Sitting Down with Soulection's Spearhead | Joe Kay

by Paulette Ely

Not only is Joe Kay a master of his craft, he made his own craft. By podcasting before it was cool and creating a collection of creatives just to help the homies out, the formation of Soulection single handedly changed the way we sing, speak about and see music today. 

Soulection launched in 2011 from the podcast that I was doing. I had created this network and relationships with a lot of producers mainly that I was already networking with and playing their music on the podcast for years,” Joe told me as we sat face to face in the Soulection HQ- (which, may I add, is probably the only air conditioned unit in the Arts District of DTLA.) “When it came down to launch Soulection, it was pretty seamless in regards to those relationships and getting unreleased music to curate for our first compilation. A lot of this stemmed from those early relationships and connecting with people along the way,” he explained to me further. 

Photo by:  Paulette Ely

Photo by: Paulette Ely

Back in 2011, Joe Kay was doing what no one was- connecting with people across as many media platforms as possible before the age of Soundcloud hype and Instagram influence. Since then, Soulection has grown to be a household name and has created a platform for some of our favorite artists to stand tall upon. 

“I’m aware of mine and Soulection’s impact on the industry, I am. Especially as I’ve gotten older and I reflect more and more. I definitely acknowledge it, but I don’t get caught up in it too much and I don’t try to boost my ego. I’m about to be 30 this year, and I’ve just been through a lot. A lot of different ups and downs in this game, and I’ve had no choice but to reflect. I just think from the beginning, no one really believed in me. Now it’s too the point where, and I say this humbly speaking, that I can reach out to anybody that I desire musically no matter what platform or collective in the industry, and it’s not hard to get a response from people because my team and I have put in the time to work and build that credibility. People actually want to connect with us, so I’m very thankful for that. In the beginning, I didn’t know what I wanted it to be, I was just doing it for myself.  feel like I’ve just been part of an experiment since the beginning. It’s still an experiment, you know we’re still building, there’s no right or wrong way and we’re learning from our mistakes. But yeah, in regards to the radio show and the way we went about showcasing new artists and music, I know that no one has ever done it this exact way and I do take pride in it, but we still have a lot of work that needs to be done and we’re not even close to where we can be.”

Joe Kay is a visionary with a vision, and he has simply put this vision into action. Today, he is an artist himself, a supporter of artists, an interviewer of artists, and the founder of an artist collective. 

“It’s all part of my identity. It’s all natural. The artist is always before me or anybody else. I always eat less, I get paid less, that’s just part of it. It’s all a balance. If you are a business owner or someone who started your own thing, part of it is balancing the two out- if you are an artist yourself. It’s all a balance, and I’ve made it a point this year to be home more and to be present so that I can work on the things that have been on my mind for 2 years that I haven't been able to establish. It takes focus and discipline. How bad do you want it? You gotta work harder than your situation, No matter how busy or this or that, it doesn't matter. You have to figure out how to complete the mission.”

Photo by:  Paulette Ely

Photo by: Paulette Ely

Not only does Joe identify as all sides to the artistic puzzle piece, he is also a proud father.

“My life is somewhat about me, but it’s mainly about my daughter. Everything i do is working for her, to provide for her, for my family, for my mom. It’s not about me, like I said I eat less” Joe explained.

“My daughter also sparked a fire under me that made me move faster. Who knows, if I didn't have her, maybe I would have been more distracted or working at a slower tempo because all I would have to worry about is myself. So that side of things definitely inspired so many things because I had to be strategic of my time when I go out, work and go on these tours and trips, because I knew I couldn't miss out on these moments anymore.”

Having a child is clearly a major motivation to dominate the music world, but in that world there are so many surrounding Joe that are of inspiration and motivation as well. 

“Sometimes you see these supreme, gifted, young artists or entertainers or athletes that are just blessed and get the right opportunity and get that check and deal at young age. Its hard when you're older and you're looking at them like, shit. Social media is a gift and a curse. You wonder like, ‘Damn, what am I doing wrong?’ Especially if you’re in the same field, but it’s super unhealthy to do that. But, take Anderson Paak. He was in his early 30’s. I knew him when he was Breezy LoveJoy, just a drummer for other bands and artists. He was making music, but he hadn't found that door yet. The fact that he finally found his moment, and Dre signed him and he’s doing what he’s doing now, selling out arenas- It’s super incredible. I think that’s a testament to everyone having their own time. I get inspired by stories like that” Joe added. 

“You also brought up the whole parent thing, I get really inspired by other artists who are super successful while being parents. Of course, you only see what you see on social media, but they appear to be very attentive and present in their child’s lives. Those are the things I look out at in somebody. Like cool, you make great music but what else do you have to offer as a human being?”

Photo by:  Paulette Ely

Photo by: Paulette Ely

So… back to Soulection. Joe Kay and the team have created a pedestal for the best of the best. These include names such as Mr.Carmack and Snoh Aalegra. I think we all wonder, how do you get to be apart of something so strong? What are the creative criteria?

“First, it comes down to the sound, the music. The music has to instantly capture me to a point to where I just want to know who this is, where they are at, how can I get ahold of them and how can I hear more? And then, in regards to how to align with each other. The compatibility component is super important. To us, we’re not cutting deals or bringing you on because of the money, we’re doing it because we really believe in the music. It’s not money driven, it’s more about the music and how we can help you out. It’s literally community service, and we happen to get paid sometimes for it. It’s our community service to the world, so in terms of the artist, we have to be compatible on a personal level.”

Not only is compatibility seemingly important for Soulection connections, it is also important in terms of sound. Kay’s mixes are always eclectic, but also seem to be interconnected with lot’s musical compatibility and flow. 

“If a mix has a theme, it depends what I’m digging up and what music I find that week. It’s all week to week. There are certain shows that have been themed. The recent one was based on Nigerian Music and Afro-Beats. That episode happened to come together seamlessly. I had been discovering music and had a session with some friends and just got put on. I did the research and dug up all the music, and that happened to be a show that was themed out. Like you said, every show is different, which I love. It’s never the same, and I think that’s what brings more visibility and why people keep coming back. You never know what you’re going to get. Does it have a sound paulette? Of course. But overall, there are different ranges of music and I just love that. There is not format. Whatever I’m finding, whatever I’m putting out, it just comes out.”

After Coachella, after Episode 400 just hitting and after so many new Soulection connections with artists around the globe, we must all follow with a close eye to not miss the success Soulection has had at such speed. If you know what’s good, check out Joe Kay hosting Smokin’ Grooves Fest on June 15th, and stay up to date on their music here.

 And, if you want to stay close to Joe Kay’s footstep’s to success, follow one specific mantra he shared with me from the words of his father, “It’s not how much time you spend on something, it’s how you spend that time.” 

Photos and interview by: Paulette Ely