The substitute teacher by day and upcoming recording artist by night delivers lighthearted, harmonious songs, and fans can’t help but sing along.

The Nigerian-American artist’s mission is clear: Create music that sparks optimism and positivity that anyone regardless of age, sex, background and despite their circumstances – can listen to.

JAYO, an acronym for “Just A Young Optimist,” has gained a loyal social media fan base after posting YouTube covers and original compositions – earning thousands of views. On Jan. 18, JAYO released his first EP, “Say It,” on Spotify and Apple Music, reaching nearly 40k streams. But where did it all begin? It’s time to take it Way Back When to JAYO’s early years (like, Catholic school early).

Growing up, JAYO’s parents enrolled him and his siblings in basketball and track. He recalls being told to “stop singing” around the house when he was a child and being “unintentionally musically sheltered” – listening to his dad’s looped playlist on repeat a majority of his childhood. His path to becoming an artist was never a straight one. Okay, anyone else getting Troy Bolton vibes?

Photography by Nova Fox

“I didn’t start singing until my sophomore year of college,” JAYO laughs. “I didn’t know I could. I thought I would always be doing something in sports, or athletic training.” That was until he got injured and became a liability to coaches.

JAYO remembers his teammates giving him the nickname “Happy Feet,” because he was always singing and dancing during practices. This nickname eventually got around to a friend who invited him to audition for the Gospel choir at Azusa Pacific University, a four-year college located in Southern California. After joining the choir, he went on to sing in five different choir groups.

Inspired by the greats that were on his dad’s playlist, like Michael Jackson and Boyz II Men, JAYO has adopted similar habits to the legends, which could possibly lead to every singer’s dream: Getting signed to a label in L.A.

Photography by Nova Fox

“Michael [Jackson] was very close to my heart,” JAYO said. “I feel like I really take on his mentality in the studio; I’m a perfectionist, and I loved that about him.”

Jackson died in 2009 at the UCLA Medical Center –– the same hospital JAYO was born in.

Blending his artistic and competitive spirits together, another important figure who inspired JAYO’s ambition is retired NBA player Kobe Bryant.

“He just molded my mentality of like, ‘nobody can mess with me, nobody can beat me,’ kind of thing,” JAYO continued. “You gotta be competitive in the industry, but I’m competing with myself. I want to be the best-self I can be, and those mentalities tend to kick in.”

As a communications degree holder, JAYO utilizes his voice to do just that: communicate with his listeners through stories. Ed Sheeran, Khalid and Frank Ocean influence JAYO’s current sound.

“My songwriting was inspired by me wanting to tell stories. I love storytelling, I love jokes, and I wanted to find a way to do that in my music,” JAYO said. “My first song, ‘ILY2,’ was inspired by God. I was just like, ‘God, give me a song. I want to be a songwriter! And God kept saying ‘I love you,’ in my prayers and my response was, ‘I love you too,’ and immediately the hook came to me.”

For a young, emerging artist, JAYO is often complimented on how good his melodies are. For upcoming songwriters, it’s extremely difficult to craft songs that listeners can sing along to – it has to stick, and JAYO’s songs do just that. Creatively, JAYO aims to switch up his sound with the seasons.

“I’m definitely very fluid with my music, I think I can go from singing over a trap beat, to my acoustic guitar, to my piano and it will be just as good,” JAYO said.

As a Christian, JAYO’s relationship with God is pivotal in his work and his sound. Striving to keep his music relatable for everyone, not just Christians, JAYO seeks to draw people in with genuinely good music.  

“I really believe my music is universal, you can pull away something every time. Music is the door-opener to me – I’m going to invite people into who I am, and then I can talk to people personally about who God is,” he said. “You can’t jam it down people’s throats. Artists nowadays want to put everything in a song – they want to put the problems and the solution, but your song can’t save the world and nobody’s going to listen to it, it won’t be a hit.”

Jayo explained his goal is to have fun and to create songs with one specific point that he can elaborate on the meaning at different times, like during interviews or on YouTube.

Photography by Nova Fox

Capturing the young-and-infatuated lovers’ heartstrings, while orchestrating fun, modern pop boy band vibes in “Say it,” JAYO’s next EP “No Pearls for Swine” is sure to deliver something new and refreshing. With his recent preview of an unreleased song, “Juice,” –– fans are excited to see where JAYO takes them next.

Catch JAYO at his Release Party on June 14 hosted by Power 106 in Los Angeles, California.

Written ByJamie Joseph

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