Taio Cruz recently popped into MTV HQ where he had a chat with Vanessa Laker and discussed everything from his chart-topping new single, concurring the US and his Rokstarr accessories brand, all exclusively for The Wrap Up!
Whilst studying business and law at Stanmore College, a roommate of his discovered one of Cruz’s demo tapes and passed it on to Def Jam – who immediately signed the talented youngster. Just eight months later the London native wrote Will Young’s hit ‘Your Game’ which went on to win a Brit award in 2005. He’s written and produced tracks for the likes of Usher, Cheryl Cole and Leona Lewis, but it was the release of his sophomore album ‘Rokstarr’ in 2009 that really put Taio Cruz on the map. Lead single ‘Break Your Heart’ not only went straight to number one in UK charts, but also topped the US charts – a task that many fail to achieve.
Current single ‘Dynamite’ is no exception. The upbeat party record stormed to number one in the UK and is still sitting pretty in the top five. The globally successful club inspired track has also prevented pop starlet Katy Perry from scoring her third number one on the Australian (ARIA) singles chart as Cruz is firmly holding the top spot.
The Wrap Up: Your single ‘Dynamite’ is amazing. Tell us a little bit about the song?
Taio Cruz: The single was written by myself, Dr Luke and Max Martin. It’s a big party song to go out and go crazy to and have a great time to. It’s a big summer vibe record.
TWU: You’ve achieved number ones on both sides of the Atlantic, so do you now have huge expectations every time you release a single?
Taio Cruz: No, I just like to put out the songs and the music that I’m feeling at the time and hopefully the audience enjoys it as much as I do.
TWU: All your songs tend to have a happy positive feel to them. Even ‘Break Your Heart’ which isn’t particularly a positive concept, still has a positive vibe. Is this intentional or are you just generally a happy-go-lucky kind of guy?
Taio Cruz: It just depends on my mood I suppose. I was definitely in a place of wanting to make fun upbeat club friendly records and radio friendly records, so that’s basically what I created.
TWU: You’ve been working in the music business for many years writing for other artists and last year you got your first number one with ‘Break Your Heart’. What was that feeling like to finally be recognised as an artist in your own right?
Taio Cruz: It felt really good to have a number one record with my name on it. I’ve written for other artists, but it felt extremely rewarding and amazing to have a number one as an artist.
TWU: Many British female artists have managed to achieve success in the US, but very few British male musicians concur the tough US market…
Taio Cruz: The US market is a very tough one, I always just try to be me. I always say you’re the best at being you, it’s kind of silly to try and be someone else. So I just make the music that I love and hopefully people will enjoy it. It’s really overwhelming to have my music embraced internationally, so I‘m really happy and grateful for that. All I can do is continue to be me and make the music that I enjoy and hope people continue to enjoy it as well.
TWU: You write, produce and sing and Dallas Austin once described you as the ‘next Babyface’. How do you react to such a huge comparison?
Taio Cruz: It’s crazy. Babyface is definitely a big inspiration. I try not to let anything pressure me, I just kind of take the compliment and keep it moving.
TWU: You’ve written songs for huge stars like Usher and Britney Spears. Do you feel under pressure when writing for such big international artists?
Taio Cruz: No, because they’ve come to you because they’ve heard what you do, so they obviously like what it is you’re doing. So I just try and keep it real and just do what I do.
TWU: You’d already had a lot of success as a songwriter, so when did you decide the time was right to make that leap from writer/producer to artist?
Taio Cruz: The decision was kind of made for me. I just put a song out ‘I Just Wanna Know’ and it just blew up and I got a record deal within a few months of putting it out. I hadn’t even thought about making an album at the time. I initially just wanted to put one song out and it kind of just spiralled.
TWU: You’ve collaborated with a number of cool and quite diverse acts, from Ludacris, to Ke$ha, to Tinchy Stryder. What was it like working with them?
Taio Cruz: They’re all talented in their own right and they bring a lot to the table musically. You guys have heard the creations; we make a load of good music (together).
TWU: And who would you like to work with in future?
Taio Cruz: I’d have to say Kings Of Leon. I really admire their music.
TWU: Tell us a bit about your album Rokstarr?
Taio Cruz: The album ‘Rokstarr’ is sort of 60% dance/pop oriented and the other 40% is a mixture of hip-hop, R&B and indie-rock pop. So there’s literally a little bit of everything on there.
TWU: I read somewhere that you were supposed to record the song ‘Umbrella’…
Taio Cruz: I did record that song before Rihanna did. Tricky (American music producer) was playing the record to not only myself, but to Rihanna, Britney Spears and a few other people. Rihanna and Jay-Z absolutely loved the song and they’re the ones who ended up recording it.
TWU: And about a month ago you made quite a heavy statement on Twitter about your dislike of the word ‘urban’. Can you elaborate a bit on that subject?
Taio Cruz: I don’t like the word ‘urban’ because I think it’s a bit of a generalisation and they use it to class music, but I don’t think it’s a word that necessarily classes music. You know you have hip-hop, you have R&B, you have rock, you have pop, you have dance – so I feel like if you’re classing music you should just call it what it is.
TWU: Now you’ve branched out beyond music and now have your own fashion brand. Tell us a bit about Rokstarr the brand…
Taio Cruz: Rokstarr started off doing sunglasses and it’s gonna expand eventually into doing bags and women’s shoes. We will like for it to eventually be a full fledged clothing brand.
TWU: Your line of sunglasses have been worn by the likes of Kanye West, Kelly Rowland, Justin Timberlake and Kerri Hilson, to name few. So as someone who’s a shades specialist you’re the perfect person to ask this question. Should Jay-Z bring back Versace shades?
Taio Cruz: Yeah, I think so. Jay-Z should definitely bring back Versace shades.