Craig David spoke his career into existence when he titled his debut album “Born To Do It.”
The British-born singer came on the scene in 2000 with a soulful single titled “7 Days,” breaking into the booming R&B era of the early aughts with a song that carried the smooth melodies and sensual lyrics that defined the genre at the time. His second single, “Fill Me In,” which came with a faster tempo, dropped shortly after to much fanfare.
With the release of several other bangers like “Walking Away” and “Rendezvous,” David’s popularity rapidly grew. Although he was just 18 years old when his first album dropped, he proved that he had the appeal to quickly amass a legion of fans worldwide while selling millions of records.
Within months of the album’s debut, David had become a superstar ― and over the years, he has effectively cemented his status as one of Britain’s biggest black music stars.
David’s debut album was a powerful and well-executed project that truly catapulted his career, which has spanned nearly two decades, six studio albums, countless collaborations and endless sold-out shows in cities across the world.
The singer, who was based in the U.K. throughout much of his life, was named the 2017 British Male Solo Artist for the influence of his latest album, “Following My Intuition.” Now, he splits his time between England and Miami, traveling to perform at packed venues and build better connections with audiences around the globe. In light of June being Black Music Month, HuffPost spoke to the star during his recent tour stop in New York about his evolution over the years and just how much of a roller coaster ride his journey to success has been.
“The ride I’ve been on has been amazing because there’s been a lot of character-building,” David told HuffPost in an interview at the New York office for Sony, his record label. “What are you really doing this for and where are you going? You ask those questions and when you answer them honestly, I realize that the only thing I ever really loved is being in the studio and making music and going out and performing and positively impacting people’s lives.”
For David, life is all about the journey and the experiences that build the memories, connections and foundation that help to define who he is ― and, perhaps more importantly, who he wants to become.
“It used to be about getting from one place to the destination and always looking for the next thing ― which is great, that’s drive and passion for what you do,” he said. “But one thing I’ve learned over the last 16 years is that it’s about the journey. It’s OK to have the goals, but what was fun was leading toward it.”
David’s journey has indeed been a remarkable one ― but he said his success is simply a result of him learning to listen to his heart and better believe in his abilities to provide unforgettable musical experiences. This new approach led him to title his latest album “Following My Intuition.” The 18-track album was released last September and boasts a repertoire of songs that reflect various styles of music like pop, garage and EDM. There are upbeat singles like “16,” featuring Justin Beiber, which mashes together his classic hit “Fill Me In” with “Where Are Ü Now.” And then there are soothing numbers like “Got It Good” with music star Kaytranada.
While many of the songs are a departure from the slower-paced R&B ballads he was known for on his first album, David said he enjoys the process of experimenting with and evolving his musical style by exploring new songs with new artists and identifying new ways to express himself. Whatever the case, staying true to himself remains his top priority.
“Authenticity comes up to me as being the key to everything that I’m experiencing now and maybe in the earlier parts of my career, which was a very dynamic moment,” he said. “It’s been a roller coaster ride … but it’s all come down to authenticity. It’s like as soon as I start to follow my intuition ― yes, that is a pun ― that’s when it all started to happen.”
“[Growing up] I was exposed to a lot of R&B, a lot of hip-hop, a lot of dance, I was hearing this mix of music, I was very aware,” he added, going on to explain what makes “Following My Intuition” so special for him: “When I made the album, it connected on such a level that I never expected.”
David’s deep love for music also led him to dabble in DJ’ing, which he said has always been a passion of his. In fact, he frequently hosted lavish personal parties at his mansion in Miami, which quickly drew plenty of buzz and helped to establish his early start as a DJ. He has since mastered the skill of DJing to create TS5, a stage name he established for himself in 2013 for all of his live sets and singing performances.
“TS5 is an experience,” he said. “It’s everything I’ve learned in the last 16 years as a life performer, all encapsulated with what I learned when I was doing vinyl mixing in clubs back before I released ‘Born To Do It.’”
TS5 is now a large component of David’s presence at his concerts. He DJs and sings at the same time, and opts to use a “very simplified situation” in regard to performance equipment. There are no dancers or elaborate stage props ― merely a small DJ booth and a mic ― making for a much more intimate and personal experience.
“It’s very hands-on and my thing is not to stay behind the booth, but to come out of the booth,” he said. “It’s a performance, a live performance and an open format of what I’m gonna play. I want to keep your attention for every single minute I’m on that stage.”
“I want to give 110 percent onstage,” he added. “I just feel like I want to give everything on that stage and in the studio. No regrets, no would’ve, could’ve, should’ve, I’ve got to give it everything.”
I attended his show that evening following the interview, and David delivered on his word. By mixing his own vocals, songs and instrumentals with classic throwback songs from artists like Whitney Houston and TLC, David dominates onstage and does not disappoint. And if selling back-to-back sold-out shows isn’t any indication of his current success as a performer, simply check out a clip from a recent show and note the rousing crowd reaction:
David said he wouldn’t be the artist he is today if it weren’t for the influences from classic R&B legends including Boyz II Men and R. Kelly. He also credits rappers like Biggie, Big Pun and Tupac for the inspiration they have given him. As for more contemporary artists he admires, David mentioned Drake ― and while he notes that “a lot of people compare me to him,” he said he’s “never seen it like a competition.”
David did admit, however, that he has his sights set on building more traction with American fans and expanding his exposure in cities around the country. This year alone, he has already sold out several shows in the States and is returning in October for more performances.
“I’m coming for you, Miami, I’m coming for you, Madison Square Garden,” he said with confidence ― and if his unstoppable rise so far is any indication, David only has more dreams to accomplish.
“I know, first hand, that when I do something and I actually have conviction with it and I just go, special things happen,” he said. “It’s a force to be reckoned with when you speak on it, act on it and you keep it going.”
“You’ve got to follow your intuition,” I said, to which he replied with a smile: “You know the drill.”