Craig David is in a very vibrant mood and rightly so. He has every reason to feel positive considering at the time of our meet he’s set for the release of his second album in two years, with his previous effort debuting at No. 1. But don’t be alarmed, you haven’t been transported back to the early 2000s, it’s 2018 and Craig David is re-inspired and rejuvenated. “It was going back to basics and also just realising that I live music, it’s not a hobby,” he says summarising what led to his sixth studio album ‘Following My Intuition’ after an absence of six years, while his seventh – ‘The Time Is Now’ – could have a similarly successful impact.
As Craig expands on his re-emergence he reveals that his move from the UK to a home in Miami resulted in relatively low productivity. “In the daytime, you want to be out in the weather. At night, you’re getting pulled out into the club scene, so where are the studio sessions going on? Even though I had a studio in my home all the time, the amount of time I was spending in it was [minimal].” This lack of time in the studio was eventually offset by Craig’s now distinguished TS5 parties, which began in his Miami apartment but have led to residencies in Ibiza. “[TS5] was my way of redirecting and saying ‘I can be productive and I can throw a house party which gives me the feel of being in a club’ but I’m actually recording a show and I can put it on Soundcloud,” he says excitably, as if conceiving the idea as we speak. “The DJ thing was what I was doing before ‘Born To Do It’. It all led to me making mix CDs which was funding me so I could buy equipment to record, but then it got to the time we released ‘Re-Rewind’ and ‘Fill Me In’ and it went so fast that the next thing I knew I had a full live band, so the DJing thing – I couldn’t incorporate it.”
TS5 become popular enough to attract interest from UK radio stations that were eager to broadcast Craig’s unique house party experience as a radio show and that connection back home was a determining factor behind his mainstream restoration. Akin to when he was preparing the release of his seminal debut ‘Born To Do It’, Craig David once again had the attention of Britain’s musical tastemakers and that was all the encouragement he felt he needed. “I’m listening to all the stuff that’s happening in the UK – up and coming producers, songwriters and artists – so then when I came back, I was leaning into the unknown of going into a session with an 18-year-old kid who loved ‘Fill Me In’ and they’re talking to me a little in the past tense, which is cool, then I get in the booth and warp into this 17/18 year-old-kid again and I just give everything.”
“I think that – when we talk about [my career] coming full circle – was the moment I realised I needed to be in the UK, I needed to work and be relevant with an 18-year-old kid. Now I’m on your radar. Before, I was the guy that your older brother or sister used to play and that was a big shift. It’s about working with people but also supporting people coming through. Everyone’s very quick to want to jump on people when they’re hot, but can you work with someone who you can feel the potential is there? I kept going in with all the new guys and had to pretty much present myself as a new artist and stop telling them the story.” The outcome? ‘Following My Intuition’ reaching No. 1 on the Official Albums Chart and Craig David re-introducing himself to fans both old and new magnificently, with the singer describing it as more than he could have asked for.
Less than two years later, he has crafted the successor to that No. 1 album, aptly titled ‘The Time Is Now’. Enquiries are made as to whether he feels under pressure to release something that will have a comparable impact, but the accomplishments of his previous work have only confirmed his beliefs that he’s doing the right things. “It’s cemented something that I already knew when I was that young kid making ‘Born To Do It’. Why I called it ‘Following My Intuition’ is because you just got to make music from your heart. I didn’t have any expectations for ‘Born To Do It’ and it changed my life,” he explains. “So, when ‘Following My Intuition’ connected, it said to me, ‘You made an album because you loved doing the music thing, you worked with all these young guys on the come up and you loved it. That’s your reference. Stay there. Don’t change the plot. Don’t get too big for your boots.’”
With that being said, it’s obvious upon listening to ‘The Time Is Now’ that Craig has pinpointed the most appreciated components of his previous album, as he calls upon some of the same individuals – e.g. Kaytranada and Tre Jean-Marie – to help develop the sound further. However, it is not so much the same personnel that dictate the record as much as it is the implementation of the same vibe, a vibe that is of complete contrast to how Craig originally introduced himself circa 2000. “You’ve got to stay true to who you are, but at the same time, there is a fine line where you can get both. R&B is at the core of what I do, even if I did a Garage tune. When I was doing ‘Fill Me In’, it feels like a Garage tune, but if you just go half-time, it’s a slow jam. So, I’ve always approached it in that way.” Despite this, Craig reveals that the creative process between then and now was alike. “The weird thing is that it was very similar. I haven’t got loads and loads of people [involved in the record], it feels tight again and I’m driving the ship as opposed to other times in my career when I was a bit all over the place.”
Of the people that Craig has used to help maintain his aforementioned metaphorical vessel, there are many who were very young when he initially rose to fame, yet such was his music’s impact around the turn of the century, they are aware of the impression he made. “The maddest thing is they knew all about the stuff from ‘Born To Do It’ and ‘Slicker Than Your Average’,” he humbly reveals. “[I’m] speaking with Kaytranada and he’s saying what these tunes meant to him and I’m listening to his stuff and thinking he’s sick. GoldLink had a show [in the UK] recently and he invited me to come on and do our song and ‘Fill Me In’. There’s something that was built from those early records that somehow inspired so many of the artists that are coming through now and I’m super grateful.”