Text: Lydia Chan
Two college guys meet at a party, hit it off as friends, start making music together and two years later, find themselves co-producing a hit track, ‘Hold On, We’re Going Home’ with Grammy Award-winning rapper, Drake. What sounds like the stuff of dreams is in fact the real story of how Toronto-based R&B duo, Majid Jordan came to be. Comprising of singer Majid Al Maskati and producer Jordan Ullman, the talented pair collectively known as Majid Jordan have gone from behind-the-scenes to centerstage with their sultry R&B beats.
Signed under OVO Sound (Drake’s record label), Majid Jordan released their official debut EP A Place Like This in 2014, followed by a self-titled album in 2016. However, it was the duo’s sophomore album, The Space Between, which included tracks like ‘Gave Your Love Away’ and ‘OG Heartthrob’ that made it clear to all of us—these guys were definitely changing the game
Following their killer set at Good Vibes Festival 2018, JUICE got to sit down with the pair to talk about their latest album and creative process as well as what they have to say to aspiring artistes.
So Majid, you’re originally from Bahrain but moved out to Toronto on your own at 17. What was it like moving to a completely different city at that age?
Majid It was beautiful, freeing and allowed for self-discovery. It was a new life, new culture, new scenes, music, art and parties, hanging around a lot of different people of all ages. I mean, [in Bahrain] I grew up with the same people from the age of 4 to 17 and my class was a very small class that I grew up with, so I was just excited to go out and meet new people in a big city.
And of course, finding Jordan.
Majid Yes and I met Jordan. It was my fourth year when I met him there and his first year living in Toronto. He’s born and raised in Toronto, just north of the city but it was his first year living in downtown Toronto and we just hit it off immediately cause we liked all the same music and the rest is history.
Your newest album The Space Between, was there a certain song that you wanted the whole album to surround or did you want to encapsulate the meaning of the title through the tracks?
Majid Basically, we wanted the meaning of the title to be explained by the sequencing of the song and there’s very little space between the actual songs, they’re almost like movements between the whole project. But at the same time, the idea for the project began when we started making songs like ‘Gave Your Love Away’, ‘OG Heartthrob’, even ‘You’ and those were the songs like, okay, now let’s surround the space between these songs with other ones and then that ended up becoming an album.
I know this is a tough question but do you have a favourite song?
Both It’s always changing.
Jordan I feel like it changes with when we perform and when we see the crowd react to certain parts—it kinda reminds us of where we were when we recorded it and how we felt. So, it’s always changing.
Do you have a favourite from today?
Majid Today was fun. It was fun singing ‘OG Heartthrob’ today.
Jordan ‘Small Talk’.
Majid ‘Small Talk’ is always fun to sing. What else was crazy today?
Jordan ‘Gave Your Love Away’ is always a good time too.
As an artist, how do you handle creative blocks? What do you do to always keep yourself inspired?
Majid Being determined to push through [creative blocks] and diligent enough to keep going back to your work. At the end of the day, when no one is around and even when we’re separate from each other, we’re always thinking about music, always listening to music, singing, humming, he’s [Jordan] is on his laptop. So it’s just making sure that, even though there’s a block, it could be coming from somewhere else in your life. It’s not necessarily from the thing that you love, maybe you have to come face-to-face with a reality in your life, you know, if you have to deal with too many things, you’re like, where do I put my focus? But also not being afraid that sometimes not every song is gonna come as naturally as it does. Some songs are a lot of work and they change and they take on new lives.
Jordan I know that writer’s block and creative blocks are a thing but especially for me, because my music is very computer-based, I feel like if I feel that creative block coming on, I can just switch to learning something else, switch to learning how to mix better or engineer better. And then I’ll come back to that with different ideas and I’ll be influenced by that.
Do you feel like having each other helps with that creative blocks?
Both Yeah, definitely.
I think that if you’re making music, you should make music with other people. You should always be open to collaboration, even though, it might take you out of your comfort zone, it really is the best way to make art. Cause you’re gonna share art with people, so why not make art with people? – Jordan Ullman
Well said. I’ve heard that you have been keeping your collaborations so far in-house within OVO but are there any artists performing here at Good Vibes Festival that you would hope to work with in the future?
Majid We just missed SZA cause she played yesterday. We switched cause we played in Jakarta [at We The Fest] and now we’re here. Even Miguel, we met him yesterday, he came to our show, so we would definitely love to do something with him. And those are just two of the latest people we met. We’re always trying to meet people naturally and keep it going from there.
Is there a dream collaboration?
Both Daft Punk, Quincy Jones, Chaka Khan, Sade..
What if it could be anyone, dead or alive?
Majid I have feelings about like putting out music that belongs to other people without their knowledge that it’s coming out..
But if you could and if they were still here?
Majid And they were cool with it? Yeah, I’d do something with Prince. He would never collaborate cause he can do everything on his own but you know, I’ll open the curtain for him coming out on stage [laughs]. I’ve always admired his music. My mum showed me him, so I’ve been listening to him since I was baby and that’s someone I’ve always wanted to work with. I always thought, I’d meet David Bowie too and he passed away. I don’t know, I had a dream where I met him and I really thought we were gonna meet him somehow, somewhere. So when he passed away, it was kinda crushing.
There are a lot of local artists performing here at Good Vibes Festival. Do you have any advice or words of inspiration for those trying to make a name for themselves?
Jordan Work with each other. I feel like the reason why the Toronto music scene has evolved is cause we’re all really supportive of one another and we all share each other’s music.
Majid One word of advice: make sure everyone you know comes out to those shows, make sure everyone’s here showing love, you gotta build the culture from the ground up. Live shows with 50 to 100 people, starting out, it doesn’t matter, just get on the stage as much as you can. And then when you’re working and recording music, you don’t need a really sophisticated setup; you just need a laptop and a microphone with a digital pre-amp converter and just keep it light and fun because that’s how everything starts.
There comes a switch later on in your career, where it’s like, now I have to start sacrificing certain things to continue my passion and my dream and that’s what we do. We travel, we have to be all over the world, we don’t get to go home as much but being comfortable knowing that that’s a real possibility in your future. – Majid Al Maskati
Last question, will you be coming back to Malaysia any time soon?
Majid As soon as possible.
Jordan We really hope so.
Majid It’s so beautiful here, it’s like a tropical paradise!