Craig David Interview
At 27 years-old, singer Craig David has already accomplished what most artists’ could only dream of achieving throughout their recording career. Not to be taken lightly in a music industry that is currently on a sales decline, Craig is already four albums deep and has solid thirteen million albums worldwide.
This past November, the British singer released his fourth studio album, “Trust Me,” in his native UK. Now, some six months later, the project is finally available stateside and is being led by his remake of the David Bowie classic, “Hot Stuff (Let’s Dance).” The project, which was fully recorded in Havana, Cuba, was overseen was renown producer, Martin Terefe.
In an exclusive interview with DJBooth‘s DJ “Z,” Craig steps inside the booth to talk about his success on a global level, recording an album outside of the UK, bringing his live show to the United States, and the consideration he would give to doing reality television.
Listen to the Interview
Craig David Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on everybody? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is one of my personal all-time favorite artists, currently promoting the domestic release of his fourth studio album, Trust Me, is the uber-talented Craig David – how you doin’?
Craig David: I’m good, Z – what’s goin’ on?
DJ Booth: I’m glad this release is finally in America so everyone can hear all your talents.
Craig David: It’s a beautiful thing, knowing that the first album must have dropped out here 2002, and the next record, Slicker Than Your Average, was around 2003; it’s been a good four or five years since I’ve had another record out here. So to be honest, to be in a position where I can drop a new album, and to be still only twenty-seven years old, I’m very blessed, so I’m happy to be back out in America.
DJ Booth: Craig, seven years ago, my ears first were privy to your debut, Born to Do It. I felt like I’d stumbled upon a rarefied gem, if you will, that no one else in my area had discovered. So, for you, going from an emerging artist in 2000, who had just dropped his debut, to now an internationally-known hitmaker – you’ve sold over thirteen million albums worldwide – what makes the wheels keep spinning?
Craig David: It’s just that passion for music. I love to experiment, I love exploring new music. When I hear a new track from a new artist or a new production sound, it just inspires me to want to get back in the studio and work on my own stuff. As long as that passion, that fire’s burning inside of me, I’ll always create music, for a long time. I’ve always wanted to try and parse out a career that would span longevity, and you never quite know, especially in a dwindling record industry, where record sales have been down, to still be eight years in on my fourth record, and I’m as passionate as when I first dropped the first album. I want to just constantly put music out that’s trying to push the boundaries, but, at the same time, allow people to hear my music around the world. It just still turns me on – it’s a beautiful thing.
DJ Booth: Craig, sonically, musically, your sound stayed pretty consistent through the first three albums, but on your newest album I noticed there’s more of an acoustic, live instrumentational feel. So, what did you do differently when you crafted this new project?
Craig David: The funny thing is, I was working with one [my] producers, Martin Terefe – he produced KT Tunstall, and the James Morrison album – and he just said to me, “You know what? When I come and see you perform live – and I’m a big fan of you, Craig – I find that there’s a spontaneity and an energy that I don’t quite get from you when you’re doing your studio records, because it feels like you’re quite a perfectionist, so when you go in, you’ll listen to the record, you’ll take it away, you’ll come back and change things to the point where you’ve got it where you feel it’s perfect.” He said to me, “How about if I took you out of your comfort zone, if I took you to, say, [Havana, Cuba].” We’ve got some amazing musicians on the record, and we just recorded the album as if we were recording it old-school; we practiced the songs and we recorded them from start to finish, and if you made any mistakes then it’s your prerogative that you want to start the whole track again, but we’re not going to go back in and do drops. We’re going to record it onto reel-to-reel, and get that organic feel. It did take me out of my comfort zone, ‘cause I am a perfectionist, and I love making sure that everything’s just the way I wanted it to be. By virtue of trading in perfectionism for performance, I feel that the imperfections on the record that I hear is what turned Terefe on. He’s like, “That’s what I want from you – I want to hear it real. If it’s gonna be a real soulful record, you gotta let go, and I wanna feel if your voice break or if you’re kinda hitting it slightly differently than how you would, that’s what I want to get from you.” I feel that this album definitely represents that: taking me out of my comfort zone.
DJ Booth: Well unfortunately I won’t be making my way out to Cuba anytime soon, but-
Craig David: You never know; the change in the whole setup there may have you pickin’ up a Big Mac, at this rate…
DJ Booth: Yeah, I know – they’re really tryin’ their hardest to get these casinos poppin’, and [then] taking these little ferries from Miami, so I will be on the first ride if in fact they do do that. After releasing Trust Me this past November in the UK, what factored into your decision to wait until you dropped it here in the States?
Craig David: It’s an ever-changing music industry, and I think the way that people perceive music now is very different. Looking back in hindsight, it’s like you’re caught in a position of, well, do you release it simultaneously, but then kind of spread yourself thinly in terms of the promotion? Because, being successful over in the UK and Europe, and having to work [back] into America, obviously the first port of call is to release it in the UK and Europe, work it there, get the foundations right, and then come to America while the record’s already doin’ its thing back home. That’s the normal approach of doing it, and I think the reason why we kind of turned it around quite quickly to get over to America – because on the first record it was a good year or so before – is the fact that as soon as it hits the Internet, and you can download the record, regardless of iTunes trying to regulate through your domestic store, people can get the record. It’s become dated at the point at which you drop the album. So it was important for me to let the record move over in Europe, get over here quickly, and start promoting on the album, because DJs are starting to play hot stuff from when they heard it in November. I think, especially with the underground building up, which, if you don’t go over to people soon and make things happen, they kind off fall off. Next thing you’re hoping that pop radio gets on board, and if that doesn’t happen then you’re kind of in limbo-land. To see that people have kind of responded to the radio side of things over here, and it’s starting to ripple, is a good look, because I know there’s a lot of hard work to be done, but, hey, I’m up for the challenge; it’s exciting being back over in America.
DJ Booth: On the new single off the album, Craig, 6 of 1 Thing, you sing, “Baby, who you actin’ crazy? You confuse me when you tell me,” but Craig, when have you ever met a woman that didn’t act crazy and tell you multiple things at one time?
Craig David: Oh, it’s standard – you know how it goes. Women are a species of their own. I’ll give you an example: you can be in a restaurant with a girl, and you can be trying to get the waiter’s attention, and another girl could walk past, and you’re not really trying to clock her, but you just catch here eye for a second, but you’re really trying to get through to the waiter, because, I don’t know, you want some extra gravy for your chicken. Nothing happens, it’s fine, you carry on your meal. Five days later, you could be sitting down watchin’ a DVD at home with your girl, and she’ll turn to you and say, “You were looking at that girl, weren’t you?” and you’re like, “Are you for real?” And she [says], “You were looking at a girl,” and you’re like, “I don’t even know what you’re talking about!” She’ll go back five days, to the point where you clocked that girl for two seconds in a restaurant. That gave me the inspiration to write the song, [6 of 1 Thing]. As soon as you think you kinda know what a girl’s thinking, she’ll completely flip it on you.
DJ Booth: And the funny part of this whole situation is, the man probably forgot that he even went out for the meal.
Craig David: That’s what I’m sayin’! The only thing I actually remembered when she brought that back was how expensive it was…
DJ Booth: Exactly. Well, Craig, you said earlier in the interview, you’re twenty-seven years old now, and I just finished watching on television the newest season of The Bachelor here in the US, and of course there was a British Bachelor. Would you consider going onto a reality TV show to find that one true love?
Craig David: [I saw] the Flava Flav thing, which kind of hit the States big, and the rest of the world. When I watch it, it kind of makes me smile, because I sort of think, “He’s having a great time.” The American audience seems to be getting off on the fact that all he’s doing is trying to sleep with as many girls as he possibly can. Every time he gets to the end of the series, he won’t actually find love – he’ll be like, “Hm, you know what? It wasn’t quite right. Let me find another ten girls to come to the house and we’ll try and find it again.” It’s almost like MTV’s just pimpin’ girls to him, and he’s having a great time, and the audience seems to love it. I think the reality thing has become a massive change in the way that people take TV now. It’s a different kind of place now. In terms of a reality show, it’d have to have integrity. You start messing with that and it’s just like, “Why are you on TV? Because you want to have that celebrity status?” I’d rather just keep doin’ my music, know what I mean?
DJ Booth: Yeah, there’s definitely other motives behind it. Well, I’ll tell you, next time you go to Cuba, have a camera crew follow you; I’d love to see your recording sessions in Cuba. That would be great reality television. Speaking of hotspots, though, let’s say I sent you to a desert island with an MP3 player. You only have enough hard drive space for one of your four studio albums on this MP3 player – which one do you upload?
Craig David: I’m torn between this new album, because it is exciting for me, making this record, but I think the first album, by the virtue of it being such a fresh record out of the box, for the American audience, and especially for people who liked R&B and soul music. It was like, “What is this?” ‘cause it’s like some guy not tryin’ to bring R&B back to America, because we’ve had that a million times over, but the one thing that it really is is someone trying to push the boundaries by working with a producer who doesn’t quite understand R&B necessarily. Right now I think if I could upload any record, it’d probably be the first one.
DJ Booth: Craig, everyone I talk to who’s heard the majority of your catalog always compares everything to Born to Do It. Because you had such a dynamic debut, do you feel the rest of your career, all of your releases will always be compared to that first album?
Craig David: I think you’re always gonna have comparisons with such a big album like Born to Do It. I think that’s always going to, not necessarily be a problem, I think it just means that you have to step up your game, and always try and find that collective of songs that [make] people think, “Wow! This is the next best thing since…” I feel for people who’ve had one hit song – for example, say, James Blunt, who, with Beautiful, you can almost live and die by a song like that, because it’s such a big song in isolation that you’re like, “Where do we go from here?” Every song is then put up against that one song, where I’m in a position where I’m happy to say that the whole album had enough songs on it as a collective work that I can actually still put records out in isolation, and people are like, “Wow, I love the new single.” So all you’re tryin’ to do is tryin’ to put enough songs on one record that people say, “Okay, you’ve come out with another record that’s full of songs that we can listen to from start to finish, no album filler.”
DJ Booth: Well, that’s what every artist should aim for on every release, instead of just going with your token one or two singles, and now, one or two digital downloads or ring tones. Craig, several of our readers wrote in and they want to know when and if you plan to come and tour the US. Are there any immediate plans in place?
Craig David: Well, we start the UK tour, which is predominantly to start the world tour, the first week of June, and we work that, which then works into Europe. I feel like I’ll be back out here [in] the middle of July with my live band, ‘cause we’ve been rehearsing at the moment, for this tour, and I think that [with] the momentum of the single being played here on radio, it’s important to get out here and to do the live shows. There’s 1 Thing being played on radio, 1 Thing gettin’ [my] face shown over the Internet, and [my] music gettin’ out there, but the live shows are where people get a real feel for who you really are.
DJ Booth: Well, obviously you’ll be hittin’ America hard with your new material from your brand new album, Trust Me. Give everyone who has not heard enough of Craig David, a reason to trust why your music can take them to a whole new place that they’ve never been before.
Craig David: You know what? At the end of the day, I have a massive respect for the artists that’s come out of America. Growing up as a DJ, I’ve listened to so many different artists and been able to be inspired by them. And bein’ only twenty-seven years old, I’m very privy to all the stars and the cool production that’s coming out of America. But, I feel that being from Europe, out of London, some of the styles of that are very parochially British, some of the emceeing stuff, some of the dance music, I’m able to infuse that with my understanding of American music, to create something that’s a little bit different. There’s so many great R&B artists, from Chris Brown, Usher, Justin Timberlake doing his thing, Omarion – I don’t really want to try and compare with those guys, ‘cause [they] have got the thing locked down. Throw me an acoustic guitar, I’ll make you feel like the guitarist is the DJ, I’ll throw some beatbox in, with some kinda Twista-style melodies, add some rapid speed, and then kind of drop it back and do some R&B soulful vocals, too. It’s all about tryin’ to push the boundaries of what you can really do. Once you’ve heard the new album, and then you come out to see me live, I think hopefully you’ll be at a point where you’ll be like, “You know what? This guy’s not too bad!”
DJ Booth: Well, no disagreement from me; that versatility and that individuality is what makes you stand out above the rest. Craig, give everyone a website or a MySpace page, so they can find out more about you, impending tours, and, of course, the album in stores, Trust Me.
DJ Booth: Craig, thank you so much for takin’ the time to join me inside the DJ Booth, and I wish you nothing but the best of luck. This has been, sincerely, my pleasure.
Craig David: Z, it’s been absolutely my pleasure, and thank you for your support. I really do appreciate it – you’re a good man.
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