- Fri, 2008-02-29 15:02
Craig David's new single 6 of 1 Thing is out now, released February 18th, the second single to be taken from his well-received fourth album, Trust Me, following the Top 10 hit Hot Stuff (Let's Dance).
I Like Music caught up with Craig David to talk about our shared hometown of Southampton, his latest music and working with the likes of Kano, JT and Usher.
''I Like Music because.... it’s all me.” Craig David
ILM: We last caught up with you at Saints football stadium ahead of your Rose Bowl gig in 2003 just before you headed off to Bahrain to conclude the rest of your world tour… good to catch up. ilikemusic.com is a Southampton based website, founded in 2000 and your debut album, Born To Do It was released in 2000 too.
Craig: And you guys are getting everyone calling you up to do some great things, so it’s gone the same way. That’s cool.
ILM: Indeed. So, 6 Of 1 Thing is out now (released February 18th). It’s a mixture of sublime funk and irresistible beats. Please describe the track and its whole vibe?
Craig: Lyrically it was trying to say a guy never truly understands how a girl’s mind really works. As a guy tries to and thinks he knows, it’s six of one thing and half a dozen of another. And I just wanted to try and put it in a way that doesn’t have to be about a break up or a relationship starting, but having an up tempo base record allowed it to feel… rather than taking it in the negative way, of not being able to understand what a girl is talking about, I was able to make it based around a dance track that you could play in a club so it would get some spins and then also going out to Cuba, to Havana to record the record, because the musicians out there were able to give the song enough of the live feel, especially with the horn section and the percussion to make it feel like a feel good song, not necessarily a depressing one.
ILM: It’s the second single to be taken from your fourth album 'Trust Me' following the Top 10 hit 'Hot Stuff (Let's Dance)'. And it’s pursuing a more soulful approach, with a looser live band style than on his previous albums. Which track did you enjoy laying down the most and why?
Craig: It was probably She’s On Fire because I had a lot of fun writing the song. It’s talking about how a girl wasn’t really a great looker at school, she was the one who focused on her studies and wasn’t running around with the older boys to be ahead of her age. The gist of it is that over the period of time of leaving school, the girls who ran around with the older guys and trying to be ‘it’ are now in a situation where they’ve now got a couple of kids, two different fathers, not in a stable relationship, whereas the girl who focused on her studies and went on to university, now, it’s a cliché, but her glasses are off, her hair’s down, her body’s formed and she looks amazing.
Craig: Yeah. So it’s saying, take your time, there is no mad rush but sometimes people feel like when they’re at school they know best, don’t we all. But I had fun making it, and it’s got a real hip hop meets reggae style, the music I listened to growing up as a kid and it’s got me doing a little rap on it and I was able to have a free reign on it.
ILM: A great message as well. Because at school there is that pressure to do things you might not want to do to be ‘cool’ and with the ‘in crowd’ but then you realise you’d have been better off not succumbing to peer pressure and being true to yourself instead.
Craig: Yeah it’s true, we all go through it. Where we think we have to meet what society says and if my friends around me are trying to be cool then I’ve got to be cool as well, but, in the long run, when you’re queuingfor the dole and others are going on to do their masters, you’ll think, ‘hmmm I think I made the wrong decisions there.’
ILM: You recorded in Havana, Cuba with producer Martin Terefe (KT Tunstall, James Morrison) and writer/producer/mixer Fraser T. Smith (Kano, Beyonce, Plan B, Jamelia), what did you learn from these guys?
Craig: The main thing I took away from it was to be able to trade perfection for performance, to be in a situation to take yourself out of the comfort zone and the feeling that you could live with the record and go back and add something extra or, if you didn’t like something you could change it. Whereas, being in Cuba for a period of time, knowing that the musicians were coming in, you had a day with them and it was like we had to nail this song today, before moving on to the next one, having that time constraint it really meant I had to step up my game and approach it as if I was performing it to a live audience, rather than feeling like I had all the time in the world and could come back to it.
So it gave a bit more urgency in my vocal. So I was really trying to sing rather than sitting back on it, which I may’ve done in the past because I had the freedom to do that.
ILM: Please can you describe the Craig David music making process? Does it tend to be lyrics first then melody or vice versa or random?
Craig: I do like something to set me off, be it as simple as an acoustic guitar and you start to play some chords or around the piano or, if it’s beat driven that then usually drives me into making it more for the club. Because at a certain tempo, half the time people aren’t listening to what the lyrics are anyway at this tempo, they just want to dance. So there are lots of things that inspire me. But I do like it usually when it’s based around a beat, because then you think, ‘yeah I’m in this,’ and it’s quite hypnotic and then you lay some melodies and hopefully you’ve written a song.
ILM: You’ve got a reputation for being fantastic live - I was at that intimate gig at the Rose Bowl intimate gig in Southampton, what’s been your standout gig to date?
Craig: I think performing on the third night at Wembley Arena when we did three nights sold out there. And it was just such an incredible feeling to think, ‘I’m on my third night here in a row of playing Wembley Arena to all these people.’ It’s amazing to be up on that stage. And you kind of take it for granted at the time.
But it was like an incredible moment for me to think of all the times I’d tried to get performances back in the day at Southampton or getting kicked out of the café because I was making too much noise singing songs or being told to get off the piano because it was for a live band playing that night. And then a few years later you’re playing your third night at Wembley Arena, it is an amazing journey, so that’s one of the most memorable.
ILM: You’ve followed your dreams. What advice would you give to young people on following their dreams to get the career they want for themselves?
Craig: The hard thing is having that constant advice to make you feel that you can overcome any obstacle or hurdle. It’s important to get the timing right. You need to feel that when you go into something that you’re really ready for it. It’s that idea of ‘fail to prepare then prepare to fail’. In anything you want to do, if you go into it half-hearted, at some point there’s a good chance you’re going to come unstuck. Whereas when you’re confident enough with any line of work that you realise you’re in a place in your mind where you’re comfortable, confident and you still have a lot to learn but know you can go out there and you think, ‘I’m in the right frame of mind to make this work.’
ILM: You quit college half way through your course to go into the studio full time because of your passion… what were you studying at college?
Craig: I was doing a GNVQ and NVQ in Electronics at Southampton City College. It was close to my home and it was the closest thing I thought I could get to music because I could fix things if I needed to, but I had no interest in it at all. I was chilling out trying to sell mix tapes in the cafeteria.
ILM: If you weren’t a musician, what would your second career choice have been/what would you be doing if you weren’t a musician?
Craig: I think I’d have taken my DJing more seriously. So it would have been something to do with music. I would’ve liked to be top of my game in DJing like Erick Morillo or someone, but I’ve been blessed that my music has taken me in the direction it has.
ILM: You’ve worked with Sting and toured with Mariah Carey, worked with Artful Dodger's Mark Hill and Pete Devereux and wrote Kano's Top 20 single 'This is The Girl'. Any amusing stories from working with the likes of Sting or Kano or Mariah you can share?
Craig: With Kano it’s funny because he’s quiet and comes across like he’s very shy. And the thing is, he’s a dark horse, because you’ll leave for half and hour in a room writing, and you think, ‘I don’t know if this guy is doing anything or whether he’s just thinking about what game he wants to play on his PSP when he gets home’ and you’ll say, ‘are you ready to do something, because the mic’s ready’ and he’s like, ‘yeah ok, cool,’ and he doesn’t really write things down either, so he walks in there and for the next 16 bars of the track, fire comes out of his mouth, and you’re like, where did all that come from?
These incredible lyrics and metaphors and the way he approaches the track is with such conviction, yet with a humourous attitude at the same time. And then he walks out… and his star sign is Gemini and he has that Gemini thing where he switches characters, so he walks out of the studio and sit down like nothing’s going on, with a little smirk on his face. He’s one of the best hip hop artists to come out of this country for a long time. As long as he keeps creating great music, he’ll do really well.
ILM: Do you have anyone who’s at the top of your collaboration wish list?
Craig: I’ve wanted to collaborate with Usher for such a long time now. We met up a while back when we were doing the front cover for Vibe magazine in the US and we were going to do something then and I’ve met him since along the way. So we’re going to lock-down doing a duet together because it’s something that I know he wants to do as much as I do.
Also Justin [Timberlake] was really interested in doing some collaborative stuff and, more recently Ne-Yo. We were talking about it at the MOBOs. So there are some people I want to do some really cool collaborations with instead of something that just happens. Those are things in the pipeline this year that I’m going to lock down.