In Conversation with Craig David Ahead of His First North American Tour in Six Years

The artist kicks off his tour in Las Vegas tomorrow, May 4, complete with a full live band.

Music
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British singer-songwriter Craig David is a multi-platinum artist with six MOBO wins and multiple Grammy and BRIT award nominations to his name. He has been making music since the late 1990s and scored his first major hit with the breakthrough 2000 single ‘Fill Me In’, reaching number one in the UK and number 15 on the US charts. He has since gone platinum in over 20 countries and is about to embark on his first US tour in six years starting tomorrow, May 4, kicking things off at the Lovers & Friends festival in Las Vegas.

Almost two and half decades since his debut album, ‘Born To Do It’, was released, Craig David is getting back on the road with a full band, bringing with him some of his classics ready to be heard in an all new way. Born in the port city of Southampton on the south coast of England, David’s songs defined a generation of British teens, but he has always been able to call his fanbase international. Starting off as a DJ before discovering his love for singing, his voice eventually landed him in the studio with DJ-producer duo Mark Hill and Pete Devereux – better known as Artful Dodger – and together they created some of the most iconic UK garage songs of the era. Pivoting away from dance music to make R&B, David found huge global success with songs like ‘7 Days’ and ‘Walking Away’, all still tinged with the unique UK flavour of his earlier music.

As a songwriter, David has worked with superstars like Justin Bieber, writing 2013’s ‘Recovery’ for the Canadian singer, as well as being credited as songwriter on DJ Khaled and Drake’s ‘For Free’ from 2016. Most recently, David linked up with Wes Nelson and the pair scored a number one with Abracadabra’.

This month sees Craig David take to the road to play shows from the west to the east coast. He’ll be touching down in Las Vegas, San Francisco, Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, as well as heading up north to play Toronto. Tickets for the tour are available now via Craig David’s website.

Hypebeast caught up with the artist just before he took off for his first tour of North America in six years. You can read our conversation below.

You must be excited. How are you feeling?

Bro, I’m blessed. Life is good, man. The whole vibe I’ve been in for quite a while now is just to wake up in the morning and enjoy whatever the day brings. Magical. Good or bad. Just to be like, “You know what? Here we are. Let’s roll. Let’s see what the day is going to bring.” So yeah, I’m good brother.

When was the last time you were out in the US?

The last time I was out there doing shows was 2018 with ‘The Time Is Now’ album. We released ‘I know You’ with Bastille, did Good Morning America in New York, then off the back of that we did a whole run of shows and acoustic performances and stuff going on. But, yeah, we haven’t done a tour tour for a number of years. At least 5, 6, or 7 years. And with a full band? Maybe even 10 years. It’s crazy!

What’s it like playing with the full band versus with a DJ?

You know what… It’s a bit of a weird one! When I first started, before ‘Born To Do It’, I’d been DJing and was an emcee for another DJ before that. It’s a big jump from that way of performing to the acoustic performances to the band shows. The full band show has always been something I’ve enjoyed. I enjoy the way in which you have a synergy with a group of people on stage. And how you have to nail the song in the way that people want to hear it, but also have to respect to the [original] song. I feel like it’s given me this ability to like do Ibiza Rocks pool parties with a DJ performance, to doing acoustic performances, and then also to do the full band show. So it’s like a mixture. I got love for them, or they bring slightly different mix to the mix of the thing. But I always learn new things every time. Like is this this? Yes way?

How different is it playing to an American audience versus a UK audience?

You know, because the first two albums ‘Born To Do It’ and ‘Slicker Than Your Average’ were the ones that made ground [in the US], they know those songs. And then there’s a breadth of albums that were more [popular in] Europe and in the UK. So I always feel it’s important to deliver the songs and the vibe that people would know, while at the same time peppering in some of the stuff that’s happened in between. Don’t give people stuff that they didn’t really ask for, you know?! You’ve just got to be conscious that it can all work, but [you have to] know your crowd.

Do you have fans in America who got to know you through UK garage?

It’s funny because a lot did through ‘Rewind’. They’ll be like, “Hey, we know that Garage thing!” I think it was the entry point for a lot of people [to my music], to be honest. If you like a hybrid of R&B and Garage, then it kind of sets the tone.

What does the music making process look like for you these days? Do you ever look back or are you always looking ahead?

I look back not to try and recreate the songs, but the feeling. I think that’s the real litmus test. If I look back to ‘Rewind’, I remember [how I felt] when I finished that tune – actually, I nearly lost the song because the computer crashed and it all went pear shaped but that’s another story! When I finished it I put it onto a TDK cassette tape and into my Walkman – a little yellow Sony Walkman with a bass boost button, I remember it clearly! I had my headphones on walking back to my block of flats… I was living a dream. I had this tune that just sounded to me like it went off. I didn’t even need to push the bass boost button on my Walkman because the bass was enough already! When I look back at other songs that have done similar things in their own way, it tends to be the feeling that I got from them that is the real litmus test, as opposed to “let’s try and make that again.”

What did it feel like getting a number one with Abracadabra at this point in your career?

It’s blessings on blessing, man. I’m just honoured and privileged that I have a career that has spanned this period of time, and to be at a point in which I’m still able to lean into and do music as if it’s brand new. Working with Wes Nelson wouldn’t have been the obvious combination, it was just the fact that our worlds aligned over in Ibiza Rocks where he performed, came offstage, told me that he had a crazy tune and we needed to get into the studio. Turned out, the day before [we recorded], is when he actually put pen to paper for the tune. The magic of the whole thing – with the song being called ‘Abracadabra’ – is the fact he actually spoke it into existence. We went on Love Island to perform the tune, which was a mad full circle moment for him, and it just seemed like it landed. I’m very grateful to just keep enjoying the music because that’s what it’s about.

Who have you not worked with that would love to if you had the chance?

Right off the bat I’d say I’d love to work with Usher. We met on a French radio station, he was in the building, I had just released ‘Fill Me In’. When we met, we both had beanie caps on, he had the Usher “U” chain on, I had my one with a little “CD” on. So there were some parallels. I remember when he came out with ‘Nice and Slow’, still one of my favorite tunes, and then all the rest like ‘You Make Me Wanna…’, ‘U Got It Bad’. So, when we were in this radio station, he’s there and a DJ pulls us both into the studio together. He starts playing instrumentals and I start vibing and start singing ‘You Make Me Wanna…’ over some hip-hop instrumental, then Usher starts vibing and singing ‘Fill Me In’ and I’m thinking “this is a wave!” This is wild, right? That moment, that feeling, to never actually got in the studio with the man… I’m so happy for him getting his flowers and creating a whole new phase of his career with the Vegas residency, the Super Bowl. He dips in and out of his new and his back catalogue of songs so elegantly I’m like, “Yo, just for the culture… I say ‘for the culture’, but, really, for me! Come on, Usher, let’s just get in the studio and pattern one of dem tunes nicely, yeah?!”

What are your favourite UK garage tunes?

Early doors, Scott Garcia’s ‘A London Thing’. Artful Dodger and Romina Johnson’s ‘Movin’ Too Fast’. Sweet Female Attitude’s ‘Flowers’. I’d say at the same time ‘Lessons In Love’ by Robbie Craig was just the tune. Amira’s ‘My Desire’. Wow. Nice. I’m just so grateful that I could be part of that [era]. There was something about that time and place for me, especially.

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