Five Questions With… Jay Douglas

Juno-nominated reggae artist Jay Douglas has released his latest single Jah Children, featuring noted Jamaican dancehall DJ General Trees and remixed by Canada’s own Dubmatix. The song is an optimistic ode, aimed at countering the many social and political issues plaguing the world.

It’s the result of Douglas forging a bond with General Trees after they performed together at a Toronto reggae festival several years ago. Determined to collaborate, Douglas invited General Trees to the studio when Jah Children was being recorded and subsequently completed after Trees laid down a rap.

The single adds to Douglas’s impressive career that began on stages in Montego Bay, Jamaica, developing a sound that added American blues and jazz to a reggae foundation. By the mid-1960s, he was in Toronto fronting The Cougars, who became one of the most popular R&B bands in the city, often opening for and backing visiting soul stars such as Solomon Burke and Arthur Conley.

His legacy was later honoured on the 2006 compilation Jamaica To Toronto: Soul Funk & Reggae 1967-1974, put together by the renowned Seattle-based reissue label Light In The Attic. The collection relied heavily on Douglas’s knowledge and contacts, and Light In The Attic founder Matt Sullivan called him “one of the finest soul-reggae singers in North America.”

Jah Children (feat. General Trees) is available now from Slammin Media and distributed worldwide by Believe Distribution. Jay Douglas performs on Jan. 23 in Toronto at the Jazz Bistro, and for ticket info, go to jazzbistro.ca.

How would you describe your career so far?

It started in Montego Bay, where I would often win talent shows. Then I had the opportunity to join my mom in Toronto, where she had gone to find work. I was offered the job to be the lead singer of The Cougars, and we got to play across Canada, with everyone from Fats Domino and Percy Sledge, to even Jim Carrey.

What’s a moment in your career that stands out for you?

One of my fondest memories is opening for Whitney Houston's mom, Cissy Houston in Montreal. I have performed on all the continents except Australia, and I will get to that one! She told me that when I go on stage, I should always kick some ass up there, and when I get off the stage and come back to earth, go back to being myself.

What song in your catalogue means the most to you?

I would say Come Sooner Or Later. It’s the second song I wrote with The Cougars, and we recorded at Sound Canada studio in Scarborough. The back-up singers were the Tiaras, Jackie Richardson, and Brenda Russell, among others. The great Doug Riley was the producer of this song. It was an unforgettable experience for me. I’m also grateful that my version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah got me nominated for the Juno. I will always have love and respect for this great Canadian artist.

What’s your best touring story?

I remember touring with The Cougars in the early years through northern Ontario and Quebec, playing our reggae music. The beat and the rhythm were well received, but the fans had some problems saying the word reggae, so they call the music Ram Jam music.

What’s been the biggest change in your life over the past year, and what are my plans for 2020?

I'm more health-conscious, so I’m paying a lot more attention to my diet and helping to make our planet a healthy environment to live in. I plan to try my very best  and to lead by example for the young artists out there.

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PR: Eric Alper

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