Twelve years after hit song Dance With You (Nachna Tere Naal) smashed its way into the UK singles charts and broke open doors for a generation of British-Asian artists, Jay Sean, Juggy D and Rishi Rich reunited for recently released single Freak.
The time away from each other hasn’t taken away from the chemistry shared by the close friends and that is very apparent in their new song. Eastern Eye caught up with the terrific trio who helped change the face of British-Asian music before embarking on solo journeys to talk about their long-awaited reunion and latest single. They also spoke about being family men, their future plans and more.
What was the moment that sparked the reunion?
Rishi: We have been talking about getting together for a few years. When I moved to Atlanta, I was seeing Jay a lot more as he lives in the US also. We really talked about getting back together and how amazing it would be. Juggy was in and then we started making the plan. And here we are with Freak.
Why has it taken so long for you three to think about working together again?
Rishi: (Laughs) Good question. Well, the first thing was for all of us to give that commitment to the project. Jay being in America, touring and recording, and with Juggy living in India half the year, it was proving difficult. But it all came together organically, which is what we’ve always been about.
What made you want to collaborate again?
Rishi: I do feel the combination of the three of us is unique and still hasn’t been done with anyone else. Also the fans – we have such an amazing fan base who wanted this for years.
Jay: We always talked about working on a few more songs together, but when I moved to New York, Rishi moved to Atlanta and Juggy remained in the UK, our schedules conflicted so it became difficult to facilitate. Somehow, as fate and timing would have it, a decade after Dance With You we decided it was something we not only wanted to do, but also had to do for our fans, to thank them for supporting us for so long. A decade in this industry is rare and it’s all because of our fans that we are still able to do what we love. This is all for them.
Juggy: I wanted the reunion to happen mainly for the fans who have shown us so much love and support from day one. I knew getting back together would be another amazing experience full of jokes and new memories – who wouldn’t want that. So here we are with our new single Freak by the Rishi Rich Project.
Jay, how does this reunion rank with other collaborations you have done?
Jay: It’s really something so special and unique, it’s hard to compare them. I’m making music with my best friends and brothers, and having the time of my life doing it. Laughing until our stomachs hurt and dancing around like fools to our own music with no shame. What could be better than that?
What has kept the bond of friendship between you three so strong?
Jay: We are not just friends, we are brothers. Touring the world together creates a bond that is so strong that no amount of distance or time can come in between us. We saw the whole world together and the amount of laughter and fun we had etched such deep memories that it’s almost impossible to describe just what we went through. That kind of bond is one for life.
What has it been like to be back in the studio together after all these years?
Juggy: It’s full of jokes. When we’re together we are like big kids. Being in the studio gets slightly serious for maybe half an hour when we are really on to something and get that vibe to create something special, but then it’s back to having jokes. I just love working with Rish and Jay, because the chemistry is so strong between us.
Jay: (Laughs) We even made jokes about it the minute we started, like ‘oh a reunion track after a decade. We just announced it to the whole world, no pressure then. What if this sucks?’ But of course the magic and chemistry is so strong. It was effortlessly fun to create and we just vibed as if it was 2003. It was nothing but absolute joy and fun. We always told each other if we are jumping around like maniacs to our own song and if we love it, we have no doubt our fans are gonna love this too.
Rishi: Being back in the studio with Jay and Juggy is so much fun. We had so much fun in London and Atlanta recording these tracks. The chemistry is amazing. We are all very focused on our sound, which makes the Rishi Rich Project. So when it came down to making the record, we came together as a proper team as we always did from day one.
What kind of music can we expect from you?
Rishi: The Rishi Rich Project sound is our sound. It’s an organic fusion of each of our skills as individual artists coming together.
Juggy: Great music, as our fans will tell you, but Freak is very different from what we have done in the past. It’s got a whole new vibe and I love it. I hope they love it too.
Has the way you three work changed at all?
Jay: We have always had the same magic when it comes to writing. We usually start the bare bones with freestyling melodies, while Rishi freestyles some beats. Everything starts from scratch and we build the song together. It’s all about a vibe. There are absolutely no egos involved, ever. It’s all for the sake of the song.
Do you have a set plan in terms of the songs you plan to release?
Jay: Once again, we go off a vibe. We seem to just go with a gut feeling of what feels right. We knew we wanted to kick off with a banger.
Why did you choose Freak as the first single?
Jay: We honestly only had melodies down with no lyrics. Just nonsense, freestyle lyrics, but the melodies and beat alone had us dancing around the studio with the song on repeat for like four hours. So we knew this had to be the one.
Tell us more about the single?
Rishi: I love Freak. The way it came together and the journey of this record has been great. Jay’s smooth vocals with Juggy’s electric vocals blend so well. In terms of the production, I wanted to do something which was sparse yet remained true to our sound. I loved making this record.
What was the biggest challenge of producing the song?
Rishi: When we sat down to make this, we talked about our experiences. We didn’t want to do another Dance With You as that was 10 years ago and we all have matured since then. I wanted to create a classy record, which is what I think we did.
There will be sky-high expectations from this song. Has that put pressure on you?
Juggy: Not really. We know we have to make a great record, but when we’re vibing, the chemistry is so strong that we almost make it effortlessly easy. It’s all about the vibe. When you know, you know. We have delivered that vibe the three of us bring on so many records in the past, so we just couldn’t wait to do it again. This stands out from anything else that we’ve done before.
Rishi: Not at all. We haven’t made this record for any kind of ‘let’s see if we can do it again’ experiment. It’s made purely because we wanted to be back together and make good music.
Were there any creative differences?
Jay: To be honest, I think what makes us magic is the fact that even though we are all artists individually, we never ever have any ego clashes. Egos just don’t exist between us, not personally and not in our music process. It’s bigger than us; it’s about the song and the fans, not us.
Will this be a short-term single release or have you three made a longer plan?
Juggy: Initially it’s a single release, but we have a couple of other tracks we’ve already started. We will just go with the flow and see what the vibe is.
Are you aiming for a specific market with Freak?
Juggy: No, not really. We just wanted to make a good track for all our fans around the world and thank them for supporting us and letting us do what we love doing. We seriously wouldn’t be doing this if it weren’t for the loyal fans who have let us live this journey.
Can you tell us about the video?
Juggy: (Laughs) No, just watch it.
Is there a story from the recording of Freak that you can share with us?
Jay: We went out the night we recorded the demo, came home to Rishi’s and carried on partying. We had a few of his non-Indian friends around and played the song and everyone was jumping around like fools. One of the guys shouted, ‘man, I don’t know what the f**k y’all are saying man, but I love this s**t’. We all looked at each other, laughed and knew we had something special.
What do you say to the criticism from some corners that you are going back over the same ground?
Rishi: Just listen to Freak is what I say.
Juggy: (Laughs) I think that’s just one corner you referring to. The rest are just as excited about this project as we are. So we are not really bothered, to be honest. We just love making good music and that’s what we’re doing.
How much has the fact that all three of you are now family men changed things?
Rishi: I think it changed us in many ways. Everyone has a different focus and it’s great to see.
Jay: I think we are clearly a lot more focused beca-use it’s not about us any more. It goes deeper than that. When I tour now, I don’t get lost in the partying, fame and all the other things that can come along with that. I love performing so much and seeing the world is a gift, but ultimately family is everything and that’s what is real and always will be. I do it for them. It really helps to put everything into perspective. It helps me to switch off too from being the ‘artist’ to just coming home and being daddy. My little one doesn’t know or care what dad does, she just wants to hug him when he comes through the door.
Juggy: Naturally we are all a lot more mature than the Dance With You days and have a family to think about, which always comes first. The most important thing to me is that my daughters get a great start in life and that’s my duty as a father. So when I’m away on tour now it’s all for them and building their future, so there is nothing better than coming home to my girls, switching off from being Juggy D and just being a daddy.
So are the late nights and parties now all gone?
Juggy: We still have fun. This industry is all about late nights and parties, but we just choose not to be there any more. We’re all much more focused now as we all have responsibilities and have set ourselves bigger goals in life. I now love to eat clean and train dirty. It’s all about keeping fit and healthy, staying focused and making good moves.
What else can we expect from you as solo artists?
Jay: I am so excited about the future since I have a new team who are extremely successful and powerful. Their belief in my vision makes me excited about the music I have coming up. Not only am I in good hands, but I am also making music I love and music my fans will love too, I have no doubt.
Rishi: I have my own solo album coming out later this year called Music. I have signed a new artist from New York called Dasu. I’ve also produced an album for Dave Bawa and am currently working with some amazing songwriters and artists in Atlanta.
Juggy: I have another song being released on Zee Music in October called Champagne Train with DJ Shadow from Dubai. I have also recorded a five track EP with Rish, which is under production and will be out later this year or early 2016. There are also a few other projects that will be out soon too. So it’s looking good and I can’t wait for you all to hear this new music.
Today, what would you say is your greatest unfulfilled musical ambition?
Juggy: I want to take my music to a wider audience and do bigger and better shows with a live band.
Jay: I have toured the whole world except for South America. I would love to tour that continent. That is next on my list.
Rishi: Every stage of this journey I’ve been on feels like a great fulfillment.
Freak by The Rishi Rich Project is out now.