Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1099

Welcome to B&S



Craig David: Special Delivery

Craig David
Craig David Craig David Craig David Craig David

Having sold over 13 million albums, enjoyed 13 Top 10 singles and achieved multi-Platinum status in over 20 countries, Southampton, UK-born-and-raised singer/songwriter Craig David this month celebrates 10 years in the music industry with the release of his fifth studio album âSigned Sealed Deliveredâ. Which - pioneered by the single âOne More Lie (Standing In The Shadows)â - finds him largely covering and sampling soul hits from the Motown era while giving them his own modern twist.

Born in May 1981 to a half-Jewish white mother and Grenadian father, Craigâs career in music began as a teenage club and pirate radio DJ on Englandâs South Coast, while his songwriting first came to public attention when, at just 15, he penned âIâm Readyâ - the B-side to Nineties UK R&B quintet Damageâs Top Three cover of Eric Claptonâs âWonderful Tonightâ.

However, it was as featured vocalist on Southampton-based UK Garage duo The Artful Dodgerâs 1999 Number Two smash âRe-Rewindâ that Craigâs name and face first came to national attention. In turn paving the way for his first solo deal with Wildstar Records. Which, in 2000, straightaway saw him spectacularly scoring two UK Number One singles with the enduring, self-penned urban-teen anthems âFill Me Inâ and âSeven Daysâ; while his debut album âBorn To Do Itâ (produced by the Artful Dodgerâs Mark Hill) eventually went on to sell a super-impressive seven million-plus worldwide, prestigiously earning him Top 10 US success (and two Grammy nominations) along the way.

Indeed, while the blockbusting global success of his debut was never quite repeated, Craigâs later studio albums (2002âs âSlicker Than Your Averageâ; 2005âs âThe Story Goesâ¦â; 2007âs âTrust Meâ) nevertheless found him retaining his prominent chart presence throughout the UK, Europe and South East Asia - via memorable Top 10 hits like the club-banger âWhatâs Your Flava?â; the Sting duet âRise & Fallâ; the haunting âDonât Love You No Moreâ; and the David Bowie-sampling, uptempo âHot Stuff (Letâs Dance)â. All in all making him one of British musicâs biggest male solo exports of the Noughties, while additionally resulting in three Ivor Novello Awards, two MTV Europe Awards and four sold-out shows at Londonâs Wembley Arena. Meanwhile, proving the appeal of his early music is far from faded, âBorn To Do Itâ was in 2009 voted by MTV viewers the Second Greatest LP Ever, just behind Michael Jacksonâs âThrillerâ!

The release this month of his aforementioned new set âSigned Sealed Deliveredâ (the follow-up to his 2008-released âGreatest Hitsâ compilation) meanwhile finds Craig temporarily putting his songwriting on hold to cover such Motown classics as Marvin Gayeâs I Heard It Through The Grapevineâ, The Temptationsâ âPapa Was A Rollinâ Stoneâ and Stevie Wonderâs âFor Once In My Lifeâ - alongside other timeless Sixties/early-Seventies soul compositions like Otis Reddingâs âThe Dock Of The Bayâ and Al Greenâs Letâs Stay Togetherâ, in addition to Curtis Steigerâs underrated Nineties gem âI Wonder Whyâ.

Meanwhile, sample-wise the albumâs furiously-pounding single âOne More Lieâ utilises The Four Topsâ âStanding In The Shadows Of Loveâ; while soulful ballad âAll Alone Tonightâ finds Craig borrowing from Diana Ross & Marvin Gayeâs âStop, Look, Listenâ. Plus, with all tracks being recorded either at Craigâs new home in Miami or at producer Jerry Abbott and Grant Blackâs London studio, the album also marks Craigâs debut for the Universal label.

⦠Cue a welcome phonecall from the UKâs R&B king himself. As an ever-warm-mannered, now-28-year-old Craig happily reacquaints himself with the man who gave him his first-ever press interview just over 10 years ago, Pete Lewis.

His new single âOne More Lieâ, whose chorus samples The Four Topsâ 1967 Motown classic âStanding In The Shadows Of Loveâ

ââStanding In The Shadowsâ¦â was a song I loved from back in the day. But Iâd always felt the verses could have been, not necessarily STRONGER, but - in terms of my own interpretation - could have been driven in a slightly different way. So that was why that song in particular was one that I didnât actually do as a straight cover for this new album. I basically wrote the melody and lyrics of the verses from scratch, while maintaining the hook of the original chorus, which was always very strong. Then sonically I decided to make it slightly more contemporary, with the production being a bit more four-to-the-floor and more in-tune to whatâs going on today. Because, with it now leading into summer, a lot of the dance/house-driven tracks seem to be very popular at this time of year.â

The thinking behind Craigâs new album âSigned Sealed Deliveredâ, which primarily finds him reinterpreting classic songs from the Motown era

âIâve seen with my own eyes how the music industry has changed so dramatically over the last 10 years. In that, while it used to be all about trying to find that first hit single and then building up anticipation by coming with a second single before releasing your album, to me it feels the whole way in which listeners receive music nowadays is very DIFFERENT. To where today youâre almost in a place where you can just be constantly putting singles out. Because people now - through I-Tunes and other media platforms - tend to put their own COMPILATIONS together. So I felt, instead of coming off the back of a âGreatest Hitsâ record with a new album full of original compositions, Iâd go with a project that had me singing classic songs Iâd always loved. You know, at a time when you can pick and choose the songs you like, I thought âWhy not hedge my bets by letting people hear songs they already know, but with me giving them a slightly different interpretation and twist?â.â

How he came to select the songs, which mostly emanate from the time of Motownâs Sixties/early Seventies heyday

âI wanted to make this a performance-based record that took me out of my comfort-zone vocally, and so I decided to take it back to the time when there were so many hits on Motown Records - because on-record those artists could truly PERFORM. So I ended up spending some time just connecting with great music again - going through all my OWN record collection, the collection that my mum had at HER house, and the collection my manager had at HIS house⦠And that in turn actually turned into a big LEARNING curve for me. Because growing up, when people spoke of âMotownâ, Iâd always thought they were referring to a song that came out during a particular ERA. And so it was interesting for me to discover that no, they were actually referring to records by artists that were signed to the Motown LABEL! So, from the beginning, for me this album was never really about just trying to create a revamp of Motown Records. It was more, I guess, about the big impact that era and that time-frame had on me. Which is why, say, âDock Of The Bayâ by Otis Redding - who was an Atlantic artist - is on there... Though, having said that, itâs actually quite funny that around 80% of the songs on the album DO emanate from the Motown label! Simply because, I guess, their songs and the way they were performed were always so strong.â

The approach Craig took in terms of actually re-interpreting the songs

âMy first rule, in terms of approaching any classic song, is to respect the song, respect the artist who sang it, and the person who wrote the lyric and melody. Because, being a songwriter, I know how it is on the flipside. Youâve written it; youâve had your experiences; it means something to you - and you donât want anyone to bastardise that. So I went into it with the attitude of âIf I can bring life to this - in the sense of what I can do vocally and the way I approach it - then this could possibly make the record. But otherwise, if I sing a song and it doesnât feel like Iâm bringing anything, then best to leave it and move onâ⦠And, to be honest, a lot of the songs worked, and some DIDNâT. So the ones that did work ended up being on the album! Because to me this record is about PERFORMING. And, though I think you can get away with a lot in the studio nowadays, when it comes to singing classic songs, I think thatâs the point where you have to step up your GAME! Because otherwise people will completely slate you and be like âWhy did you even ATTEMPT these songs?â! So I can honestly say I am very proud of the outcome of this record. Because for me, to actually hear my voice singing songs I love so much - like âMercy Mercy Meâ and âSigned Sealed Deliveredâ - is very refreshing and almost like an out-of-body experience sometimes!â

How he now looks back on his initial global breakthrough at the start of the Noughties, with his multi-million-selling debut album âBorn To Do Itâ

âLike you say, it was really FAST! I mean, it was straight-out-the box! Like âHere I am, 18 years old and playing three nights at Wembley Arena, having these Number One hits, travelling all around the world, and the album is just impacting in every country Iâm going to, including Americaâ⦠And to me, when you start early and you have SUCCESS early, how you handle it after goes back to the way in which your parents raised you. Because you could easily get carried away with yourself and believe that youâre the hottest thing out there. Whereas my attitude always was âYou know what? Iâve been blessed with a talent, and Iâm able to write songs and PERFORM those songs. But itâs the SONGS, as opposed to me, that are CONNECTING with peopleâ. And I think the fact I was, to a degree, naïve in terms of the aspirations and dreams I had, made the songs feel even more REAL. I mean, the purity of that first album is amazing. And I think it really did paint the foundation for me, as an artist, to be where I am TODAY. Because Iâve seen so many people come and go in the last 10 years. And to me itâs about consistency, so much more than believing the hype. And I think the songs have PROVED that.â

With Craig having first broken through to the mainstream as a pioneer of UK Garage, his ideas on why the whole movement later went back underground

âWith a sound thatâs deemed as being âurbanâ and that rises from the street, thereâs almost a kind of ownership that people just wanna hold ON to. So I think that, when it becomes commercially viable and itâs embraced by the mainstream, people just feel itâs being taken out of their hands. So the only way to sort of reinforce that not happening is to then create something thatâs a little bit darker, thatâs not necessarily gonna get played on the radio so much, and that isnât deemed as being âcommercialâ... And I think thatâs really what the UK Garage scene ended up turning INTO, from about 2002 onwards. Which is when the early grime scene started. Where it wasnât so much about melodic vocals, but more about âIf youâre an MC and youâve got something to say, then you jump on the mic, you spit âxâ amount of bars into a microphone, and thatâs how you connect with peopleâ... You know, the scene did go underground and it basically made that transition.â

His ideas on todayâs UK funky house scene, and how it connects with to the UK Garage scene of l0 years ago

âBasically what happened was the whole grime scene - having originally evolved out of UK Garage - kind of moved on to more of a funky house tip. Where it kinda took ANOTHER sort of transition, which was more about being instrumental and getting back to the music. And I actually think itâs only now, again, that itâs finally started to revitalise people into recognising that MELODY is such an important aspect for ANY type of music to break out. So, in that way, I think the scene has almost come 360 and itâs now starting to bring together the Tinchy Stryderâs, the Wileyâs and the Dizzee Rascalâs. Because all these people are now recognising that, if you add a bit of melody with what youâre doing, you can spit as hard as you wanna spit AND sell records! So Iâm very happy about that. I think itâs a very British-sounding scene, and itâs a scene we should feel very PROUD of. Because itâs something thatâs patently British, that no other country can produce. You know, I havenât heard any producer anywhere in the world really get it right the way the people in the UK do. Plus it also makes me PERSONALLY very proud to think that I was the person - the pioneer - who first opened the door for so many of these artists to come through so many years later.â

Craigâs early-Noughties American chart success, and why it turned out to be relatively short-lived

âAfter releasing the first album, I dedicated a year-and-a-half of my time to America. And then I also went there with the SECOND album - and overall I had a lot of success. I mean, we sold about three-and-a-half million records in America with the first and second albums. But then, to be honest, it became a situation where I had to make the conscious decision as to whether or not I wanted to spend all my time in America. Because, although I had already made an impact there, to have consistency there I did really need to stay there full-time. So it became a question of whether I could take the risk and the gamble of putting all my eggs into America, when I already knew I was selling so many records OUTSIDE of there in Europe and South East Asia. So, in the end, I had to kind of say âYou know what? Iâm happy with Europe, Iâm happy with South East Asia. Let me work those markets hardâ... And that decision did pay dividends! Because I sold a lot more records in Europe AFTER that, and thatâs stayed consistent ever since. So I mean, Americaâs always there. Itâs definitely still on my radar. And the fact I have a home in Miami now means Iâve already got a base there when I decide to release a record there. But, you know, I have no regrets about not staying out in America and pushing it. Because I think Iâd have lost a lot of momentum in Europe if I HAD done. And, in my opinion, that would have been detrimental to my career overall.â

Craigâs response to the backlash he later experienced in the UK, with accusations of âstaying too long in Americaâ, âturning his back on the UK Garage sceneâ, plus the merciless ridicule he suffered with the whole âBo Selectaâ comedy characature.

âYou know what? You live and you learn along the way. I mean, Iâve always maintained my integrity. Iâve never put myself in a situation where Iâve looked back and thought âWhy did I DO that?â⦠But then there are things that are sometimes out of your control that you canât physically change. But what you CAN do is, you can go into the studio and you can write some more SONGS! Itâs like when David Beckham lashed out in the European Championships and he got sent off. The whole of the UK was blaming him for England not getting through, and the only way he could deal with the media really and truly - and there WAS only one way - was for him to jump back on the football pitch and put the ball in the back of the net.. And, at the end of the day, thatâs what he DID! And now heâs the David Beckham we all know whoâs gone on to be the best at Man United, the best at Real Madrid, AC Milan, LA Galaxy... You know, he was able to show that itâs about making sure you go back to basics, and concentrate on the thing that got you there in the FIRST place. Which, in my case, is the SONGS. â
How he feels about his life and career today
âTo be here today - 10 years on from when I first started - for me is the most important thing in all this. Because Iâve just got a new deal with Universal - the biggest record-label in the world - Iâm 28 years old, got a new record out⦠Iâm very thankful and blessed that my friends and family around me are healthy; my mumâs got a lovely home in Southampton; Iâve got homes in London and Miami⦠You know, Iâm living this incredible life! So all in all, when I look back in hindsight itâs like âYeah, itâs been a bit of a roller-coaster ride. But where are we NOW? Over here, and ready to ROLL!â!â

Touring plans around âSigned Sealed Deliveredâ

âRight now itâs all about getting prepared with the band to tour and perform these songs from the new album, which is something Iâm really excited about. Because, like I said, these are songs that Iâve been singing for years. So, to add them on to the songs Iâve already got - with me having now put out five studio albums - is gonna be really cool. Because that means now I can pick from so many really big HITS! So yeah, Iâm definitely looking forward to going back on the road.â

Craigâs plans for the albumâs international release

âIn terms of the albumâs international release, whatâs great about being with Universal is that, once the album is finished, it gets delivered to every MD of every one of their labels around the world. So right now itâs on their table, and Iâve already had a lot of interest from the American market in particular. So thatâs something ELSE Iâm really excited about now Though, having said that, I donât wanna straightaway start running 100 miles-an-hour thinking âOh, weâll go straight to Americaâ⦠Because first I just wanna make sure this record impacts correctly here and in Europe. And then, when the timeâs right, THEN weâll take it over to America.â

Possible upcoming collaborations with US rappers

âItâs weird - because, when it comes to collaborations, I guess itâs all about location, location, location... So - if youâre looking for rappers to jump on your record - the fact Iâve actually now got a place in Miami certainly makes that all a lot more possible. Because the amount of people I meet in the lobby of the apartment I live in is INCREDIBLE! I mean, a few weeks ago Lil Wayne was there; a month ago Nelly was staying in the apartment next-door to me⦠And, because I have a recording studio in my apartment, it makes it all such a simple process! You know, itâs not like having to try and call the management and the record company, and then ask âCan this person do a rap on my track?â. Now itâs more like âDo you wanna throw a little 16-bars on a track Iâve got upstairs? Iâve got a beat ready to go. You ready to do it?â⦠And, because of the bravado the Americans have, itâs always like âYeah. Letâs just do the music first - and then weâll work out all the legalities and business AFTERâ⦠Which is very much an attitude I RESPECT. Because, if you just sit back and wait, nothing HAPPENS! So yeah, collaborations-wise I definitely think thereâs gonna be some exciting things coming up in the future. So that - along with the response Iâm already getting to this new album - has got me really excited with the way things are going right now.â

Craigâs single âOne More Lie (Standing In The Shadows)â is released March 22. His album âSigned Sealed Deliveredâ follows March 29, both through Universal Music Group/All Around The World

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

Join the B&S Mailing List

Blues and Soul on Twitter