Joe Kay, Co-Founder of Soulection
BY: ZARNA SURTI | PHOTOS BY: TAYLOR RAINBOLT
Meet the man behind the movement. As the co-founder and head of A&R of Soulection, Joe Kay is finding everything you need to listen to and putting it straight into your headphones.
The Soul of Soulection
We sit down with Joe Kay to learn about the start of Soulection, what it feels like to create a globally-informed and inspired brand, and what's on the horizon.
Soulection, the company you co-founded, just celebrated its six year anniversary—that’s amazing.
We’re pretty excited right now because we did the six year celebration at The Novo and it sold out with no line-up announcement. It feels good because Soulection hasn’t ever been about one person—obviously people have their preference of an artist or somebody that they love or follow day to day, but Soulection is a community thing and it’s a team effort.
So many people trust whatever Soulection does. How do you feel about building that type of trust amongst the community?
I think it all stems from day one of just being really true to our sound and us being curators of all things, not just music, but also the visuals, the things we say, the branding, the messaging—it all goes hand in hand. Because we’re so stubborn with certain things and very selective—it has its pros and it has its cons, but I think overall people know when we have something to say or something to push, it has a meaning behind it.
Soulection is a community thing—it’s a team effort.
I remember going to my first Soulection show and it was filled with this amazing community of people—everyone just knew they belonged there. When you guys first started, did people just gravitate towards you? Or was it something you slowly built?
It slowly built. The first two years were a bit slower than what I would have liked them to be. It took time. The thing is, we had a quality audience, so it might not have been big in numbers, but the few thousands of people that were listening were the best ears.
How did it all start?
In my grandmother’s den—it wasn’t even Soulection yet and it wasn’t even supposed to be. Soulection was originally supposed to be a blog back in 2008. It was supposed to be a hybrid of Tumblr and Hypebeast, but very clean and minimal with music, so it stemmed from that. It officially started on January 24th in 2011, and from that point on we’ve never looked back.
What was your first memory connected to music?
I remember being in my grandmother’s house listening to Power 106 or 92.3. It was when they used to play Tribe, J Dilla, Common, Busta Rhymes, and Ginuwine—all our favorite stuff. Those were memories I had as a kid, where I would turn on the radio and it would be common to hear those kind of artists. Also, my mom was a free spirit—she was young, so she would go to go see Rage Against the Machine and Tool, but then she would go see DMX. She would go see Marilyn Manson and then she would go see Erykah Badu or Sade. I grew up with a very diverse range of music around me.
What the chances of us seeing Sade on a Soulection show?
Ah, I would love to. I think I put in a hit to reach out, but we never heard anything back—but at least we tried!
The common language is music. When it comes to beats, people understand them and move in unison—no matter where you are in the world.
So what exactly is Soulection? You have so many different facets
We’re not just a record label and not just a radio show, but we have the live side which is “The Sound of Tomorrow”—which is hopefully evolving into the festival. We’ve been to over 180 cities worldwide since we started touring a couple years ago. Then we have Soulection Supply which is our merchandise side. We have a publishing thing as well—we’re trying to build this amazing roster of artists. Overall, we see Soulection as like a university for us—it’s like our own internship.
What is it like when you are at these live shows and you’re in the middle of this beautiful movement you guys have created—what does that feel like? Just to be in that room and to feel that?
It feels great, especially when you go to other countries where they don’t really speak English and the common language is music. When it comes to beats, people understand them and move in unison—no matter where you are in the world. It doesn’t matter what political beliefs they have or what religion or gender. When we’re in the room, we’re playing music, we’re all the same. When things get stressful I would say that I do think about those moments. I think about the messages and the emails we receive from people of them thanking us or how we’ve changed their lives; how they’ve been depressed at some point, suicidal, a family member died—and how Soulection was always that source to help them keep busy and overcome those moments. It feels good, but at the end of the day I still feel like we have so much ground to cover.
It doesn’t matter what political beliefs they have or what religion or gender. When we’re in the room, we’re playing music, we’re all the same.
What’s next? What’s the dream?
The Soulection Festival is definitely something that we’re trying to prioritize. It’s all primarily music, because the last two years we slowed down on the music and we had to open up our books and learn a bit about the business, taxes, and legal activity. So that took about two years of trial and error while touring, while doing the radio show, while figuring out our Soulection Supply brand. Now, the focus from this year on is getting back to the music, because without music, there really is no Soulection.
Ready to listen to a little Soulection? Us, too. That’s why we’re highlighting the Soulection White Label series (SWL)—a digital series highlighting up & coming artists by showcasing 2-4 track EPs that “spotlight the true craftsmanship of each artist from some of the most forward-thinking creators worldwide.” Their mission is to break new artists and get the word out about their music as far and wide as possible. Check out the covers above and the music by clicking here.