Latin American singer Jay Ratinoff is forging his own musical path. Splitting his time between California and Mexico City, he recently released his scorching bilingual single “Fire” about embracing the heat and sensuality of the moment. “”Fire” was a made up of story that came out of my subconscious mind. When I’m writing lyrics, I usually don’t think of someone specifically. I usually have a lyrical idea in my head, and I start from there,” says Ratinoff. Prior to the release of “Fire”, Ratinoff released the popular singles “Honey” and “DESNÚDAME” which garnered over 274K YouTube views and 285K YouTube views, respectively. At the end of 2018, he underwent an awakening and completely reinvented himself. He legally changed his name to Jay Ratinoff, adopting his mother’s surname, and received a second baptism as an adult at St. Bart’s in the Bay Area. This resulted in a renewed sense of musical perspective and a desire to experiment with different sounds and open himself up to different perspectives. That carried over into the studio with collaborator and producer Aldo Munoz, where they merged elements of electronic dance music, Latin beats, and rock guitar, yielding a simmering signature style. Without regard for “rules,” he blended together styles that rarely fuse in typical popular music. Instead, he introduced a sound of his own within a daring fusion. “This is everything I always wanted to do musically,” he goes on. “I feel total freedom.” Ratinoff hopes to reach as many listeners as possible and grew a worldwide fanbase. “I want to bring joy with my music,” he says. “I know the feeling of euphoria that comes from music. Ultimately, I hope to share this feeling with listeners.” Today sees the release of Ratinoff’s music video for “Fire”, which features Ariel Yasmine as his love interest. She made headlines around the world last year for being Ariana Grande’s doppelganger in the “Break Up With Your Girlfriend” music video. You can watch the video below and can follow Jay Ratinoff and stay up-to-date on all artist, music and tour news via the following links:
You first entered the spotlight at the age of 18 through your work in television after enrolling in a conservatory acting program. You have said that music has always been a part of your life, so what led you to initially pursue acting and what was the catalyst that led you to transition to music?
Yeah. I always loved music and I always loved to write music and play with melodies. When I was 18 years old, I was actually enrolled in college and I didn’t really know back then what I wanted to do. I was just taking random classes, because I needed to find my path. At that time, I didn’t know if I wanted to go to music school. I was just a mess. I was actually talking to a friend I had back in the day who lived in Mexico City and we hadn’t talked in a very long time. I was telling him that I was really lost and didn’t know what I wanted to do, and he said “Well, why don’t you come to Mexico City?”. There was this place where they filed the very cheesy telenovelas and they had their own program where they taught actors as a way to teach the future of actors who were going to be in the telenovelas. The moment that he said that, for some reason it clicked with me and I thought about the conversation I’d had with him. Two weeks later I talked to my parents and told them “I think I want to do this. I think I want to go to Mexico City and do this”. I don’t know why I did it. I think I needed to feel like I had some sort of training in something back then because I really was kind-of just kickin’ it (laughs)! That’s what led me to go there, to find some sort of path, and for the three years I was there it was really cool because I did have training…not so much in music but definitely in acting. For the first year, I really enjoyed it. In most of the rooms….there were a lot of rooms where we took lessons and things like that and piano rooms…I found myself, in time, spending more time writing songs. When there was a piano instructor right there, I would kind-of deviate from the whole acting thing and ask him questions about how to do certain chords and things like that. Back then, I was actually considering leaving the acting school. Luckily I didn’t and finished a whole three years and learned how to be in front of the camera. In those three years, I was also writing music, so it was kind-of parallel. In time, I immediately formed my first cover band and we were called ‘Ferrari’ (laughs)! I was the lead singer and we were just doing covers and then later on I decided that I wanted to write my own songs. I started writing my own music and getting immersed in it and moved to LA. It was just something that came gradually, as time went on. I’ve always been kind-of a late bloomer. I know for a lot of people, they started writing songs at 12 or 13 or 14. I think I wrote my first real, actual song when I was around 21 (laughs)! For me it was a little bit later.
In 2019, you underwent a second baptism. You’ve talked about how that led to an awakening and reinvention for you. You also decided to legally change your name, adopting your mother’s surname (of Ratinoff). What can you tell me about your decision to have a second baptism and the awakening it led to and how it overhauled your creativity?
Yeah. It was in November of 2018 that I decided to make this decision. My dad was always Joaquin, and since there were two Joaquin’s, I was always Jay. I remember just being like “You know what? I feel like I want to change my name”. I thought you could just do it online. I didn’t know that you actually have to go in front of a judge. So I changed my name legally and took my mom’s last name, Ratinoff. Eventually, for some reason I felt the need to have a second baptism and was talking to the priest. These were just things I was learning along the way. Later on, when I was talking to the priest, he said “You know what? There’s only one baptism. There’s no need to have two” and I said “You know what? This is very important to me and I want you to do it”. It was like a celebration for me. I was just going with the flow. I didn’t really know why I was doing it, but I did gather that while I was doing it and was pursuing what was on my mind, it just felt right. That led to….I don’t know. I started writing songs differently and noticing a lot of awesome changes, not only musically but personally, as well. I think that I found myself in a way. It was never something that I wanted to question too much, because I just knew in my heart that if I started questioning things, I was going to hold back. I decided to just go with the flow and it’s been amazing! It’s been about a year, and it’s just been awesome. I’m discovering new things in myself, like I recently started taking drum lessons and guitar lessons and just broadening my horizons. It’s been really great and better then I expected.
Following your baptism, you took a trip to Mexico to write music. Having had an awakening and a change in your approach to music, what was that trip like for you. You have said that you started being more candid and opening up more with your lyrics, so what was that whole experience like for you?
It was really cool because I work with my producer, who lives in Mexico. His name is Aldo Muñoz and we’ve been working together for the past nine years. I own a part-time apartment down there, so when I am down there I actually spend a lot of time making music. I remember one morning, I got up and I had this lyrical idea in my head and it was basically the song “Fire”, the song I’m currently promoting. I remember that I really quickly grabbed a pen and some paper and started writing. After I finished the song, it felt really good but I didn’t realize how great it was until I actually went to the recording studio. When I was working with Aldo, I started noticing that my approach towards music was more broad in the sense that before, I always had a pre-conceived idea about what the song should sound like. And that’s fine, because I think when you write a song, you are already imagining what it’s going to sound like and the instruments and all of that. As Aldo and I were in the studio, I noticed that he…you know, I’m more emotional and all over the place and he’s more cerebral. The way that he showed his emotion was by throwing out all of these ideas like “Why don’t we try this? Why don’t we do this and that?”. I think my approach years ago would have been like, “You know what? That’s not the way I visualize the song. Let’s do it like this”. This time, it was like “Let’s just try everything!”. I realized that, as a songwriter, having this type of sentence in your head like “I march to the beat of my own drum” is almost like saying “I’m afraid to try something new”. I realized with the song “Fire” that I was really trying to feel like I was in a place where I could be vulnerable…not so much lyrically, but musically. There were moments where Aldo was like “Let’s try this! Let’s try that!” and that was really pushing the envelope for me. I made a conscious decision in that moment to allow myself to be vulnerable and feel like I was removing the safety net and see where things go. I wrote the song and wanted to see where it could go. There was a moment, especially when Aldo started playing around with the rhythm section, that it sounded very Latin with electronic elements. I grew up listening to Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk, Joy Division, The Cure, Morrissey, so I was coming from that mentality. He was basically respecting my vision but fusing it with Latin beats using electronic elements. There was a moment in the studio where I knew that there was something magical happening. I can’t remember an exact date or when it was, but knew there was something great happening. This was after, of course, feeling like “Oh my god! This song is going to sound completely different! It’s not what I imagined”, but after I removed that safety net and allowed myself to be vulnerable, it was pure magic. I felt excited and it sounded amazing! I think that was the part for me that was very noticeable, as far as the spiritual awakening. I felt more sure of myself, because I felt that I had found my voice and my sound. This is a little bit off topic, but I went to a concert a few weeks ago to see this artist named Midge Ure. He had a band called Ultravox in the ’80s, which I love. He did an acoustic set and then a Q & A and it was really interesting to me because Ultravox is one of those bands whose sound was so unique. What was so interesting was that he said that in the beginning, as a songwriter and starting with the band, he was tried to emulate the music that he grew up listening to. When he said that, I was like “I can relate to that!” (laughs)! With “Fire”, I felt that it wasn’t emulating anything. It was my sound. This is Jay Ratinoff. That’s kind-of like what happened with me, specifically with “Fire”. That’s the most clear example of my spiritual awakening.
You released “Fire” in both English and Spanish. Is your goal to achieve success in both markets? Do you plan to release upcoming singles in English and Spanish, as well?
You know, if it feels right I will. The funny thing is that with this song, I actually started out writing it in Spanish. I woke up one morning with the very first lyrics and immediately started fusioning, but then when I was writing in Spanish I said “We’re On Fire” immediately. I didn’t even think about it. I remember thinking “What if I try doing an English version of this?” just to play around with it. I tried it, and the funny thing was that I actually liked the mix of English and Spanish more then just Spanish and then saying “We’re On Fire” as the English part. I remember when I was considering doing a video for it and wondering which one to choose. I just decided to go with my gut. I listened to both and asked myself “Which version do I think I should pick for the video?”. The English one…I don’t know what it was about it. I know it wasn’t the first one I wrote but that was the one where I was like “That one’s good”. It plays a lot more with language. The whole Spanish version had the English part that said “We’re On Fire”, but the English version the lyrics were 50% English and 50% Spanish and it was just…FIRE (Laughs)! As I said, if it feels right in the future, I’ll do it and if it doesn’t…you know, it’s all about sometimes just living in the moment and going with what feels right in the moment. If it’s all Spanish and feels right, I’ll do it, or English or a fusion of the two. I guess only time will tell (laughs)!
You’ve talked about being an independent artist but not really facing the challenges that a lot of independent artists face because you have a really good team of people behind you. What can you tell me about the team of producers, collaborators and friends that are behind you and helping you on your musical journey?
As a creative person, which I am, I think all artists see things in a very abstract way. It’s a dream, then we create this magical moment where we put it down with pen to paper, and maybe in our minds create this masterpiece. Then you have to pass it on to a producer to give it a form, because there has to be something concrete, you know? For me, it’s like it’s very important to have people behind me working. I don’t think that anyone is a one man army. It’s important for me to have people that see things from maybe more of a business standpoint or more of a concrete place. Even for me to be able to have this interview with you, there has to be somebody behind the scenes who gets the interview and who does all of that. So it’s important for me to have a group of people who believe in me and who obviously like the project. If you don’t like the music, I think it would be really hard for them to be able to promote it, so they would have to be almost as excited as I am, you know? It ends up being not only my song, but for Aldo my producer, for example, I think that many times he treats the songs as though he wrote them. I think that’s awesome because it makes me feel like everybody is on board. The publicity company that I work with, Press Here, feel like it’s their song too, and that for me is very important. Music is a global thing, so I feel like it’s my song up until the moment that I get it produced and then it becomes every person’s song. It’s like my baby when I write it, and then it grows up and you have to just let it go. It takes on a life of its own and it comes from this moment where I just woke up in the morning and, before I even had my first cup of coffee, I had this first lyrical idea and wrote it down, then recorded it on my phone then went to my producer and the all of these things started happening. For me, it’s really cool to look back on those moments. I’m a person who likes to live in the present and think about the future but talking about it, it’s really amazing because you can see how a simple spark can turn into FIRE (Laughs)!
You have talked a bit about the challenges you face as an artist of wanting to be a better songwriter and performer each day. How have you gone about trying to achieve those goals for yourself?
I think just allowing myself to be vulnerable. I think that when I was younger I was definitely very hard on myself. I think that most of us are when we’re younger. We want to march to the beat of our own drum. Eventually, I realized that instead of being a strength, that it was a weakness. I think that just with time and my love of experimentation, I realized that the more my songs sound more like pop, the more I feel it was more experimental versus when I was doing straight up alternative songs. It was very…I don’t want to say basic, but now it’s like “Ok, let’s do a fusion of electronic music and latin music and rock music. With all of these different things, it’s kind-of become this hybrid. I think just through time and not taking myself too seriously, I think that now I actually enjoy the process much more than before. There was this moment, and I love talking about this, when I write the song and I have all of the lyrical ideas and am about to go to Aldo’s studio and I get up the stairs. There’s this curtain, before you get into the studio, and I always open the curtain just a little bit and see him at his computer, but he has his back towards me and doesn’t see that I’m there. There’s always this moment where I’m like “What is the song going to sound like?”. Before, it wasn’t really like that because I had this idea and vision of what the song would sound like and I was just going to be completely and utterly focused on just my vision. Now, I have a vision, but I don’t know what’s going to happen. Let’s experiment and see what happens, and many times it’s about just taking away that safety net. I find that with taking away the safety net and taking a different avenue then what that you initially planned, that’s where you find this magical moments. Now, through time, I really enjoy that. There are still moments when I feel a lot of fear, of course. You remove the safety net and are like “Oh my god! What’s going to happen? Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!”. Many times I used to think that was a sign that it had no direction, but it actually did have a direction, which is taking me to places I didn’t even know existed. That’s kind-of like what I’ve learned and I hope that I keep getting better and trying different things and allowing myself to be vulnerable and flexible and thinking about the song and not so much about my ego, because we all have egos, but thinking about the masterpiece, which is the song, and focusing completely on the song.
You have talked about your love of technology. How do you feel it has helped you to push your music forward and to communicate with your team, whom you have said are spread out all over the place?
It’s great that you asked this question! I love digital! Anything that’s digital I like. I do not like anything that’s analog. I really don’t. The funny thing is, I actually started learning Logic ProX. It’s basically a DAW (Digital Audio Workshop) that’s used by producers to make the songs and record different tracks. I recently learned how to use Logic ProX and I use all of the technology of the program, which is basically samples and use all of the digital sound effects from the computer. I love digital delayed distortions and all of these sound effects and before technology, you would have to buy all of these analog pedals and they don’t cost $5. They cost, like, $200. With digital technology, I have all of these sound effects in my computer, which really makes it cool because it democratizes the process. You don’t need to go to expensive recording studios nowadays. You can just record your songs on your computer. If you have a good audio interface and a good pair of speakers..I even bought some really small speakers because I travel a lot…but I basically have everything I need to produce my own music. Without technology, I’d have to buy all of this equipment and now I don’t. I think that technology has democratized everything. For example, when my producer sends me certain tracks he doesn’t have to send me a CD anymore. He can send it via WeTransfer and I can put it into a flash drive and if I have to perform somewhere I just give the flash drive to the sound guy and he plugs it in and it sounds like I have all of this orchestration. I think technology is an amazing tool. I’m very practical and don’t like having too much equipment, so now, because of technology, I have very little equipment and it’s beautiful. I can take my laptop computer with me and my two speakers and my audio interface and can produce all of my music on my computer. Obviously, social media has also democratized everything, and SoundCloud and Instagram and all of these other platforms. It wouldn’t be able to be what it is if it wasn’t for technology, so I’m for digital and do not like anything that’s analog (laughs)! It’s so practical. I know that the very pro-guitar and pro-music people think that everything is great analog, but I don’t want to buy a Moog synthesizer that’s $3,000 and that’s heavy when I can buy the Moog App for $30 (laughs)! I can just put my midi controllers into my computer and I think it sounds as great.
Everyone has their preferences!
Yeah, definitely. I mean, if you’re Hans Zimmer or John Williams, who have millions of dollars and can buy all of that stuff, that’s great, but I don’t want to spend $3,000 on a synthesizer (laughs).
You will be releasing the music video for “Fire” on February 26th. What can you tell me about the idea and inspiration behind the video and how you came to meet and work with Ariel Yasmine, who plays your love interest in the video?
When I was talking to my team, we were interviewing different people to do the video. We came across this great director named Jeff Dean who’s done videos for Nikki Minaj and Justin Beiber. I really like the type of very visual type of stuff he’s done, because I also love branding. That’s something that really attracted me. I went with my gut, like I do with my music and was like “I think I want to work with this guy”. Then, we actually spoke on the phone and the moment that I started talking to him, I knew he was who I wanted to work with. He asked “How do you visualize the video?” and I said to him “You know what Jeff? I have a hunch that your vision, that whatever vision you have, let’s just go with that. Use me as an instrument to pursue your vision.” Just like with my music, with the song “Fire”, Aldo was just throwing out ideas and I didn’t want to say “No, let’s not do this” and I did the same with Jeff. I said “I’ll just bring all of the clothes that I have and you can tell me what to wear and your vision and lets just have fun with this”. He sent me the pictures and resumes of three different girls and when I saw Ariel, I knew she was the one. And I don’t know what it was. Just like when I knew I wanted to work with Jeff, when I saw Ariel, I knew I wanted to work with her. Later I saw the kind of curriculum she had, and was like “Oh, I’m really working in the majors right now” (laughs)! It was a really amazing experience because I’m not really a big fan of shooting music videos, but in working with Jeff I was like “This can also be a lot of fun”. It was just awesome working with him. I remember when I got there, I was a little nervous but also a little anxious and excited because I was going to be shooting a video for the song. It was becoming more clear and concrete, not just an audio song but a visual, as well. When I met him, it was like a really cool atmosphere of working with not only him, but the crew and the make up artist and Ariel. We shot the whole video in one day in downtown LA and I just remember having a lot of fun. Jeff was like “Ok, let’s start shooting” and telling me what to do and I just went with it. I wanted him to be excited. Later on, that excitement…in between shots, we were cracking jokes and some of the crew, while I was shooting the video, would be like behind me dancing (laughs). It was a really cool atmosphere, just like the magical moment of when I was working with Aldo and I knew that we were creating a great song. The same kind of magic was there when we were shooting the video. It was a great experience. I’d like to work with Jeff again.
What’s next for you?
I’m planning to release some new music this year!
Thanks so much taking the time to speak with me today!
Thank you so much!