The past year has been strange and testing for the entire world, not least for working and touring DJs like Jayda G. With the 2020 festival season effectively being cancelled and almost every club on the planet being forced to close their doors as the coronavirus pandemic took hold, the Canadian musician and her peers in the DJing industry have had to face up to the unknown over the past 14 months.
Fortunately for Jayda, however, she hasn’t found herself at a total loss over what to do. The talented producer, party-starter and long-time music lover ticked off a huge personal goal last week (May 14) with the release of her spring mix for the long-running DJ-Kicks compilation series. A decade-long fan of the album series, which began back in 1995 and has since featured the likes of Hot Chip, Four Tet and Chromeo, the invitation to contribute her very own guest mix was something that Jayda had long dreamed of.
NME recently sat down with Jayda G for the latest instalment in our In Conversation series to talk about the DJ-Kicks mix, the productivity she’s enjoyed during the downtime afforded by the pandemic and her unexpected but hugely welcome Grammy nomination.
Her new DJ-Kicks mix fulfilled a long-time personal ambition
“It became a goal of mine,” Jayda explains about what it meant to be asked to contribute to the !K7 Records-released album series. “I was just like: ‘One day, I want to do a DJ-Kicks mix’. So it’s actually been a really big deal for me that I was asked to do this.
“I remember not quite knowing what DJ-Kicks was, but listening to songs that were off the mixes,” she recalls about the origins of her love for the series, with the producer citing Chromeo’s 2009 mix (which included some “really random French disco songs”) as the DJ-Kicks record that really piqued her interest.
Jayda’s DJ-Kicks mix is packed with nostalgic and memory-evoking songs
The selections on the mix were made while the producer was back home in Canada visiting her mother and reconnecting with her hometown friends. Fine-tuning the song picks, she explains, was a process that was aided by a therapeutic exposure to plenty of sunshine and fresh air while there.
“It’s a very nostalgic mix for me, personally,” Jayda says. “I have very specific memories with each song [that are] associated with a different time period in my life.”
For example Light of The World’s ‘London Town’, a jazz-funk belter from 1980, that starts the mix off, conjures up memories of Jayda’s first forays into DJing. First discovering it on a NTS radio show, when she moved to the city of the song’s namesake it took on a whole new meaning. “It was kind of like a little ode to London starting off with it,” she explains.
It was important that her friends were a key part of her DJ-Kicks mix
While some songs on the mix coincided with her own specific recollections, Jayda also wanted to include tunes by people with whom she shares these memories with. She made sure, therefore, to involve her fellow DJ pals, like HAAi (who “lives just down the road” from Jayda in London), DJ Boring and Australia-based Jennifer Loveless, as part of the selection process.
“Everything I do I try [to add] a personal element to it, just so that it feels meaningful to me,” she says. “And I’m always trying to surround and involve myself with people that I like working with and that I care about.”
Jayda has kept productive during the downtime of the pandemic
Asked whether she felt that the pandemic had squashed her creative ability, Jayda says: “For me, actually, it has done quite the opposite. I’ve been able to quiet my brain because I’m not touring, and I’ve been able to realise a lot of ideas I’ve had that have been on the back burner. So actually, for me, it has been really good.”
As well as releasing ‘All I Need’ last month as a preview of her upcoming DJ-Kicks mix, Jayda was also on the bill at Liverpool’s landmark COVID-19 pilot clubbing event on April 30, which welcomed back thousands of live music fans as part of the UK Government’s ongoing testing programme for the safe return of live events.
Being nominated for a Grammy was a “big surprise”
Earlier this year, Jayda was nominated at the Grammys 2021 for Best Dance Recording for her song ‘Both Of Us’. Finding out that she’d received the nod – placing her in a category alongside the likes of Diplo, Disclosure and eventual winner Kaytranada – was “probably one of the biggest surprises of my life,” Jayda says.
Jayda found out about her nomination while at her home in her studio (her self-confessed “bubble”) when her manager called her up. Noticing that he had called her after 6pm, she knew something was up: “Do you want some good news?” he asked.
As the Grammys was a largely stay-at-home affair this year, Jayda says that the opportunity to watch the ceremony from afar in Canada was actually “really cool to be able to experience it with my community”.