After opening for Aerosmith in Abu Dhabi last year, the self-made rock star from Beirut has just finished his debut album.
Peering out from underneath a bushy mane of long brown hair and wearing a T-shirt revealing a tattoo on his right arm, at first glance Jay Wud looks every inch the factory-produced rock star. But in reality he’s entirely self-made. After leaving the uneasy atmosphere in his home city of Beirut four years ago and arriving in Dubai to work in a friend’s recording studio, the 27-year-old was able to begin experimenting with his own sound.
Today, Wud is in the process of finalising a distribution deal with Daxar for his debut rock album, New Blood, which he will officially launch at the end of the month. ‘It’s been my dream ever since I started performing and playing music,’ he says of creating the album. ‘I didn’t have the means back in Beirut.’
While the record is only nine tracks long, Wud, who opened for Aerosmith in Abu Dhabi during last year’s Grand Prix, spent more than a year preparing the material, from writing lyrics to producing, barely leaving his recording studio at Mindloop in Dubai Media City throughout the process. Mastered in New York by Joe Lambert (a company whose client base includes The Black Crowes, Kanye West and The B-52s), New Blood’s official launch party will be held at the end of September in Beirut, followed by a launch in Dubai, for which dates and details are being kept under wraps.
Though it’s all still written in pencil and not ink, Wud is clearly chuffed just to have reached this stage. ‘Having a finished album was a nice experience for me, because it took a lot of night shifts to do. I’d have to wait until after work and I’d stay at the studio until the morning, so it became my home. I was camping there!’
Given that Wud penned all the lyrics himself, he explains most of the tracks were inspired by experiences from various points in his life. ‘There is some stuff about temptation, hurt, some stuff about Beirut, politics… all the stuff that has been in me throughout my life. I kind of let it out in this album,’ he explains. ‘As far as sharing that with the world, everybody can relate to the songs.’
Though also inspired by works of art and photography, Wud claims he finds little stimulation from his environment in Dubai. ‘I come to my studio, or stay home, or go to a pub. I’m not really a big fan of Dubai – I don’t find much that inspires me,’ he reveals. ‘I don’t feel there’s a cultural drive here, although I did go to [local arts hub] thejamjar, which is cool.’
Despite the fact he hasn’t felt a creative connection with the city, Wud readily admits he wouldn’t have got this far without the opportunities he found here. ‘I came here because I was offered all the tools to produce myself as an independent artist – I’m not signed. I have a team of friends and people I hire to work with me, like designers, publicists, copywriters, and everything else I need.’
As for the future, he’s adamant that whatever happens, he will still want to create albums in the same way, making sure he remains the primary creative force. Though he claims not to have heroes, because ‘they usually die when you stop being a teenager,’ Wud reveals he has a lot of respect for the work of some of the artists he listens to. ‘I really like and appreciate artists such as Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor, because he’s independent and he does everything. He’s a producer and a great artist. I like Jack White for his versatility; I like Prince… They inspire me, I can’t deny that, but I’d never say “oh, I want to be him.”’ New Blood is released in Dubai later this month. See www.jaywud.com for info.
Other Lebanese artists hitting the big time
Nancy Ajram Having sold more than 30 million records, taking many of her albums multi-platinum, 27-year-old Ajram could easily afford to rest on her laurels once she turns 30. Did we mention she’s also a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF?
Karl Wolf Though he was born in Beirut, the ‘Yalla Habibi’ singer’s family moved to Dubai when he was still a baby, before finally settling in Montreal, Canada. The music video for the aforementioned track, which appeared on his 2009 album, Nightlife, was shot in Dubai and Ajman.
Elissa While some consider her controversial and provocative, it hasn’t stopped Elissa’s rise to fame. In 2005, the 37-year-old became the first Lebanese musician to win the World Music Award for bestselling album in the Middle East.