After being given permission by the record label to give him grief for missing my earlier calls, just two minutes into our conversation, Taio’s down-to-earth personality, and cheeky humour make it easy to forget my earlier intentions and I remind myself that this is a guy who has been named by Dallas Austin as the ‘the new Babyface’ and I’m keen to find out more. Having written for artists such as, Mya, Usher, Britney and Will Young, Taio’s debut single I Just Wanna Know received major airplay and turned this half-Brazilian, half-Nigerian singer into an overnight household name.
Balancing a transatlantic record deal, along with completing his debut album, Departure, Taio explains that it has been a busy few years, but he’s remaining cool under pressure. ‘I always try and remain very calm. I do what I do, and I don’t ever try to complicate it. As an individual I push myself to achieve, but I never allow myself to feel pressured. As Kanye West says, ‘When you try hard, you die hard’. Me personally, I do me, I don’t overcomplicate things.’
It’s this laid back persona that is reflected in Taio’s debut album Departure. With a balance of smooth tracks and upbeat anthems, such as his new single, Come on Girl, the album can easily be described as classic, soulful; and notably, British. After spending a considerable time in the States recently, was this a deliberate effort to distinguish himself as ‘not another American reproduction?
‘Being born and raised in the UK I have a natural British sound which is apparent in my music. My music is reflective of my musical influences, which is very diverse. I listen to all types of music. A lot of what I took from the States was their expertise in producing a professional and polished sound to their music, that, and the quality in their production. What I find about America is that musically it’s a lot more segregated, for instance there are radio station that only play rnb and then a separate station for rock. I listen to everything from rnb to electro and I think that is reflected in my music.’
Continuing the conversation on his musical tastes and influences he states: ‘I feel I had a well-rounded upbringing. I went to public school but I also lived in North West London, Harlesden, in fact.’ We laugh at his attempt to accentuate the mention of Harlesden into ‘street talk’. ‘I wouldn’t say I have one sole inspiration; my musical taste has developed through age and lifestyle. When I was younger I grew up listening to a lot of classical music, and was introduced to chord structure and various instruments. As I grew older, going to school I listened to a lot of pop, the classics like Michael Jackson, Madonna, Kylie, and then heading into high school I got more into hip hop and rnb, artists like Boyz II Men and then later on Jay Z. At the moment I’m really into Kane, as well as I also like to listen to Coldplay. On a personal level, it’s not just music artists that inspire me. I’m inspired by people that work hard and achieve their goals whatever field that may be in, people like Steve Jobs [who is the co-founder, CEO and Chairman of Apple].’
Taio Cruz, shows all the signs of reaching his goals, with the release of both his debut album and new single, as well as performing at London’s Bush Hall, and supporting rnb legends Boyz II Men on their UK tour, I am sure this talented 23-year-old will have no problems taking it all in his stride.
Words by Sharleen Banton