Words by Reece Stewart
With over 1 billion YouTube views, and having worked with the likes of Sam Smith, Emeli Sandé, and Beyoncé, Naughty Boy needs no introduction. With an eclectic sound which is rare to hear from a producer, he can create hits that resonate with everyone, many of which can be heard on his critically acclaimed Hotel Cabana album released back in 2013. Now, with his new single out, and a new album on the horizon, we can only wait in anticipation of what’s to come.
So, your new single, ‘One Chance To Dance’, is co-written with Emeli Sandé & features Joe Jonas. How did that come about?
“It started with me and Emeli really, we wanted to make a song, a classic song, written for a man to sing. Emeli wanted to write a classic song that she felt didn’t exist anymore, as people don’t really take time to have a complete beginning, middle & end. It’s a classic structure of a song and I think Emeli really wanted to make a song that captivated that, with a bit of an old school feel. So, it was just an idea a couple of years ago, the idea just sat there, and then another writer named Sam Romans, he finished writing the song, and added his touch to it, so it’s definitely been on a bit of a journey, and it’s nice to finally get to this point.
When I met Joe, I knew that this song in particular needs to be sung by a solo artist, because the story of the song is one man’s journey, not being able to dance, but basically saying give me a chance anyway, I’m a good guy. So, I think Joe Jonas encompasses that, he’s a nice guy, and done an incredible vocal performance on the song. For me, He’s a new artist, although people recognise the name, I don’t think people would’ve heard him sing on a song like this.”
In a previous interview, you said that the follow up to your debut album Hotel Cabana, would be a compilation album, which was supposed to be released at the end of last year. What has caused the delay in that project?
“I wouldn’t call it a delay. I spent my whole life making my first album, and I didn’t want to rush into a second album. I didn’t want it to feel as if it was something I was doing just because I was having success, I’ve still taken the time to make the right album. The album is finished now and I’m happy with it, which is more important than timelines and schedules. Timelines are good, because that’s how the business works, but I don’t know, I feel like I’ve made the best second album that I could have possibly made now, I can give it that stamp, and that’s important.”
The internet and Social media have developed rapidly since you’ve started, and subsequently the structure of the music business has changed massively. How do you think things have changed in terms of your approach to music, let’s say over the past 5 years?
“I think everything that’s happening makes it easier to make your music aware, whether that’s an artist like myself, or someone making music in their bedroom who no one knows about, if you’re doing something amazing, the opportunities there. However, I guess it also makes music more disposable, as people move on quicker, but in a way, that’s good because, I feel like the people are choosing what they want to hear now, and that hasn’t happened for a long time. Radio used to pretty much dictate most of our lives without us knowing, but now with the internet and streaming services, the listener is allowed to take the control back. That’s important, and I think it can only help music progress.”
It’s interesting, because throughout your career, you’ve been through negative situations that have been magnified because of social media, but it has also been pivotal in building relationships and the marketing of your music. So, would you say that it was necessary to go through the negative to find how to manoeuvre in the industry?
“It’s important to know what the machine (the industry) is, but I don’t think it has ever dictated how I feel about my position. I think it has made me aware that sometimes something can be out of your control, and you just have to let it ride out. I don’t think I’ve experienced anything that hasn’t helped me, everything has benefited me in some way, because, I don’t know… I’m still here.”
From the beginning of your career, you’ve always prided yourself upon bringing upcoming talent that you believe in to the forefront. So, with the status and following you have now, do you feel as if there’s a larger responsibility for you to do so, due the exposure you can give to an artist?
“I think Runnin’ explains it best, because it’s Beyoncé, and it’s also a new artist Arrow Benjamin that no one had heard of. I think that’s the perfect balance for me, and for someone like Beyoncé to do that as well, that just shows her character, because he’s got a great voice, but hasn’t done anything yet, and that was his first single. It happened to be on my song, but having that same approach towards my album, causes it to have a healthy combination of big names, plus names that you’ll find out about next year, but you don’t know about yet. I did a song with Dua Lipa for my album last year, and she hadn’t really blown yet, but it’s nice to see what you felt about someone was right, when they start to flourish. I also did a song with Julia Michaels last year for the album too, and she wasn’t even an artist then, she was still undecided as to whether she wanted to be an artist or a songwriter, but the song we did together might have helped her make her mind up and come to her decision, who knows. So, that’s the power of what I think I can do.”
With regards to your album, you’ve previously mentioned working with WizKid, who’s an international star, and there’s a plethora of big names that I’m sure you’re a fan of, but are yet to work with. You can’t include everyone on the album, so is there now a conflict in trying to work with the newer breed of famous artists, and still shedding light on upcoming artists?
“Not for me. I’ve done a song for my album, it’s got Bibi Rexha on it, who’s a female singer from America, and the song also features 67. That’s something you would never expect, but that’s the type of album I’m making, I’m having fun making this album because there is no order, one song doesn’t need to belong to the next, because I did that with Hotel Cabana. It was a conceptual, idea driven album, it made the people go mad, so this time I want it to be more fun, but in doing that I think I’ve made a collection of songs, which I think could be your favourite playlist. It’s not telling you what type of music you like, it’s just telling you that you might like this as well, it’s not dictating anything to you, which is why I think I get to have more fun than other artist producers. When I’m supposed to take a right, I’ll take a sharp left, but people don’t mind and I love that. Usually, you get put in a box and have a certain sound that people expect, but I’ve managed to create this album without having to conform to one sound, and that wasn’t intentional, that’s just God interfering.”
When looking at the history of your work, it’s clear to see that you’re very eclectic. What is your favourite genre of music & why?
“If I had to choose overall, I would have to say Bollywood music. It’s because it’s embedded in me since I was a child, and I grew up in Watford, I didn’t grow up in Pakistan, but I still loved Bollywood music like there wasn’t any other music. I didn’t listen to western music until I was like 15, so it’s definitely Bollywood. I think that’s how I get my big melodies, big string arrangements, because Bollywood is romantic music, everything is romance, that’s why I think it’s rare because it’s not real life but that’s what’s good about Bollywood because you can escape for like 6 hours or however long the film is, and you can feel like you’ve been somewhere, and you’ve felt something. That’s the Asian bit I’ve taken into my music I think, the epic, larger than life nature of it.”
What do you believe was key in what you did to make yourself stand out and then grow into the success that you are now?
“I valued myself, before someone put a value on me. I don’t think you should always wait for someone to put value on you, because if you value yourself first, that gives you confidence, and people will gravitate towards that. I did that early on because I didn’t know anyone, and I had to come to London, a strange place without any friends. When I met Bashy, I drove to Kensal Rise and I just told him about me, I was working in a hotel room, but because I was confident, even if it was fake confidence, I helped to make him think that I’m serious. So, I said look I’ve made this CD with some beats, put his name on it, drove to him and delivered it, and I said you don’t know me, someone gave me your number, just have a listen. That was important, because that made me realise, oh I can do it without a manager or a record label, all I had was good intentions, then it just spiralled from there.”
With so much being accomplished in your career so far, is the hunger to achieve still at a maximum level, and if so what is your next target?
“The hunger is definitely there, but you need inspiration to be hungry, and when you have certain things that should make you happy, you’d think, well why should I carry on, I don’t need to. But, that’s where you have to understand where you are, and where you come from, and in doing that, I’m finding inspiration with family at home, because I’ve been spending a lot of time at home, and feel like I need that life, because I haven’t had it for a long time. I think that’s making me want it more again. But then again, it’s like wanting something you’ve already got as well, so I’m quite happy and content with what’s coming and with what I’ve done. Although, I still feel like there’s a long way to go, I’m definitely at peace with being successful at the moment. You’ve got to remember that you have times where you’re getting famous and you don’t know what’s going on, people recognise you and you’re struggling to understand it, but I’ve found peace with it now, it took a minute though. With regards to a target, if I can be remembered for a song, when I’m not here, then job done. That’s when you live forever.”
New single One Chance To Dance ft Joe Jonas is out now
New album is out late spring 2018