Jayda G and the power of connection
For Jayda Guy, the joy of music is in the communion.
As a graduate student in the early 2010s, the artist known as Jayda G loved to “let go and let loose” at the kind of “intimate safe spaces” frequented and sustained by Vancouver’s DIY club community. Fast forward a decade, and the fact she’s now playing to super-sized crowds in cavernous venues has only strengthened her raison d’être: connecting with others. “I’m always searching for more camaraderie within dance music, within DJing,” she beams over a Zoom call from her new home in east London, her famously ebullient demeanour emanating through the laptop screen.
Back in 2019, the Canada-born, London-based DJ and producer – who grew up in the small rural town of Grand Forks, British Columbia – was seeking an antidote to the loneliness of the relentlessly touring DJ. “It might sound corny, but for many years I just toured by myself, and then in 2019 I decided that I wanted someone to tour with me,” she says. “I just needed a friend to come with me. It got to a point – I think I played like a hundred shows that year – when I was just lonely. I was having all these experiences and not sharing them with anybody.”
The importance of shared experiences, on the dancefloor, behind the decks or on tour, is integral to both Guy’s blissful, disco-indebted sounds and her unifying live performances, which she is set to bring to a new kind of dancefloor. As part of Electronic Beats’ new Summer of Joy series – a string of free-to-attend events bringing stacked line-ups to extraordinary spaces – Guy has been tasked with kicking off proceedings with an immersive club night at Vienna’s open-air venue USUS am Wasser. Committed to preserving the communal ethos of the series, Guy will tap into the inclusive values that have shaped her as an artist: “I’ll be doing my thing, trying to create moments of joy on the dancefloor. Escapism for the youth.”
Channelling the collective euphoria of the event, Guy explains that house music is a feeling, and that feeling is togetherness – and this outlook has played a vital role in sculpting Guy’s artistic self. “House music started in the gay and Black communities in the States and it was deemed as a place where you could let loose,” she offers. “You could be who you knew you were, and be free to be that person in that space, even though you maybe had to put on a mask outside. It’s always a place where I can let go, be myself and be vulnerable.”
“Doing my thing, trying to create moments of joy on the dancefloor. Escapism for the youth”
This desire for human connection has propelled Guy towards an era of artistic collaboration and she has recently been discovering the “fun” that comes from working with others. After pairing up with Fred Again.. for the Grammy nominated 2020 single Both of Us, she teamed up with UK producer James Ford on 2021’s misty-eyed rave roller All I Need, as well as Aluna for 2022’s electro-pop stomper Mine O’ Mine.
Now, she’s leaning further into her collaborative impulses for her second album, Guy; a personal chronicle of love, loss and release. Guy primarily worked with producer and singer-songwriter Jack Peñate, who helped her to refine her sound from the wonky, orca-and-breakbeat strewn curious of her debut full-length, Significant Changes, into the plush, pleasure-seeking disco-pop that defines Guy.
The 13-track record pays tribute to Guy’s late father, William Richard Guy, using soundbites gleaned from the 11 hours of archival recordings he collected before he passed away from cancer in the late 90s, when she was just 10 years old. The album enabled Guy to get to know her father “from the perspective of an adult” while also doubling up as a rich socio-historical document that makes stops at the Vietnam War and the 1986 race riots in Washington, D.C. – particularly on the disco-flavoured single, Blue Lights. “He was a Black man in America during the late 40s and 50s, which, you know, wasn’t easy,” she says, thoughtfully, adding that the process of listening back to the tapes was bittersweet.
On Circle Back Around, which she played out for the first time on New Year’s Eve 2022 to a rapturous response, her father recalls a childhood run-in with the police, where he was caught stealing food from a truck with a group of other kids. The slinky, tropical house infused Scars looks back at a dark episode of bullying and violence her father endured, through bright but disaffected vocals: “Shades of all the rage/ Grabbing at my body/ Death wants me to lay/ And it makes no sense at all.” This is a common thread throughout the album: the tempering of weighty, diaristic lyrics and audio snippets with sun-drenched sonic levity to radiate a message of perseverance. “Things may happen to you in life – bad or good – but you do have a choice,” she says, somewhat cryptically.
Guy also decided to use the new album to further explore and amplify her own singing voice. The finger-snapping, disco-house sparkler Meant to Be finds her crystal-cut tone hitting all the high notes, while 90s dance-pop-goes-Balearic standout Sapphires of Gold is built around a hook that feels like a bona fide Jayda G motto: “I have fallen in love with living.”
Guy arrives nearly ten years after Guy’s first foray into production, after a slew of disco-fortified singles made in collaboration with Norway’s DJ Fett Burger brought her to the fore. Then came the 2016 debut EP, Jaydaisms, which propelled a move to Berlin later that year. But it was her viral Boiler Room set at Amsterdam’s Dekmantel Festival in 2017 – currently boasting 1.6 million views and counting – which showcased her intuitive, enthusiastic love for the groove as well as her now trademark mood-enhancing dance moves. “When it comes to dance music and expression, for me, it really is about dancing. It’s how I connect with the audience. I’m always looking for how people are moving, how they are interacting with the music,” she offers, smiling.
Guy’s euphoric selections and uplifting attitude have proved a winning formula. She has spent the past six years moving like lightning through the dance music ranks; alongside her own releases, she has played a peak-time Panorama Bar slot, held down a BBC Radio 1 residency, and curated a coveted DJ-Kicks mix, vaunting her passion for vintage soul and hi-NRG four-to-the-floor.
Guy’s commitment to environmental activism is also an integral part of her creative life. In 2018, she completed a master’s degree in Environmental Toxicology and used her 2019 album Significant Changes as a way of raising awareness about ecological issues. That same year, she launched her science-led JMG Talks series, interviewing a variety of scientists, including oceanographic modeller Dr Lindsay Veazey, to stress the invaluable relationship between environmental sciences and the climate emergency. She is currently prepping for the launch of her feature-length, CNN-commissioned documentary, Blue Carbon, which features a score created by RZA and Seu Jorge. In it, Guy travels to the US, Senegal, Vietnam, France, Colombia and Brazil to explore the impact of climate change on local communities, and look at natural ecosystems that are “really good at pulling carbon out of the atmosphere into the ground, into the soil”, such as mangrove forests, saltwater marshes and seagrass meadows. “The documentary highlights what climate change is actually doing, and talks about solutions around that,” explains Guy. “Really, it’s about empowering our communities – that’s the big take.”
Guy stresses the merit in doing what you can, even if you think it’s not enough. “And I think that’s when people get a bit stuck. Either they’re afraid to talk about climate change because they’re like, ‘I work in music, I have a big carbon footprint, who am I to say anything?’ But the biggest empowerment of it all, is that, ‘Yeah, I am a DJ, I have a big carbon footprint, but does that mean I’m not trying? No. I’m trying in the [ways] that I can.’”
Guy’s deep relationship with nature is flourishing in her new London home. “We chose areas based on how easy it is to get to nature,” she says, reeling off her local green spots. Last year she married her high school sweetheart in her parents’ backyard and has laid her roots down in London, where she has adopted her favourite British pastime: going down the pub. “It wasn’t until 2021 when I understood why people were really upset when they closed the pubs during Covid,” she recalls, giving way to a small chuckle. “It’s actually a [place of] connection and community.”
“Things may happen to you in life – bad or good – but you do have a choice”
Guy’s readying herself for a packed summer of touring starting in Vienna in June, after which she’s keen to get to grips with the next true British staple: the roast dinner. “That’s gonna be my new thing; I really want to learn how to do my own Sunday roast! I’ve always wanted to learn how to cook all those things, so I’m pretty pumped that I have a real kitchen now to do it.”
But, more profoundly, Guy explains how London is the first place that truly felt like home. “As someone who’s Black but also mixed, seeing other mixed people in the majority walking through the streets here is quite a big deal,” she says, resolutely. Not only does Guy feel truly seen, but this visibility is also a reminder of her precious familial memories – of the painful but rewarding process of uncovering facets of her father’s life, of the vulnerability of translating those recollections into art that she is proud of. “I can’t remember who said it, but grief is really just love that has no place to go, because you still love the person, even though they’re not there. That’s the overarching message of this album; that even within grief, you have love.”
Guy is out on 9 June via Ninja Tune. Telekom Electronic Beats will host Jayda G at Usus am Wasser, Vienna, on 1 June