they don’t even own.  It’s hard, especially for people that it doesn’t matter to, because it seems like we feel like we’re too good for that lifestyle, when that’s not it at all, it’s just not our thing.

DJ Booth:  Did Cadillac hook you up with the car for free when they found out you put their name in your album title?

J. Holiday:  Nah, I’m still payin’.  [laughs] They didn’t, but that’s not even an issue for me.  That was a great question, because I know a few artists that wouldn’t have even bought the car had it not been some kind of [gift], and that’s just not me – I love Cadillacs, whether they give it to me or I have to buy it.

DJ Booth:  Well, by saying that, you’ve made all of our auto-making listeners very happy.

J. Holiday:  [laughs] Yeah, man.  I just think you should like what you like, and buy what you love.

DJ Booth:  In December, the Wall Street Journal broke a story about the financial situation of your parent label, EMI, and, according to the article, it said that EMI needed strong sales to revive its music division.  So, 2-part question – has the label made you aware of their current situation, and is there any added pressure on your shoulders, knowing that they expect this album, Round 2 to be a success?

J. Holiday:  Actually, there is pressure, but there’s not pressure, because I think when you make good music, you don’t really question yourself.  Then I also have people picking up the slack for me like Katy Perry, Coldplay, and MIMS, who’s about to come out with a new album.  The weight’s on my shoulders, but it’s really not – we all have to collectively do it together, know what I mean?

DJ Booth:  You’re sharing it…

J. Holiday:  Right, we’re sharing the responsibility, exactly.

DJ Booth:  Well, I look forward to the knockout punch that is your sophomore album, J.  Give everybody a website or a MySpace page, something so they can find out more about you and this project.

J. Holiday:  Yes, definitely – you can always go to myspace.com/jholiday.  And this is the first time I’m gonna do this, this is an exclusive: I also have a personal page on MySpace called myspace.com/cityboyholiday, and you can also go to jholiday.com.

DJ Booth:  That’s what’s up, my man. I appreciate you takin’ the time to join me inside the DJ Booth and, as always, I wish you nothing but the best of luck.

J. Holiday:  Hey, I appreciate you, Z.

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