An activist, a brand, an entrepreneur – Jay Evans is all three and an R&B/hip-hop artist. While growing up in Los Angeles, he was surrounded by music. His mother would take him into the studio, which is where he learned how to write songs and produce tracks. Now he lives in his hometown of Toronto and spends his time working on music and giving back to the community through his motivational speeches. Up next, he will be one of the featured artists on this month’s #BigTicket bill, which is dedicated to highlighting hip-hop soul artists.

HOW ARE YOU PREPARING FOR YOUR #BIGTICKET PERFORMANCE? Just in the studio. Just working out the whole show, trying to figure out what style I want to go with for the show. So I’m just in the studio recording.

WHAT CAN PEOPLE EXPECT FROM YOU WHEN THEY SEE YOU PERFORM? A lot of animation. You’re going to see me interact with the crowd, because I like to do that. I’ll be playing with my vocals a lot. There will be a lot of breakdowns and a lot of highlights.

Hip-hop/soul to me is a fusion. It depends on what type of hip-hop. You’ve got the old school, you can mix it with the new stuff, and then you can combine it with a little bit of R&B.

WHAT DOES HIP-HOP SOUL MEAN TO YOU? It all depends on which way you want to put it. But hip-hop/soul to me is a fusion. It depends on what type of hip-hop. You’ve got the old school, you can mix it with the new stuff, and then you can combine it with a little bit of R&B. You know, like the neo-soul type thing.

HOW DO YOU MAKE YOURSELF STAND OUT AMONGST ALL THE ARTISTS DOING HIP-HOP COMBINED WITH R&B? I do a lot of different things with it. For example, we have an artist named Ginelle who’s a phenomenal artist. She from Miami, but lives in New York and she sings R&B, but she has a lot of different styles as well. So combine that with the new single we have, it’s called “Champagne”, we have hip-hop and then we have R&B… And then we have A.S.A.P Pronto who’s on the track as well. He’s an Atlanta-based rapper.

WHAT WAS THE MOST VALUABLE THING YOU LEARNED GOING TO THE STUDIO ALL THE TIME WITH YOUR MOTHER AS A CHILD? Listen and absorb – be a sponge – to what the engineers are doing or what musicians are doing or where, let’s say for example a songwriter or someone is writing a song or something like that, just be a sponge and watch what they do. That’s basically how I learned how to produce, song write and the rest goes on.

TELL ME ABOUT A TIME WHEN YOU THOUGHT YOU COULDN’T CONTINUE MAKING MUSIC AND YOU LOST ALL THE DRIVE TO DO SO. I felt that plenty of times. When I signed my first deal at a young age I wasn’t aware of the business side of things. Sometimes when you sign a bad deal or something like that, you feel like you don’t want to do it anymore. You got screwed over right?

HOW DID YOU MANAGE TO OVERCOME THAT TO CONTINUE MAKING MUSIC? Now I got more hands on with my own music. I started producing the majority of my stuff. I have a few other producers who are working alongside with me… I think that’s what I mainly did. I just need to do my songwriting, focus on my craft and stay away from it until I’m ready. Now I feel like I’m 100 per cent ready.

Jay Evans will perform at #BigTicket inside Toronto’s Wrongbar (1279 Queen St. W.) Friday, May 16, 2014.

Interview By. Matthew Anness