Record Producer & Celebrity Publicist Jonathan Hay Has Kept His Dream Alive
Writer / Kelsey Schneider
He has traveled. He’s a father of two. He’s dethroned Michael Bublé from the number one spot on the jazz Billboard chart. Jonathan Hay has worked with numerous well-known artists, and for the past 10 years has worked out of his studio in St. Matthews.
He began producing four years ago after being a publicist for over two decades. He wanted to switch up his career and produce music full time. He said it might’ve been a midlife crisis since he was 40 at the time, but he hasn’t looked back since. An ex-fiancée of nine years, who at the time wasn’t happy about that decision, thought they’d suffer financially and that the decision would harm their lifestyle. Understandably, Jonathan says, she was concerned.
“As weird as it may sound, I need negativity and doubt in my life, as it helps drive my creativity and competitiveness,” Jonathan says. “So I made the decision and that was that.”
The first album Hay produced was “When Music Worlds Collide,” which he says included a lot of major hip-hop collaborations.
“The album also received the TIDAL Rising award from Jay-Z’s streaming company,” he says. “I co-produced that album with Mike Smith and Sirius XM DJ King Tech.”
Hay says the album launched his career. The album is only available on TIDAL, Apple Music and Amazon.
Hay’s background includes making music out of his father Wayne’s basement when he was a teenager.
“In 1994 I started working with “Studio 550” and their indie record label that was downtown on 550 South 5th Street,” Hay says. “My first taste of the professional industry was with 550 and Michael Jackson’s group “Quo” who signed to MJJ Productions. In 1995, also through the 550 label, I got my professional start on a song with a local singer and radio personality named Herlon Robinson for his album “Gotta Get My Groove On” that was sold in record stores regionally.”
A few years later Hay’s career as a publicist began, and he became part of the record-breaking “Days of the New” act that sold millions of records.
“I was dealing with major labels like Geffen and Interscope Records and I had no idea what I was doing,” Hay says. “I do know that if “Days of the New” didn’t exist, neither would Nicole Scherzinger of the “Pussycat Dolls,” or “Tantric,” who was signed to Madonna’s label “Maverick” and also went multi-platinum. Travis Meeks, Gary Meeks and “Days of the New” deserve way more respect and credit in the Louisville, Kentucky, area than what they get.”
These experiences led Hay to work with the Grammy-nominated “Nappy Roots,” who have sold millions of records.
Hay recently hit the top of the jazz Billboard charts with “Follow the Leader” and “Jazz Part Two.”
“Both of the albums were pretty much done right here in Louisville, Kentucky, at my home studio in St. Matthews,” Hay says.
At the moment Hay has one album, “Follow the Leader,” on Spotify, and he and his team are currently in negotiation to include the rest of his catalog on the Spotify format.
“Jazz Part Two is a very strange album for me,” Hay says. “I put it together during a really dark, difficult and emotional time, so it’s extremely personal and probably way too vulnerable. It’s very rewarding that it reached number two on the Billboard jazz charts. As for Follow the Leader, that project has literally blown my mind.”
Hay recently signed a deal with “Fat Beats,” a manufacturer and distributor of vinyl records, CDs and cassettes.
Hay says he has a long list of known acts that he’s worked with.
“I’ve pretty much worked with all my heroes,” he says. “Currently I’m working with the iconic group Eric B. & Rakim on “Follow the Leader” re-imagined as jazz.”
Hay says he’s dying to do a project with Finneas O’Connell, who does production work for his sister Billie Eilish.
“I also want to work with Adele on her upcoming LP, as I feel we could create some real magic,” Hay says.
Hay continues to operate out of his native Louisville, a town he loves.
“The city is truly a creative hub because it’s so close to Nashville, Tennessee, and also to Indianapolis, Indiana, and Cincinnati, Ohio, which have great, rising music scenes,” Hay says. “I travel from Louisville to Tampa, Florida, a lot and I always stop and do business in Nashville and Atlanta along the way.”
Hay has two children in St. Matthews and most of his family resides here.
“It would be really hard to be away from my mom, stepdad and sister,” he says.
Hay says he’s going to get an apartment in Times Square, as he’s starting to do a lot of business in New York and will be going back and forth.
Hay does all his pre-production at his home studio and then begins arranging music with Mike Baker at DSL Recording Studios in Jeffersontown. At that point, he’ll start emailing songs to his production team, which consists of Mike Smith in North Carolina, Benny Reid in New York and Mani Ajami in Sweden.
“(Smith, Reid and Ajami) record their parts and send the files back to me, and I finish them in St. Matthews and DSL,” Hay says. “When artists cut vocals, I do that in person. At that point, I usually travel to wherever they are. But if a major act wants to cut vocals with me in Louisville I’ll tend to go to Downtown Recording Studio on 5th Street, as it has a lot of space to accommodate an entourage.”