words/ MEGAN SIBLEY
Few stories can better describe Jayden Henry’s hectic schedule than the one about the making of his first music video. The production for his song “IDNY” consisted of an early morning road trip to Toronto, three hectic hours of shooting around the city, and a late night trip back to Ottawa so that he wouldn’t miss his university exam the next morning. The life of a student can be tough, but for one who doubles as an R&B artist, it’s all in a day’s work.
Known by his fans as JYDN, the 21-year-old Ottawa-born artist opened for Roy Woods’ one-night show at Barrymore’s Music Hall in November. Rewind just three months and he was dropping his first project, a labour of love containing seven of his original songs. Rewind a little more to his childhood, when he was listening to CD’s that his parents had burnt on Limewire, and falling in love with R&B.
Living in a home where he was consistently surrounded by music helped JYDN to appreciate the power of music: but only as a hobby, and sometimes in secret.
“I was part of a choir in school, but I was too embarrassed to perform with them,” he says. “But I learned a lot about theory and how music works at that age.”
Eventually, the shyness wore off and JYDN’s school choir turned in to a high school band he formed with his friends, and performances in coffee houses. Even still, music remained a hobby. He started his first year of Cognitive Science at Carleton University, unsure of how singing fit in to the bigger picture of his future.
Going through the motions of university life and making music on the side, JYDN reconnected with friend and fellow beat maker Maurice Moore, who ignited his desire to take his music-making career to a new level: and the rest, as they say, is history. In August 2017 JYDN released his first project titled “Navyblue,” a collection of seven songs that was two years in the making. The tracks run in chronological order, with his most recent song serving as the project’s farewell.
“Those seven tracks were the right collection of songs, especially in order,” he says. “If you listen to the album from beginning to end, you’ll see my growth as an artist.”
Though putting out new music was a challenge with his tight schedule, JYDN wanted to take the time he needed to release something he was proud of.
“A project can really make or break an artist, and I really wanted to impress people so that they will keep an eye on me in the future.”
Like many artists are, JYDN is influenced by the ones who have come before him. Drawing inspiration from today’s hip-hop and R&B artists, (Justin Timberlake, Kehlani), UK songwriters, (James Blake), and 90’s icons, (Erykah Badu, Sade, Boyz II Men), the plethora of musicians JYDN looks up to have shaped his style as an artist.
If a genie were to grant him a generous wish, JYDN’s dream collab would be with Majid Jordan. He believes they share a vision of where R&B is going.
“We have really similar styles,” he says. “Their most recent project changed my life; they have that modern R&B sound that infuses house music in to it.”
In November 2017, JYDN got an offer he couldn’t turn down. One call from Jelani Lewis of Small World Ottawa turned in to his first major gig: a spot opening for OVO Sound artist Roy Woods at his Ottawa show.
“It was a big moment in my life because it taught me to prepare like a professional artist would,” he says. “Rehearsing, sound check, accompanying artists- it all matters.”
Such an opportunity made the power of networking clearer than ever for JDYN. He says that while Canada doesn’t have a hot R&B scene like the US does, making friends can take you far.
“Building relationships here has allowed me to perform,” he says. “Theres a small circle of artists here that you see constantly. Making connections and sticking together is the best thing to build a career.”
What does the future look like for JDYN? For the foreseeable future, it’s music. He is releasing new music in the form of a feature or a single monthly (check out his latest release here), and is working on shooting new videos and producing an EP.
“This is the year that I’m constantly putting myself out there, getting my name out as much as I can,” he says.
The life of an up-and-coming artist can be hard. Multitasking school and songwriting is a balancing act, but JYDN has found a rhythm. From humble beginnings listening to CD mixes and hiding out in the back row of choir practice, this Ottawan is far from finished. Speaking of finished, this profile can’t be done without asking the cliche question on everyone’s mind; what advice does JYDN have for aspiring musicians starting out like he did?
“I try to be respectful and keep my head down and work,” he says. “A little bit of clout doesn’t make you something: I’ve seen so many people who have lost themselves. Just make sure you remember where you come from. I’m from Ottawa, and I’m proud of that.”