Jason Derulo Interview
|Label:||Warner Bros. Records Inc.|
|Next Project:||Jason Derulo (Self-Titled Debut)|
|Twitter:||Jason Derulo on Twitter|
|Website:||Jason Derulo's Website|
We in the Booth pride ourselves on spotlighting emerging talents before they reach the big-time, and 19-year-old singer/songwriter Jason Derulo is a prime example of our knack for early adoption. When we first featured the Miami up-and-comer way back in August of ‘08, we had no doubt that his commitment to his craft would take him to the top of the game, and the overwhelmingly positive reader response to “Algebra” backed us up. Fast-forward to October ‘09, and Derulo’s a major-label signee with a monster hit on his hands, and he’s preparing to take his career to the next level with the release of his self-titled debut album.
The flagship artist of a new joint venture between Warner Bros. and J.R. Rotem‘s Beluga Heights label, Derulo’s already made it to the top of Billboard‘s R&B Chart and iTunes’ Top 200 with single ”Whatcha Say.” That Imogen Heap-sampling smash, however, is only the tip of the iceberg – having racked up songwriting credits on tracks by everyone from Lil Wayne to Danity Kane, Derulo’s mastered an impressive array of sounds and styles, and his forthcoming freshman set will find him taking full advantage of his sizable musical palette.
In an exclusive interview with DJ “Z,” Jason Derulo steps into the Booth to discuss his lifelong dream of changing the world through music, why classical recitals and improvisation simply don’t mix, and the stringent dietary regimen that allows him to perform shirtless with pride.
Listen to the Interview
Jason Derulo 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 a Florida native whose talents were first on display at DJBooth.net last year, earning him a 2008 Best of the Booth nomination. Please welcome the flagship artist of a new joint venture between Beluga Heights and Warner Bros., Jason Derulo – how you doin’, my friend?
Jason Derulo: [singing] Jason Derulo! What up, Z, how’s it goin’, man?
DJ Booth: I like how you intro yourself better than how I introed you. I can’t sing – that’s the problem!
Jason Derulo: [laughs]
DJ Booth: How you doin’?
Jason Derulo: Man, I’m so good, I’m so blessed.
DJ Booth: And the reason why you’re so blessed is, you have a single right now, “Whatcha Say,” it’s currently number one on our R&B Chart, number two on the SoundScan digital Sales Chart, it’s burning up iTunes. Jason, did you have any idea that this song would become a monster?
Jason Derulo: You know, I tried not to try to guess what it would do. I felt really strongly about the song, and Warner Bros. also did, but I never tried to gauge how successful it would be. I’m pleasantly surprised that’s it’s doin’ so well. People are really connecting to it, which is most important to me.
DJ Booth: Your label boss and the song’s producer, J.R. Rotem, sampled English artist Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek” record. Had you heard of her or the record before it was used for “Whatcha Say?”
Jason Derulo: Absolutely. It was J.R.‘s idea. J.R. and I, we have “Idea Time,” we’ll just sit down and kinda go through ideas that we have. This particular sample actually was an a cappella with no instrumentation at all. We thought it would be cool to use her bridge and kinda flip it and speed up, and make it a hook. It just happened to be magical – it was amazing, it was great.
DJ Booth: For listeners who have only heard this song, can they expect your future material to resemble closely to “Whatcha Say,” or is this just a sampling, if you will, of what you’re able to come out with?
Jason Derulo: “Whatcha Say” is really just an appetizer to the main course. My album is gonna have so much; honestly, I reinvent myself on each track. Being that I’m a songwriter, and I’ve written for so many people, from Lil Wayne to Danity Kane, I mean, that’s a total flip – Lil Wayne to Danity Kane, that’s like night and day. So, being that I can write [in so many genres], in every track I really try to reinvent myself, and my album will not be full of watered-down ‘Whatcha Say’s.
DJ Booth: Jason, many artists contribute only vocals to their records, but you were also a songwriter, and I’ve heard from many similarly talented artists in the past that their songwriting contributions ended up being minimal on their debut projects, ‘cause the label didn’t wanna put too much pressure on them the first go-around. How much creative freedom have you been granted for your maiden musical voyage?
Jason Derulo: Oh, man. A hundred percent creative freedom. I was really blessed, because I brought “Whatcha Say” to Warner Bros.. I didn’t create that after I was signed; I brought “Whatcha Say,” among many other records, to Warner Bros. It really just means a lot – I don’t have an A&R really A&Ring my project, “That song is hot and that song is not hot.” it’s really like, grassroots, J.R. and I just really grinding it out and making something magical together, man.
DJ Booth: Okay, well, since we know a lot about Jason Derulo right now, let’s give everybody a little history lesson. Let’s go back: according to your bio, you began attending performing arts school starting at the age of eight, all the way through to high school. Jason, as a teenager, the motivations are obviously clear when you wanna be a star, but what drove you to put in that extra work when you were younger and didn’t know any better?
Jason Derulo: I thought that I would be a singer so much sooner, and I felt like I had to get prepared, because my break was around the corner, and I had to really be prepared to please the world, to change the world. I never had a desire to just fit in with what’s goin’ on in music today. That doesn’t come with, you know, just kind of letting your big break come to you. And I knew that [from] a very young age. People often ask me, you know ”Give me some advice – how can I get to where you are right now?” My response would be,”No sleep.”
DJ Booth: [laughs] I know all about that myself.
Jason Derulo: Yeah, man! [laughs]
DJ Booth: Have you ever felt like you missed out on the quote unquote “typical childhood,” based on the fact that you specialized in so many different areas of the performing arts world, starting at such a young age?
Jason Derulo: I did give the average childhood up, but it wasn’t hard for me because it was a decision that I made, and I wasn’t forced to do it. I mean, you hear stories all the time, [artists] say, “I didn’t have a childhood,” and that’s why they’re all messed up and stuff, but I chose to give my time up, I chose to say inside and not go outside and play and just sit inside and write songs. I mean, that’s something that wanted to do. It was not like my parents made me.
DJ Booth: Never at any point did a musical lesson or a dance performance feel like it was some sort of punishment; you put yourself in that position, nobody else?
Jason Derulo: Right. It only became punishment when I realized I couldn’t express myself the way I wanted to express myself. In classical music, there are a lot of barriers that you cannot cross. Like, for instance, I’d be singing a classical song like, [singing] “Ave Mar-i-i-a!,” but I would wanna add my own thing into it, so I would, during the recital or something, I would sing it like this, [singing with added melisma], “Ave Mar-i-ia, oh yeah…” and I would put a little trill at the end. And at the end of the show, my teacher would be like, “What the hell was that?” [laughs] I really couldn’t express myself the way I wanted to, [so I was like] “Wow, this is not my thing. I wanna do the pop thing, I wanna be like Michael Jackson, I wanna express myself.”
DJ Booth: Okay, so they wouldn’t let you rebel against classical music, but, now that you have the freedom and the creative control, I sense that there’s gonna be plenty of rebellion now.
Jason Derulo: Absolutely, man. I started writing songs when I was eight years old. And I still remember one of the songs today. It was called “Crush on You,”it went like this, [singing] “24/27 days of the week, my mind is on you and it’s getting to me. I’ve got a crush on you, I’ve got a crush on you.”
DJ Booth: Jason, what was your success rate using that song to pick up the girls when you were eight?
Jason Derulo: Man, the success rate was a hundred percent! [laughs] I was the only guy writing songs at that age.
DJ Booth: I could’ve totally used you as a friend in junior high and middle school – that would’ve been wonderful.
Jason Derulo: That’s crazy… [laughs]
DJ Booth: I was checking out your Twitter page, and the following Tweet stuck out. You wrote, “As much as I’m on planes, I should be able to fly one myself.” When artists initially break into the big-time, I’ve been told the hardest transition is being away from home so much. So, where would you rank constant travel on that imaginary list?
Jason Derulo: Man, it’s really the hardest part. You know, having a club show that ends at 2:00, and being able to sleep one hour because you have to be at the airport two hours in advance, you only get one hour of sleep. It’s really, really rough on me. But what keeps me going is, I really wanna touch every single fan, I wanna reach everyone, and that’s really important to me. And the central desire I told you about earlier, about changing the world, that still exists with a fire in my heart. Seriously, I really wanna change the world with my music and my performance.
DJ Booth: Jason, at the age of 19, you’ve accomplished already a lot in the fields of music, dance and theater. I was looking over your credentials and it seems like you must have a huger mantle or display case for all the accolades and awards that you’ve won. I’m curious, though: is there any specific skill you’ve always wanted to learn that falls outside of the performing arts world?
Jason Derulo: Hm… good question.
DJ Booth: Thank you.
Jason Derulo: [laughs] Um… I wish that I could cook, man.
DJ Booth: Something to impress the ladies with? [laughs]
Jason Derulo: Yes! You know, food is my favorite thing. Music is great man, but food… [laughs] food is incredible – I wish I could make my own meals.
DJ Booth: If you could make your own meals, what would be on the menu? What is Jason Derulo’s specialty?
Jason Derulo: I’m on this crazy diet, man… If I was not on this diet and I could cook my own meals, I would have a large plate of seafood pasta with alfredo [sauce], two boxes of pizza, and my dessert would entail brownies and ice cream.
DJ Booth: You’ve got me hungry – I have not eaten all day, wow. Because you are on this strenuous diet, because of your routine, what does a typical meal for you look like? An apple and, like, a cracker?
Jason Derulo: Yeah… the cracker actually has too many carbs. In the morning I would have fiber cereal, my lunch would be, like a chicken salad, and my dinner would be catabolic. Catabolic is only foods that are negative, like celery sticks are catabolic, raw broccoli, raw carrots…
DJ Booth: A lot of artists who think they would be able to really make it in this industry, they just heard what you eat for dinner, and I think they’re second-guessing how hard they really wanna go after this. You’re eliminating some of the competition with your answers.
Jason Derulo: [laughs] Yeah, it’s really rough. But, you know, I take off my shirt at every show, and the response is amazing, so that really keeps me goin’.
DJ Booth: All the facts and information we’ve been talking about in this interview all lead up to, excitedly, your debut albnm, which is tentatively scheduled to drop at the early stages of next year. A couple months ago, I spoke with your manager, and he said tentatively the title is gonna be Future History. Is that still the case?
Jason Derulo: It is not, it’s called Jason Derulo.
DJ Booth: Okay, so self-titled.
Jason Derulo: Yes, sir.
DJ Booth: If you could, in, let’s say, a few sentences, sum up what you believe to be your impact on this industry.
Jason Derulo: When it’s all said and done, I really want… to be considered a legend is amazing. I wanna be the person who changed the world, I wanna be someone who changed the way people look at music and the way people hear music, and I really wanna make a stamp and make an impact charitably – I’m a huge philanthropist. Music is really the gateway to a lot of things, and I really wanna utilize music to make a difference in other ways.
DJ Booth: Well, I’ll tell you this much: you’ve already impressed the hell out of me, and you’ve motivated me, in the short time that we’ve been on the phone, to be a better person. I cannot say I’m gonna start eating celery sticks for dinner, but everything else, I’m a hundred percent on board. Jason, give everybody a website, a MySpace page, a Twitter account, so they can find out more about you and, of course, your self-titled debut, out early next year.
DJ Booth: Absolutely, and if they don’t get sick of checking you out on all of your sites, they can, of course, enjoy all your music at DJBooth.net. I wish you nothing but the best of luck, and thank you again for taking the time to join me inside the DJ Booth.
Jason Derulo: And before we end it, I definitely wanna thank your site, because you guys have been following me for a very, very, very long time, and I definitely wanna thank you guys for all the support you guys have been givin’ me from day one.
DJ Booth: Absolutely. It’s our pleasure – we like talented artists, so stay talented and you should have no problem finding a home at DJ Booth.
Jason Derulo: Thank you so much, Z.