- Sun, 2008-03-02 17:03
Taio Cruz, the 23 year-old writer/producer/artist who has cut a swathe through the upper reaches of the American music industry with Dallas Austin singling him out as the new Babyface, has his new single Come On Girl released on March 3rd through Universal Records.
I Like Music caught up with Taio Cruz to talk about his new album and single, swapping beats with Timbaland and producing for Daniel Merriweather, plus getting the call from the head of Motown Records.
''I Like Music because.... it’s my life and it’s the air that I breathe. It calms me when I’m feeling uptight and it’s there for me when I want to party if I want to listen to something up tempo, it’s just amazing in any situation. That’s why I like music!” Taio Cruz
ILM: Come On Girl is out on March 3rd. Please describe the track and its whole vibe?
Taio: I produced it after going out and listening to a lot of electro house. I just wanted to create something that was in that vein, so when I got to the studio I got the house drums out and threw in a bit of old school 80s electro rave synth as well, and then on top of that I’d add a soulful vocal and add a topic that people can relate to while they’re out partying, and write it about how people feel when you see a girl in a club and you don’t want to say the wrong thing to her, so you kind of formulate what you’re going to say before you walk up to her, so you don’t make that mistake.
ILM: Your debut album “Departure” is out on March 17th through Universal Records. Which track did you enjoy laying down the most and why?
Taio: Well, usually the up tempo ones are the ones you can dance around the studio to when you’re making them, so stuff like Come On Girl was definitely good fun. The biggest experience for me was I Can Be and Never Gonna Get Us, which both have a 30 piece orchestra played on them. So at Angel studios watching the orchestra play this song that I’d created the other day. It’s an indescribable feeling; amazing.
ILM: You’ve spent the last few years writing and recording in the US with the likes of Tricky Stewart, the man behind Rihanna’s “Umbrella”. In fact the song was originally earmarked for Taio to perform, that was until a certain Jay-Z heard it, offered it to Rhianna and the rest as they say …. Are you ok with that?
Taio: Yeah Tricky is such a good friend. I’m just happy he’s doing well out of the situation, that Rihanna recorded it and Jay-Z got on it and it was such a big hit. Now he’s in such high demand for working with people. He’s just done the Mariah Carey new single and some more stuff with Mary J Blige, so I’m’ really happy for him. It was potentially going to be for me, but it was always on the cards that he’d be shopping it to some of the big and established artists out there, so when Rihanna and Jay-Z came through the door it wasn’t really that surprising, I didn’t feel gutted or anything, I knew that was probably going to happen.
ILM: You’ve swapped beats with Timbaland too, anything you’ve learned from him or others you’ve worked with?
Taio: I think it’s just to always have fun. Music should never really feel like work it should just always be an organic experience. Be in the studio and vibe and that’s when you make the best music. Sometimes we’re required to go by a brief and write something specific. But even when we do that, we try and vibe it, because sometimes, if it sounds amazing, they’ll change their brief because you’ve got a good song.
I used to send tracks back and forward with Timbaland but I never worked with him in the studio directly. So it was through association with others that I got to work with him; he’d send tracks in to Tricky’s studio for us to write to as well. That’s how I have the connection with him and Rich Harrison.
ILM: Please can you describe the Taio Cruz music making process? Does it tend to be lyrics first then melody or vice versa or random?
Taio: Sometimes its random, but usually I’ll start something on the keyboard and then I’ll put some drums to it and then, when I’ve got a nice drum pattern and chord progression, I’ll walk over to the mic and start mumbling jibberish but with a nice melody, and then I’ll put some words with some meaning to it, once I’ve got that nice melody.
It’s kind of like a relationship; you see the beauty at first then get more into the personality. So, with a song, you go for the melody which is the beauty part and then afterwards, you fill it out with the substance and write the lyrics at the end.
ILM: You’ve been working on producing Daniel Merriweather’s eagerly awaited debut album. Tell us more?
Taio: My management, Jamie Benns and Christian Walberg, Christian owns Merlin Music, the production company who produced Britney’s new single as well as Toxic. And they got the information and then Daniel Merriweather’s manager is a good friend of mine. So he called up and said, ‘do you have some songs for him?’ And I said, ‘sure I don’t have anything now, but I can write something for him in no time.’ So that’s how that came about.
ILM: Seems like you’re going to be an artist with longevity because you’ve done production, written tracks for other people and have fine tuned your talents before releasing your debut album and you’re now signed to Universal in the UK and the legendary Motown Records in the US in a unique joint venture, how did the Motown deal come about and what advice would you pass on to others about getting the right deal?
Taio: Well the way the deal came about really was I Just Wanna Know was playing on the radio, I released it through my own record label, Rockstar Music and it was playing on the radio and then it jumped, because DJs came over from America, heard it and took it back and started playing it on Sirius Digital Radio and then from there got on to Commercial radio in America. So Motown somehow found my number and they gave me a call while I was in Atlanta.
I was actually shopping for trainers and I got a call from New York and it was president of Motown, and he said, ‘What are you doing tomorrow, can you fly to New York?’ And I said I was in the studio but I’m sure I could postpone it for a day.
So I flew in and after about ten minutes they said, ‘I’m not going to beat around the bush, I just want to give you a record deal, we love your songs and your music, we’ve heard about you before, we know you’re producing, so we just want to give you a record deal.’ Then after that I got signed to Island in the UK.
ILM: Wow, I’m bet you’re glad you took that call while you were shoe shopping!
Taio: Yeah, totally!
ILM: Also I heard that a girl was playing your songs and her boyfriend, who worked for Def Jam heard the tracks and was blown away and that was another cool experience for you to get heard?
Taio: Yeah that was at the beginning when I got my first manager. There was a girl I knew from college who would always ask me to give her tapes to listen to at home and her flat mate was dating a guy from Def Jam and he called and my music was playing in the background. And he asked who it was and she said, ‘it’s my friend’s best mate who makes music,’ so he asked if I was signed and she said ‘no’, so he said I should give him a call. So I called him and went out there and we started working together, and that was how I met my first manager.
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?
Taio: If they know that they are talented and worth what they think they are… sometimes you get friends who tell you you’re good to be polite, but if you really are good and strangers tell you that you’re good at what you do and that’s your dream, then you shouldn’t really have a plan B. You should just go for it, because the plan B is usually easier than having the dream, so people often settle for the plan B, so don’t give yourself a safety net otherwise that’s what you’ll end up doing.
ILM: You’ve already won a Brit award for best single, for co-writing Will Young’s “Your Game”. Any amusing or interesting stories from working with Will or anyone else we’ll know of that you can share?
Taio: Not really. Ciara does do all the body popping in the studio as well as on the videos, but that’s about it. It’s not just for the video she really does start dancing around the studio as well.
ILM: Who has been the most inspiring or nicest person you’ve met?
Taio: Nitin Sawhney has got an extremely high talent level. He can play every chord in the book. He’s the most amazing guitarist and he plays the keyboards and he’s so amazing, and he’s a really nice guy too.
ILM: Do you have anyone who’s at the top of your collaboration wish list?
Taio: Michael Jackson. That’d be so awesome!