Jain Talks “Come,” Her US Tour & Next Album: Interview
French singer Jain caught lightning in a bottle with debut single, “Come.” The track topped the charts at home in 2015 and slowly made its way across Europe. Two years have passed and the quirky anthem, which was heavily influenced by living in Africa as a teenager, is starting to waves in the U.S. — recently cracking the top 15 at AAA radio. The 25-year-old is supporting her breakout hit, and critically-acclaimed debut LP, with performances at SXSW and a string of headline tour dates.
I recently caught up with Jain before her sold-out show at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. She opened up about starting all over again in the States and the joy of connecting with audiences in intimate venues. The Frenchwoman also reflected on her time in the Congo and explained how she became interested in percussion. Interestingly, the “Makeba” hitmaker has already started making demos for album number two and is hoping to blend sounds from all over the world on the opus. Get to know her a little better in our Q&A below.
How did you find SXSW? It was very exciting. It was very challenging for me, because I never did something like that, in the States and in English. I was so impressed by the huge crowds and all the good bands. It was very good and I think I learned a lot.
Did you have a chance to catch anyone else’s set? Unfortunately, not. I would love to, but sometimes I had two gigs a day. It was hard to catch some other shows. I hope to come back, but be in the audience.
How does your US headline tour compare to shows in Europe? In Europe, I play at much bigger venues. I play with musicians and there are big screens. Now I come back to where I was in France like one year ago, so it’s very challenging for me. I have to start over again here, and really that’s exciting, because there is some stuff that I forgot, you know and being here reminds me.
Do you enjoy doing more intimate shows? Yeah, it’s easier to connect with the audience. We see people’s faces and you’re really connected with them.
Why did you decide to sing in English instead of French? I started to write songs when I was 16 years old and I was living outside of France. I’m used to listening to American music and African and Arabic. So, for me, English is not only in the States. It’s the spoken language when you travel, so that’s why I wanted to sing in English. But it’s not real English. I do a lot of mistakes.
Is it harder to express yourself in a different language? Oh no, it’s not hard. There are some French expressions that I translate in English and it doesn’t make sense, so it’s kind of fun.
“Come” is nearly two years old. Do you ever get sick of singing it? Well, not yet. Every time it’s very different and I have this thing in the shows where I record the audience at the end of the song, so it’s very exciting to do that, because it’s always changing at every show.
Do you have other tricks to keep it interesting? Well, I don’t know. It’s always different, you know, when the audience is different and the thing is I’m alone on stage so I have no time to be bored.
Is “Makeba” the next single over here? I think so, yeah. I would love it to be.
The African influence really comes through on that song. How old were you when you moved to Congo? When I moved to Congo I was 13 years old. And I left when I was like 17 years old.
Which city? Pointe-Noire.
What was it like there? There were houses, there were shops, there were malls. It was a real city with real streets and real roads and we didn’t go to the school by lion, you know! [Laughs]. But no, it was a real city and it was just next to the ocean and we have this big road next to the ocean with lot of bars and restaurants, so after school we would go there and it was very fun.
It sounds lovely. Yeah. It was lovely.
Why did you move there? It was my dad’s work and he asked us, my mother and my sisters, if we wanted to come with him and we say, “Yes, of course!”
When did you fall in love with the music there? When I was seven years old, my parents asked me to choose one instrument. It was obligatory, so I chose the drum and it was in the southwest of France, so it started first with the rhythm. When I moved to Dubai, I got a Darbuka. It’s an Arabic percussion instrument. Then, when I was in the Congo, I learned how to produce with a producer called Mr. Flash.
How did he find you? I came to him actually, because I wanted to record my songs to keep a memory of it and a lot of my friends that were doing rap music, they introduced me to Mr. Flash and he gave me the software called Fruity Loops.
How did your music first get out there? Well, I have no idea about the process. I started to write songs when I was 16 years old. “Come,” I wrote it when I was 16 years old and “Makeba,” I wrote it when I was 22 years old. So, it’s like the opposites. You know, I met people and I didn’t really want to be a rock star or to be a singer or to be even to be famous. But I had opportunities with people I met and they told me, “Yeah, you should do an album, you should work with him,” and step by step, it just brought me here.
Were you surprised by the success of “Come”? In France, yeah I was really surprised. I was very happy, because this song, I wrote it when I was 16 years old. The lyrics are quite childish, but I didn’t want to change them, because it was a part of me at a certain time and so it reminds of who I was when I was 16 years old.
The video is amazing. How did it come about? We brainstormed it and I really wanted to make a funny thing and to add this multiplication of myself and to play with myself, because the thing is I am alone on stage and I do a lot of things and that was kind of the main idea. The filmmakers, they knew that I was in art school, back in Paris, so we spoke together about including my art and putting them in the video.
Have you started thinking about your next album yet? Yeah, I wrote a lot of demos. But I just want to go on holidays before I start it. After, I’m going work on it.
Will you start this year? I think so, yeah.
Do you have any idea about the direction this time? Well, there’s always going to be some African influences, but also there are Arabic influences, French influences, American influences. I just want to mix everything up and play with the rules of music, you know.
Is your focus going to America or Europe? America is not the priority. If it’s happening, it’s cool, it’s good, it’s amazing but I will not die if it’s not working, you know. I’m lucky enough that it’s working in France and it’s a plus if it’s working here. I am very excited to be here, I think it’s a great chance I have and I’m really blessed.
What is your favorite thing about America? Well, it’s the live music and the music quality. You have a big culture of sounds. Even when you are listening to the radio in the car, it’s very different from France because the sound is very good and so I love it.
What’s your least favorite thing? The only thing that I don’t like is the air conditioning, there’s a lot of air conditioning everywhere.