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Craig David Interview

Lynda Moyo talks touring, Bo Selecta and the problem with UK R&B acts with the man they can’t help but mock

Written by . Published on March 22nd 2013.

Craig David Interview

IT’S easy to mock Craig David. Bo Selecta saw to that.

It’s perhaps even easier to forget he still remains one of the UK’s most successful male solo exports.

Most Americans know who he is, which is more than can be said of Robbie and Gary, and MTV viewers recently voted Born To Do It as the second greatest album ever in MTV history, just behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

Yet despite his successes, he’s still often viewed as a has-been rather than a hero of the UK music scene. Little wonder he now prefers living the high-life in Miami, but the question remains did we give up on Craig David or did he give up on us?

"There’s definitely gonna be the old stuff. For sure. It’s about respecting the songs and actually performing them the way people want to hear them, not just remixing them."

Ahead of his recently announced world tour, which will coincide with the release of new album Following My Intuition, it would appear Craig David is ready to kiss and make up with the UK.

That’s not to say he hasn’t tried before.

Over the last few years he’s dabbled with everything from pop to house, cover songs and grime. But unsurprisingly nothing has had the impact of his R&B/garage heyday.

Speaking about the new album he said: “I’m basically looking at songs I can break down acoustically and they still stand up as songs. That’s when I know I’m on the right path, as opposed to it being a track based album where the beats are hot but if you remove the beats it’s not really that groundbreaking. We’re taking the production towards R&B which I love, but with elements of garage too.”

It would seem he’s given up on trying to keep up with the cool kids, choosing against reinventing himself yet again, not because of the risk of ridicule, but because he’s now older and wiser. It’s music to any original Craig David fan’s ears.

“Right now I’m in the best place in my life” he continued. “I’m just making music because I want to. Not because I need to or have to. The tour is something I wanted to do. When you genuinely want to do something in your life, when you’re passionate, great things come from that.”

The tour itself will also engage this new, happier-in-his-own-skin, Craig. Aside from his new material, those joining him will also be treated to plenty of the old classics, right back to ‘Re-Rewind’.

Craig David

He said: “There’s definitely gonna be the old stuff. For sure. It’s about respecting the songs and actually performing them the way people want to hear them, not just remixing them.

“I love performing, especially when you have songs that are connected in so many places round the world with that nostalgia about them. People go back to that time and that place.”

If, like me, that ‘time and place’ is 1999 in a dingy underground nightclub, downing apple Hooch to UK garage anthems, then you’ll know exactly what he’s talking about.

You’ll also be pleased to hear he’s working with Anthony Marshall again. Formerly one half of the UK production team Ignorants – they were well known on the late 90s UK R&B and garage scene for their infectious bassy remixes for the likes of All Saints, Misteeq, Shola Ama and of course Craig David. Could this be the start of a 2013 R&B/garage revival?

“I think everything has to have its time and music goes round in circles. Grime music was the new form of garage. Garage had to get darker because at the time you had a lot of pop acts tapping into garage music. It became so saturated on radio, so grime made it more street again.

“But then the pop element of garage has come back round again in recent times. Garage acts such as Disclosure are coming through with that R&B pop feel to garage again. So it’s definitely got legs to come back again, be it called garage or something else. That feel will definitely come back.”

Listen to a Disclosure track below, as recommended by Craig David as the future of garage music...

And if anyone’s qualified for the job of pioneering the rebirth, it’s Craig. Starting his career as a teenage DJ means he’s done all the groundwork to make a sure fire hit. But these days the game has changed, which is perhaps why the UK hasn’t had another impactful real R&B male solo artist in such a long time.

“When I started out it was a time where as a DJ you had to buy vinyl and you knew about music because you had to physically go out and buy it. Now you can just be someone who doesn’t know anything about music, but you have the internet to get every song that’s out there. It was a real process back then.

“For R&B in general in the UK, the key is to not try and replicate what America has. In the UK the foundations for R&B aren’t as strong so therefore if you come with the most R&B album ever your audience will be limited.

“We live in a very diverse pop culture in the UK. One minute we’re listening to rock, then the next minute it’s hip hop. As an artist you’ve got to be diverse. My most successful album had songs like ‘Walking Away’ (pop), ‘Fill Me In’ (garage) and Seven Days (R&B). It crossed a lot of boundaries.”

One thing Craig David is probably hoping won’t be making a comeback along with his upcoming assault on the charts, is of course comedian Leigh Francis’ televised caricature of him – a parody many believe had a detrimental effect on Craig’s music career.

"Some people would just stay bitter forever saying ‘he ruined your career Craig’. But maybe it was destined to go that way. Maybe I needed to take some time to reflect."

 “In hindsight, I take it on the chin” he said, not realising his own unintentional reference to Bo Selecta's prime asset.

“Everything mirrors you in some respect. The reason why Leigh Francis did that show was because he knew doing caricatures of successful people would be popular. So of course, if I was saying my name a thousand times on a track then he was going to run with that.

“It was a show that needed to happen.  Maybe I was getting caught up [in show business]?

“Some people would just stay bitter forever saying ‘he ruined your career Craig’. But maybe it was destined to go that way. Maybe I needed to take some time to reflect, find out where I was at to be able to be here doing a world tour now. I have no animosity to him. If I held onto that, it would suggest I had deeper issues internally to allow someone to have such a massive impact over my life. You just can’t do that to yourself."

Bo Selecta - Bo Selecta - "It was a show that needed to happen" according to Craig David

Being more self aware is clearly Craig’s aim now in his thirties and beyond. Bo Selecta may have been the catalyst, but it’s certainly not keeping him up at night anymore. He doesn't needs a caricature for a reality check these days.

“In any industry you tend to feel that you’re putting in the work to ultimately get a return,” he said.

 “If you have a number one single it’s so exciting, but all of a sudden you’ve created your own demise because you feel like you can only have number ones otherwise you’re a failure. Until you stop wanting more, you’ll continuously be unhappy.”

There is however, one place in particular where that motto becomes null and void – the gym. In case you haven’t seen Craig since his early days, he’s gone from being the slim singer that appeared to spend a lot of time on his equally slimline beard design, to the type of ripped fella you’d shuffle past on the door of a nightclub. So why the transformation?

“I always had trouble keeping my weight down, contrary to popular belief.  I was a very overweight kid growing up. When you’re on TV and in the public eye you try your best to stay on top of it. But it got to the point where I decided I needed a lifestyle that isn’t this constant battle. So I changed it up. Eat clean and train dirty is my philosophy. It’s about being consistent and not just eating healthily and working out because summer’s coming up. Train hard, get dirty in that gym. Go crazy.”

Craig 'Eat clean, train dirty' DavidCraig 'Eat clean, train dirty' David

With health and personal happiness top of the agenda, I’ll admit I’ve got a new found respect for Craig David. He’s no longer the teen dream who takes himself too seriously, and gone are the silly hairstyles and egotistical 16 bars. Instead he’s all about his “very blessed” life with “great friends and family around me.”

“Life is good” he says. And for once, I actually believe him.

Craig David will be performing at Manchester Ritz on 20 May. Visit www.ticketmaster.co.uk for tickets.    

Follow Lynda on Twitter @lyndamoyo

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Lynda Moyo shared this on Facebook on March 22nd 2013.
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