Canadian songwriter and producer Jeremy Haywood-Smith needed an escape from his state of mourning when he began working on Slingshot, his most recent LP as JayWood, the recording project he started in 2015. After the loss of his mother in 2019 and a global standstill with multiple social crises throughout 2020, Haywood-Smith yearned for some forward momentum. “The idea of looking back to go forward became a really big thing for me—hence the title, Slingshot.” Haywood-Smith explains. Feeling disconnected from his past and ancestry after the death of a parent, Haywood-Smith made a conscious effort to better understand his identity and unique Black experience living in the predominantly white province of Manitoba. Through a year of self reflection and reconnection with his roots, Haywood-Smith has made the biggest leap forward for his project JayWood by simply looking back. Merging fantasy scenarios, personal anecdotes, and infectious pop and dance instrumentals, Slingshot is a self-portrait of JayWood at his surface and his depths.
Haywood-Smith was born and raised in the Canadian prairies, spending most of his life in the city of Winnipeg. Since 2015 JayWood has captured the young writer’s journey of self discovery and heartache through unique songwriting and an ever-evolving sound. Haywood-Smith taught himself how to write and record during the primitive days of the project, but has developed through challenging himself to never fear change. Haywood-Smith’s soulful voice and dynamic production style shines through his 2021 release, Some Days—a polished reworking of his 2015 EP of the same name. Despite the culturally homogenous nature of his hometown, Haywood-Smith takes inspiration from a wide range of Black performers and artists working in all genres and eras. Visionary artists like Kendrick Lamar inspired Haywood-Smith’s approach to storytelling and world-building while constructing this album. “I love Kendrick’s ability to pull from life experiences growing up and conveying a message that’s greater than himself.” says Haywood-Smith “This album felt like I was making something that I would want my younger self to hear.” Slingshot is Haywood-Smith’s most conceptually layered and sonically varied release to date. His sophistication as a recording artist is evident in a record that could seamlessly serve as the soundtrack to a legendary house party or a bike ride alone in the woods.
The narrative for Slingshot takes place in the span of one day. From the first track to the last track, JayWood takes you on a journey that touches on themes of childhood, religion, and identity. “With this album I looked back at every version of myself, while simultaneously trying to be the best version of myself.” says Haywood-Smith. While writing and recording the album he put together a complex “script” mapping out all of the plot points, environments, characters that make up this surreal version of his real life. The album is filled with subtle sonic moments and vivid scenes that a listener can keep discovering after several listens. “I wanted the record to really pull you in and reward deep listening.” says Haywood-Smith. He puts deep thought into every second that happens on the album, allowing the fictional vignettes to speak greater truths about his life and the world around him.
“With everything I do, I try to leave time-capsules for myself.” Haywood-Smith admits. “It’s been really nice to get to know myself through that level of vulnerability.” Slingshot is a coming of age album rooted in the songwriter’s personal life and picks up where his first album left off. Although the album is close to home for Haywood-Smith, to record the project he worked closely with engineers Arthur Antony and Will Grierson. “Art and Will really pushed me on this album and I learned a lot from them,” says Haywood-Smith. “For ‘God is a Reptile’ we spent so long looking for a sermon to sample for the breakdown, and ended up talking about our thoughts on religion for hours.” “Just Saying” was originally written by Haywood-Smith with the intention to be given to another artist to perform, but he pushed himself to expand his vocal range and embody the confidence that pop music requires for the track. “Shine”, possibly the darkest moment on the album, was written the night George Floyd was murdered. “I wrote that song during a moment when it felt like everyone was suddenly activated by this tragedy that so many collectively experienced.”
Musically, Slingshot reaches into sounds and styles Haywood-Smith has continued to explore throughout his catalog. “I think I made a really big deal to not pigeonhole myself,” he explains. “Whatever is inspiring me at one point will work it’s way into whatever I’m creating.” Slingshot is an amalgamation of Haywood-Smith’s many musical sensibilities, achieved with help from a crew of talented peers. Haywood-Smith wrote and performed a bulk of the track’s instrumentations, but the LP has notable appearances from Canadian contemporaries Ami Cheon (on “Just Sayin”) and Mckinley Dixon (on “Shine.”) “Shine” and “Tulips” feature back up vocals by fellow Manitoban musician Kayla Fernandes who fronts the doom-metal band Vagina Witchcraft. The album’s penultimate track, “Thank You,” was co-produced with Jacob Portrait of Unknown Mortal Orchestra. The song brings JayWood’s sound full circle, offering something reminiscent of Haywood-Smith’s earliest recordings while flaunting that “The best is yet to come.”
Slingshot is set to release July 15th 2022. His powerful performances and pensive writing create a cohesive listening experience littered with new wisdom and hidden references to the artist’s past material. Haywood-Smith and company hope to take the songs on the road for their first North American tour following the album’s release.