Exclusive Interview with Producer, Songwriter, Studio Owner Jay Denton

How would you classify your latest work, what inspired its inception?

My latest work comes out next month in early November, and is perhaps far too aptly named, “Losing My Mind”. As a songwriter, sometimes I find I dance with the line between creative and insane when coming up with and developing song ideas or productions. One day, for whatever reason, I found myself bouncing off the walls and having trouble focussing on anything I was working on. I jumped in the car and started driving to the gym to workout and clear my head, when I got a call from a colleague who was on his way to meet me at the studio…and I had completely forgotten about the meeting. So I turned the car around and as I was driving back this song idea hit me. I recorded the chorus on an iPhone voice memo on the way, had my meeting, and then tracked the chorus in the studio the same evening.

How long did it take you to complete?

The songwriting process didn’t take very long at all. The morning after I recorded the chorus, I had a session with Damian Molina, showed him what I had so far, and then we wrote the rest of the song lyrically that day. What took quite a bit longer was the production. I wanted the feel of a marching band style drum line for some sections, and it took me a while to build that in the studio with a ton of different drum sounds, cajons, midi instruments, and such. I find lyrically, the song either happens very quickly for me (within a few hours or so), or it has a missing piece that can take days, weeks, or even months to fall into place. Oftentimes I’ll let a song like that ride on the back burner for a while, then come at it with fresh ears to figure out the piece that’s missing.

Who are some of your top 5 authors or writers you look up to & admire?

Some of my favorite book authors have actually inspired me quite a bit as a songwriter. I like to think that in the studio we try to compact a books worth of story or ideas into a three to four minute song, and reading good books helps me every day as a lyricist. Some of my favorite authors are Malcolm Gladwell, C.S. Lewis, Tom Clancy, Erwin McManus, Eric Metaxas, and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Gladwell has some of the most pointed and insightful way of explaining cultural trends and the intersection of physiology and sociology, while Clancy, Tolkien, and Metaxas, to me, are master storytellers that always draw me into the world of their books. Lewis and McManus, then have a way of boiling down very complex elements of life, philosophy, and spirituality, to a conversational simplicity that give me both a deeper understanding of the most fundamental human questions, along with a hunger to ask a million more. Taking 30,000 foot style questions and topics, and exploring them with conversational and accessible language is one of the most important skills of a songwriter, in my opinion.

Why do you write?

To be honest, I don’t know. I know why I enjoy it, and how doing it has always been a part of the way I process reality, but I don’t know why it was writing, in particular, that became that outlet for me. I remember when I was a kid I met a young cartoonist who in 2 minutes could draw a better picture than I ever could even after hours of art class – and I remember thinking, even then, that some people just have different intuitive languages of processing reality than others. His was through drawing, others is through science or mathematics, and mine was through writing poems – which eventually turned into songs. Overall, then, it seems to me that writing is simply a part of who I am – and I can’t really explain why.

What’s the biggest take away you want your readers to come away with after reading your latest work?  

Well I suppose it’s a funny question in light of the song title being, “Losing My Mind”, but I’d say that there’s power in the combination of honesty and simplicity. I used to try to say 27 different things in every song, and then wonder why my main point was getting lost in the shuffle. If it’s real, authentic, skilled, and coming from a genuine place, sometimes the best thing is to put it out unvarnished and let the truth have its day in the sun – especially when it’s scary or vulnerable to do so.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?

It’s hard to say what the best book was, per se, but I remember actually getting chills about 75 pages into The Fellowship Of The Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien. I was in high school at the time, staying at my grandmother’s house in Arizona, and I’d never been so wrapped up in a story before.

When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer?

For me, I was a writer far before I realized I wanted to become a writer. I started writing poems about baseball when I was about as young as I can remember. As an athlete growing up, I never thought about writing as a career pursuit, I just did it because I liked arranging words and rhymes. I had no interest in singing at the time, and didn’t write books, stories, or news style articles, so I didn’t see it as a profession. Really it wasn’t until my senior year of college at USC, that I realized songwriting was an actual career path, and even then I didn’t think I’d be pursing it as my primary job. About a year out of college, I realized that I actually wanted to pursue it as more than a personal outlet.

How have you evolved as a writer over the last year?

I certainly hope so. Without evolving, we stagnate – and I never want that for myself. If anything, I’ve gotten less polished, and less calculated in my writing this past year. Before I was a full time song writer, I was a full time fight trainer teaching Krav Maga and defensive tactics. There’s a transformation that happens as a fighter when you stop thinking and you start going off of instinct. Thoughts are too slow when punches are coming at you – you need to get out of your head, trust your training, be fully present in the moment, and just go. That type of “flow state” is something people experience in many fields, and though it takes a tremendous amount of time and training to develop instincts worth relying on, in the end the best performances come from instinct rather than rationalization.

I’m certainly not in a flow state all the time when I write or when I’m in the studio, but I’ve started to question my instincts less and less as a writer (for better or worse), so my work now is probably the most raw and straightforward that it’s ever been.

If you could meet, have dinner, have a drink with a writer (dead or alive) who would it be?

It may sound strange, but I think King David from the scriptures. I’ve met a few people who have both a warrior spirit and a poetic soul, but I find them extremely rare. Usually people I know who are wired to fight or wired to write excel at one of the two, while being fairly terrible at the other. The quote from the end of the film, Braveheart, “They fought like warrior poets. They fought like Scotsmen. And won their freedom”, has stuck with me since I was a kid and I would love to throw back some whiskey with an ancient warrior-singer-songwriter like David.

What’s next for you?

I’ve been working in Los Angeles for years, while occasionally going back to Nashville – where I first started my career pursuit as a songwriter. I’m in the process, though, of setting up a Nashville location for my studio, ENDURE Studios, and will start going back and forth quite a bit more in the future. I also will be starting the next collaborative ENDURE album soon. The last album I did under the moniker, ENDURE, was with Syrian refugees in Beirut, Lebanon, alongside artists here in Los Angeles. The next one will be with veterans here in the US, and I’m very excited to talk with and write with people in the veteran community, and help convey their stories through songwriting and recording an album.

Other than that, I’ll keep doing what I do here writing and producing songs with my crew of artists at ENDURE Studios, and getting some of my own music out there as well.

ENDURE STUDIOS: https://www.endurestudios.com/

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/theendurestudios

ABOUT JAY DENTON: https://www.jaydenton.com/