Jason Derulo was well-known in the music world for his songwriting and producing before 2009’s Watcha Say brought him to the forefront of the industry.
Derulo, who will be in Boston this weekend to perform for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay’s annual Big Night event on February 4, spoke with Boston Common about his new record label (he’s getting ready to announce the anchor artist) and his collaborations with music greats like Stevie Wonder and Nantucket's Meghan Trainor.
Boston Common: We’re incredibly excited to have you here in Boston for Big Night in support of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay. Is the vibe different in the room when you’re performing for such a charity minded audience? Jason Derulo: I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily different because it’s always a celebration. I think our mind sets are different, we come in the room with a mind set that it’s going to help somebody else, but I think we want to have a good time at the end of the night as well
Long before you released your first hit solo Whatcha Say in 2009, you were producing and songwriting as well and you’ve collaborated with incredible artists from Stevie Wonder to Pitbull. When you write a song for someone else do you have them in mind or do you just write and then you find the right artist that it fits? JD: It happens different every single time. With a song like Me Too for Meghan Trainor, it was something that we did prior and it was something to do for myself. I heard the story that Meghan came into the studio and I played her the song and it was the perfect fit for her, so she went back in and made it her and changed what she could change. Every time it happens different.
I still can’t believe Watcha Say was released nearly a decade ago. JD: [Laughs] Does that make you feel a little old?I had a fan tell me recently, “I grew up to your music” and I’m like “What?! I’m 27, what do you mean?”
Do you think growing up in Miami influenced your early introduction to the music scene? JD: I think what Miami did give me is the international picture. People like so many different kinds of music in Miami and there’s so many different cultures and nationalities that I was exposed to. I was definitely exposed to more kinds of music than the average person because my classmates were from Cuba, from Spain, etc. so I just had a lot of people around me doing different things.
In some of your songs you’ll sample other songs like with “Whatcha Say” it was Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek”. Was that something that you started with that you heard the song and really enjoyed it? JD: We were actually writing [Watcha Say] for Sean Kingston. We brought it to the table and we were like “How does everyone feel about this?” Everyone in the room always feels something from that moment in “Hide and Seek”. So, J.R. [producer] sped it up and we just tried it out. We were trying something different and it happened to work. I was telling this story about how my brother had this situation about him wanting his girl back after he cheated on her. It was just something that resonated with me. At that point I was 18 years old and Sean Kingston didn’t end up taking the song so J.R took it to Beluga Heights, the record label I was signed to, and they were like “okay, this is your first single” and I was like “all right, cool!”
How do you split your time now between producing and singing your own music? Is producing and songwriting still a majority of what you do since that’s an original passion for you? JD: I mean the song “Me Too” with Meghan Trainor that was something that happened organically, and she’s one of my favorite people in the world. But time is not on my side when it comes to putting out songs. I partnered with Warner Brothers to forge my record label called Future History. I’m going to develop my artists and give them the best opportunities, but that means I probably won’t be doing much writing.
Who are you looking at for the label? JD: We have one incredible artist right now, and we’ll be making that announcement pretty soon.
In addition to producing, song writing, and singing, you’ve been a judge on shows like So You Think You Can Dance. What’s that like seeing these talented people compete? JD: I think it’s dope for me to switch it up and get outside the box. But it’s also awesome to see people chasing their dreams. I was like, ya know, that was me, that’s still me! I still have those hopes and dreams and am fighting for something always. Last night [on America’s Next Top Model] was me preparing for my new project. We’re shooting a next video that’s due out next month. It’s kinda cheesy and (laughs), but it’s still very artsy so. My next song is called Swala and it’s with Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla Sign.
How do you stay out of the drama and stay focused now that you’re such a headliner? You know, I don’t put things out in the air to further my career. I let it be about the music, and about the art. If the music can’t do it, then it’s all good. I’m not going to exploit myself. I keep it focused on the art at the end of the day; hopefully everything will come shining through.
Act quick to get a ticket to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay's Big Night event on February 4.