Interview: Souled Out with Jain’s ‘Souldier’

Jeanne Galice, better known as Jain, is the French singer-songwriter behind ‘Makeba’, the song in that Levis ad that made the world sit up and take notice. Although she’d been learning music since she was nine and penning songs since the age of 16, it was the ad that cleared a path to fame for her, and Makeba earned a Grammy nomination along the way too.

Jain’s first album, Zanaka (‘child’ in Malagasy), was shot across the globe, featuring a cover that portrays her as a pop goddess. She wears only black and white, possibly as a gesture of racial solidarity. Her lyrics are easy to understand, captivating and thought provoking – almost poetic.

Her music is happy and chirpy and her music videos for the first album were a riot of colours. Unlike Zanaka, her new album is less colourful, yet more diverse. With the exception of ‘Alright’, the videos for this album only show song lyrics, amplifying the power that her words have on listeners and viewers.

In Zanaka, Jain attempts to bring Africa to the fore. Souldier is more about her pulling the world a little closer to herself through a patchwork of ten songs. To learn more about her latest work, I spoke to Jain over Skype.

The simplicity of her lyrics is echoed in how Jain explains things. She is calm, slightly shy and speaks English with a French lilt. In this interview, she sat down with us (over Skype) to share a little something about her new album, her inspirations and everything in between.

Let’s start with ‘Alright’, the first song that was released from the album. What is it about? You have used solid colours – red, blue and white – the colours of both the French and American flags. Is there a statement hidden there somewhere?

(Laughs) No, it’s not a statement. Blue is the colour of dreams and hope. The song is about Utopia and how to be strong as a woman. It is important for me to write such songs and support women in the fact that they are independent and don’t need to be in a relationship to be themselves.

Comparing the first album to the second, whats the meaning of the transition from black and white to blue, red and white?

My first album was all black and white, which I really wanted to change. This album is about creating a safe place for people where they can find refuge, a kind Utopian bubble. The colour of dreams is blue and red symbolises strength and force. So, for me, combining the two was really meaningful and important to create the uniform of a “souldier”.

I read somewhere that the album is dedicated to people of different sexual orientations. Is that true?

Well, there is only one song about it, Souldier. I wrote it after I watched the news on the television about an incident in a nightclub in Orlando where 40 people were killed by a man, I wanted to create a kind of soldier that fights with love and flowers.

 Is there a tinge of both the personal and political in your songs?

They’re not really about politics, more about social things as a citizen, you know. Politics don’t really inspire me to make songs but what inspires me are the rights that we have and what we need to be equal. For me, this is a big deal so I want to bring some love and some hope to people who are listening to the album.

How did the idea of equality get so ingrained in you? Is it because you have stayed in very diverse parts of the globe?

I think it’s my parents who educated me that way. I have two big sisters. There are a lot of strong women in my family so equality and feminism were always things that we talked about. They were just something that I grew up with, so they’ve become a part of my own values.

Is it a coincidence that half of the songs in the album use the word ‘soul’?

(Laughs) That’s true. I didn’t have the name of the album in the beginning. While I was listening to the songs of the album, I noticed the word ‘soul’ a lot of times. It became the impetus for me to use the title Souldier.

The name Jain is the name of a religion in India. How did you arrive at it? 

(Smiling) I didn’t know really that when I chose the name. You see, I was 16 years old back then. I was searching the internet for a good suggestion and I found a sentence (a spiritual quote from Jainism) which was quite beautiful. Also it was close to my original name, Jeanne, so I chose it. 

Do you have any plans to perform in India?

I hope so. I would love to actually. I receive a lot of comments that I should come to India and perform. I hope one day I can because I love Indian music since it has a very particular rhythm. I am always interested in learning from the music of other countries.

Speaking of which, does the song ‘On my Way’ use the tabla?

Not the tabla but something similar –  the Arabic drum. It’s not exactly the same but it’s similar.

What are your influences? Your lyrics are characterised by simple words that can say so much.

As a child, I listened to the songs of Bob Marley. I liked his use of simple and universal words. That’s what I like in music, for it to be universal. I want everyone to understand what I am saying.

Source: Interview: Souled Out with Jain’s ‘Souldier’

Jain is poised to be France’s next national treasure 

With two Number One albums in France, globe-trotting pop star Jain is poised to bring a funky brand of inclusivity to the rest of the world

With two Number One albums in France, globe-trotting pop star Jain is poised to bring a funky brand of inclusivity to the rest of the world

Earlier this year, Jain was the biggest thing in The Louvre. Well, we say in, but we mean on, really. Spread across the world famous art gallery’s Seine-side wing, a gigantic promotional poster of Jain hung triumphantly. It’s a more ingenious way to cover some of the temporary scaffolding for sure, but also acts as a statement of intent of just how strongly France feels about this particular pop star.

Her second album ‘Souldier’, released just over a month ago, landed in at Number One in the French album charts, just like her debut ‘Zanaka’ did in 2015. She’s spent the summer conquering the continental festival circuit and a gigantic world tour is in now motion. But being the biggest thing in The Louvre? Well, only the timeless icons know about that. “I could never imagine ever in my life that I’d be on the side of The Louvre,” she says. “I took a little selfie of me with it, of course.”

Zanaka’ may be the initial offering that shook the landscape of French pop, but ‘Souldier’ is the confirmation of just where 26-year-old is heading. Its brash in places, but mainly a deeply touching and inclusive selection of anthems. Take the song’s title track, for one, which was influenced by the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida back in 2016 – where 49 people were killed in the barbaric shooting in the gay nightclub by Omar Mateen. The song doesn’t dwell on the specifics of the horror, but rather the powerful response by the LGBTQ+ community across the world: “I saw men bringing flowers and putting them in front of the club, and it was really beautiful, so this song is a story of a soldier who is fighting with love.”

Jain – real name Jeanne Galice – sees a better world and very much trying to will it into existence. “I want to create this instant bubble of utopia. People can forget their everyday life and make them move,” she says. “I don’t think I’m overly optimistic in the way the world is going, especially when you look at the things that have happened over the past two or three years in Paris and England, especially.” But what exactly goes down in Jain’s Utopia? “I think it’s important to mix cultures in a time like this and to create a safe space.”

There is perhaps no-one better suited to create this inclusive fusion of sounds. Jain was born in the city of Toulouse in Southern France, but her father’s job resulted in several change of sceneries. Aged 9, she began her travels that would last nearly a decade taking in Dubai, The Republic of Congo and Abu Dhabi . “My favourite place was in The Congo. It’s where I began to write songs and build myself as an adult,” she says. “It’s hard when you’re a teenager, but at the same time I met a lot of new people and lived a lot of different lives.”

By the time she moved back to Paris aged 18, she packed a distinctly global sound. Swaying Afrobeats would collide with Arabic melodies for a truly intoxicating global cocktail, and her breakout single ‘Come’ proved to be a perfect alchemy of all these elements. Built on a simple acoustic riff, by the time Jain brings you to the chorus she’s promising “to show you the world”.

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Continue reading at NME: Jain is poised to be France’s next national treasure – NME

Jain declares war on growing global bigotry with new album 

French pop singer Jain is ready to march her new album Souldier across North America.

Q: The title track on Souldier was inspired by the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, FL, in 2016. Reviewers have touched upon the album being a response to the rampant rise of racist and fascist politics in modern Europe. Is it?

A: I started the music to Souldier when I was in the Congo, where the music being made was for dancing, and I wanted to keep that vibe in my own music but also to add a very European vibe and talk about what moves me — which is this really bad period we are in in Europe, the U.S., and what we must fight.

Q: Is it hard to keep the positive message of love and understanding moving through your work given those harsh realities of neo-Nazis being called good people, acts of terror, attacks on women’s rights and so on?

A: For me optimism is about keeping going, keeping fighting and feeling myself and my beliefs in my music, and hoping it affects others. My whole thing is mixing cultures, and today we aren’t doing that. Many want to close the doors and I want to open them. Songs like Inspecta — which is a mash-up creation based around the Inspector Gadget theme — help with that, too, because they make everybody smile.

Q: In Europe, you are well established and a big live concert draw. Here, you are back in small venues and working to bring people over to songs such as the electro-reggae Feel It or percussive love song Oh Man.

A: It’s really an interesting experience that I’m really grateful for, where we have a really good relation with Quebec and Canada and are starting from zero, mostly. I have to relearn my job, relearn how to move people, and reach those who are not from my own culture. Even with all the considerable talent you have in North America already, I think there can be a place for me,  too.

QYou do most of your writing and recording, as well as your live shows, on your own. Are you are solo on this tour, too?

A: With a lot of machines along for the ride, as well as my voice and guitar. It’s like a mixture between a Jamaican sound system and a singer-songwriter with big beats getting dropped on top of me singing and playing to give the music much more depth. You get into it.

QGiven the importance of equipment to your sound and your creative process, is there one thing you really couldn’t deliver the Jain experience without?

A: My computer. I do everything on it, always composing on the road and the plane, and without it I’m not producing. Pro Tools software and the enormous amount of percussion samples that are available to use with it are key to my sound development. I studied percussion, and can bring my ideas directly into the computer with some extra apps; pretty incredible, really.

Source: Jain declares war on growing global bigotry with new album | Vancouver Sun