Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1099

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Jason Derulo: Watcha Think?

Jason Derulo
Jason Derulo Jason Derulo Jason Derulo Jason Derulo Jason Derulo Jason Derulo Jason Derulo Jason Derulo Jason Derulo

With his million-plus-selling debut single âWhatcha Sayâ having recently hit Number One in the US Pop listings - in addition to attaining Top Three status in the UK and Canada - 20-year-old singer/songwriter/dancer Jason Derulo has unquestionably emerged as one of Americaâs biggest breakthrough acts of 2009.

Produced by the multi-Platinum J.R. Rotem (of chart-topping Sean Kingston and Rihanna fame), said single blends pounding beats and Deruloâs rich, soulful vocals with an instantly-infectious pop hook sampled from alternative/indie songstress Imogen Heap. All of which provides an ideal conversation-starter, as an unassuming, quietly-spoken Jason kicks off his first day of London interviews chatting to Pete Lewis over morning drinks at West Londonâs media-friendly K-West Hotel.

âWell, as you know, the song is about a guy asking his woman to forgive him after being unfaithful. And the whole idea for the concept actually started off with my brother calling me one dayâ, begins a warm-mannered Jason: âHe was like âIâve cheated on my girl, but I love her with all my heart. Sheâs left me, so what should I DO?â!... And, because the way he told it to me was so compelling, I was like âIf you explain it to HER the way youâve just done to ME, maybe sheâll give you another chanceâ!... Meanwhile, around that time, musically J.R. and I had been dibbling-and -dabbling around with the Imogen Heap sample, where it says âMmm, what cha say? That you only meant well? Of COURSE you didâ⦠Which, by pure chance, worked perfectly with my BROTHERâS situation - you know, with the guy begging and the girl being sarcastic back! So it all just happened to be perfect timing - and âWhatcha Sayâ was born OUT of it!â

Meanwhile, having now virtually completed his upcoming debut album, Jason is quietly confident of its potential mass-appeal: âYes, you can expect reinvention - a record full of surprisesâ, he promises: âYouâre definitely not gonna hear a bunch of watered-down versions of âWhatcha Sayâ, because every track is different! I have pop/rock songs on there; I have big ballads; I have club records that make you dance... So however youâre feeling, thereâs a song on the album that can MIRROR it. You know, Iâve been working really hard - Iâve actually recorded 300 songs - and thereâs been a lot of sweat, blood and tears shed over the last eight months! So Iâm hoping people really enjoy it.â

Interestingly, Derulo is the first artist to be launched by Beluga Heights/Warner Bros. Records - a new, joint-venture label headed-up the aforementioned J.R. Rotem plus current âAmerican Idolâ judge (and Warner Bros. Senior Vice-President of A&R) Kara DioGuardi. Indeed, with his entire album being produced in LA by Rotem, Jason predictably has nothing but praise for his chart-topping studio mentor: âYeah, the first time I met J.R., we recorded six songs together! So from the off, the chemistry between us was just AMAZING!â, he gushes: âYou know, Iâd never before experienced a connection like that with ANY producer - and HE says the same about ME. So we genuinely do have a wonderful relationship.â

âI mean, thereâd be times when weâd be the only person weâd each be seeing for the whole day, because weâd just be working, working, workingâ, he continues: âAnd, with J.R. being classically-trained on the piano and me being a classically-trained vocalist, we do have a lot of similarities musically. To where - though heâs technically the producer and Iâm technically the songwriter - Iâd frequently have some input into what the track should SOUND like, and heâd often have some input into what the LYRICS should do. So yeah, we collaborate all the time, and we do create together equally.â

Born into a Haitian-American family in Miramar, Florida in September 1989, Deruloâs musical talent came to the fore early on, with him writing his first song at the tender age of eight: âReally, my only musical influence - as I was growing up - was school and televisionâ, he reveals: âBecause I didnât have anybody in my household that sang, or did any kind of performing, AT ALL! So for me, it all really came from the inside. I just always had this desire to sing and perform. And with me having tons of cousins - my grandmother had 15 kids - there was always a birthday! And so Iâd be singing and dancing at every family function! You know, it was a huge love of mine that I just continued doing for years and years. And with both my parents having good jobs - I grew up in a financially-stable, middle-class family - there was never any problem with them putting me into various performing arts schools when I was young.â

Indeed, having begun attending Performing Arts School at just eight years old, Jason spent much of his youth studying opera, theatre and ballet. Which eventually led to him, in 2006, graduating from New Yorkâs nationally-prestigious American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA). Meanwhile, having already tasted success as an actor (via lead roles in theatre productions like âRagtimeâ, âSmokey Joeâs Caféâ and âLucky Stiffâ), he today feels his theatrical background has also impacted strongly on his music: âYes, I do think musical theatre has affected me as an artist - in the sense that there the whole storyline is explained through the songâ, he asserts: âYou know, with musical theatre every word becomes so vivid, because you have to SEE everything. And I have really tried to translate that into my OWN songwriting as well. In that I always want the audience to actually see whatâs going on in the song.â

âAnd I also feel Shakespeare has been a big influence on my music tooâ, he adds surprisingly: âBecause, just like with Shakespeare - where every word is perfectly placed and no word is there by chance - I do try not to have any filler lines in MY writing. So yeah, the theatre/acting side has definitely helped me a lot musically. I mean, I actually have a film coming out called âTurn The Beat Roundâ at the beginning of 2010, which is like a dance movie in the vein of âStep It Upâ. So, while music is very much at the forefront for me right now, in the long-term I can see the acting becoming equally important in my career. To where Iâll probably kind of end up constantly juggling the two around.â

In addition to his acting skills preceding his chart-topping âpop starâ success, Jason has also, for the past four years, proved a successful songwriter to the stars: âYeah, Iâve been writing for other artists from when I was around 16â, he confirms: âIâve written for the likes of P.Diddy, Danity Kane, Cassie, Sean Kingston, Lil Wayne... And the reason I actually started songwriting was because I felt I needed to EXPRESS myself! You know, when youâre doing classical music everything has to be sung the way itâs written and you canât embellish and take your own liberties at all. Which was something that became really uncomfortable for me. I mean, sometimes Iâd do certain things and the teacher would be like âWhat are you DOING? Youâre RUINING it!â... So at eight I just took things into my own hands, and wrote this song called âCrush On Youâ for this girl called Amy! Then from there I just kept writing EVERY SINGLE DAY - and at 16 I finally got my first placement! Which proved a major factor in me getting my artist career on track.â

âAnd, while all the artists Iâve written for have been really cool, talented people that Iâve enjoyed working with, the one thatâs REALLY stood out to me is P.Diddyâ, he concludes, as our conversation draws to a close: âYou know, he really inspires me because he WORKS so hard. And one thing Iâll never forget is, when I asked him how heâd become such a big mogul, he answered me in just two words - âNO SLEEPâ! Which is something Iâll remember for the rest of my LIFE! Because, since then, Iâve learnt how to go without sleep and to get by with just taking naps!â

The single âWhatcha Sayâ is out now through Warner Bros. Records/Beluga Heights

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