Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Having already been dubbed “The New Babyface” by US super-producer Dallas Austin. UK-born-and-raised Taio Cruz this month releases his self-written/produced debut album `Departure`.

Having honed his writing and production skills Stateside over the past few years working with such noted studio bods as `Tricky` Stewart (Rihanna`s `Umbrella`) and Rich Harrison (Beyonce; Amerie), 23-year-old Taio now blends state-of-the-art production with the influences of Seventies classic soul, punchy Eighties pop and Nineties slow jamz on a varied set that also includes his two UK Top 30 singles `I Just Wanna Know` and `Moving On`. Relaxing in Universal`s Kensington offices, an affable Mr. Cruz (the product of a Nigerian father and Brazilian mother) gives “B&S’ the lowdown.

Why does single `Come On Girl` have a UK club/rave influence?
“Because lately I`ve been going to clubs where they play a lot of electro, it`s definitely got a bit of that vibe in there. But, while some people might associate that driving beat with house and dance music, I`ve also noticed how Timbaland`s latest productions on Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears have these new beats with a four-to-the-floor drum pattern too. So, because I think that`s where R&B is going, I basically went in that direction while adding an English techno edge that the Americans wouldn`t even know about.”

What did you want to achieve with your debut album `Departure`?
“I tried to be diverse in my music while not going too far left. Before I go off and hit people with random stuff that they just wouldn`t recognise, I`d rather they get to know me first! Which is why I`ve given them something they can relate to and won`t be too difficult for them to grasp, while at the same time not making it generic. Unlike American R&B - which is often really samey and sometimes a bit obvious - I genuinely don`t think my record sounds like anybody else. Like the chord progressions I use on some songs are not typical of the R&B genre. On some tracks I think the only reason people will associate the music with R&B is because my voice is soulful.”

Why have you spent most of your career to date writing and producing with big-name studio bods in the US?
“A lot of people get very precious about being from the UK and feel that, if you go to America, you`ve sold out. Whereas I don`t really look at it like that. I just look at myself as a citizen of the planet. So where I was born doesn`t and shouldn`t dictate where I can work, or where I should live. Ever since I was a child the singers and producers who influenced me were all American. So I guess subconsciously I always pushed myself in that direction. Which is why I eventually ended up working in America. One publisher - who heard my music - had links with Dallas Austin. Then, because Dallas loved what I did, he put me in contact with his friend `Tricky` Stewart… And so on.”

What`s the story behind `Umbrella` being earmarked for you?
“Basically I was there at `Tricky` Stewart`s studio the day they wrote it, and just absolutely loved it from the get-go! So, because this was when I was putting my album together, I was like `I really have to have this song!`! But `Tricky` was like `Let me just see whether Britney`s people come back to me first`. And then, when they did come back saying it wasn`t gonna be for her, I was like `OK. Cool`. So I started recording the demo. But then, when I got back to London, before I could get the song basically secured as mine, Jay-Z and Rihanna came through saying `If we get the song we`re gonna put this much money behind it!`… And so I guess the rest is history!”

The single `Come On Girl` is released March 3. The album `Departure` follows March 17, both through Island Records Group

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