CUTSStarting his work in the entertainment business aged just 10; Marques Houston has proved himself to be one of the industry’s hardest grafters. From the adorable ‘Batman’ in rnb teen group Immature/IMX, to playing Roger, the ever so slightly annoying neighbour in comedy series Sister Sister to becoming one of the most respected and relevant singers in the scene today, he just hasn’t stopped. During his recent trip to the UK he made time for a quick heart-to-heart about the highs and lows of the music biz, the qualities he finds most attractive in a lady and what to expect from his forthcoming album, Mr Houston, released later this year.

Welcome to London. How are you enjoying your stay in the big city?
It’s actually my fourth time here. I love London, the fashion is great and all the people look fantastic!

You first came into the spotlight as Batman in the group Immature when you were just 10 years old. How was it starting out in the industry at such a young age?
It was cool because I still got to be a kid and do whatever I wanted to do. I was never deprived of a childhood or anything like that. And I never put the industry before myself. My personal life always comes before the entertainment business because you can get so wrapped up in the business, and if that was all you had and it was to go away, you would get so depressed and start going crazy. If it all went away for me tomorrow and I never sold another album, I’m still good because I enjoy my life and I enjoy my friends and family and that’s what it’s all about.

Did you always want to be an entertainer up there on stage?
Yes definitely. I grew up watching ABC and Kriss Kross and they were the groups that inspired me when I was younger. I also wanted to become a basketball player before I started singing and I think that’s what I would be doing if I hadn’t become a singer and actor. I’m a little short, but I’m sure I still could have done it!

You embarked on your solo career in 2003 and since then you have recorded three albums, MH (2003) Naked (2005), and Veteran (2007). Which is your personal favourite?
I would say my first album is my favourite because it was the first time I got to do it all by myself.

How have you grown musically since your first album?
You grow all the time. You never stop growing musically. Music changes and you change with it. Even if you are not a trend follower, you still grow as an artist and your ear starts to change and you incorporate that into your own sound as you progress.

And what about on a personal level. How have you changed?
I have changed so much. I am about to be 28 this year and I have grown loads as a person and I have learned what the most important thing in my life is and what I need to put first.

What do you think is the biggest and hardest lesson you have learnt since starting?
People are different! When you are at the top of your game, they smile in your face and everyone acts all nice, but if you have a downfall, people are not going to be there for you. I got used to how people react quite differently really early on and I always kept hold of what I had learned. I was one of those kids that was smart and from a young age I noticed how people treated me like nothing when I was unknown, and as soon as the first single was released, they all wanted to get to know me.

What can we expect from your forthcoming album, Mr Houston?
That’s a hard question to answer, because I think it’s a great album and shows where I’m at now musically. It’s more of a slow jam album.

Oh, well if it’s slow jams, I’m going to love it! Who have you collaborated with on this album?
It’s just me and Jim Jones on that album and on the single, I Love Her.

Do you have a lady that you love?
(Smiles) Yes I do.

What are the physical and mental qualities you desire in a woman?
I like sexy lips and I like a woman who is smart. I don’t like women who can’t hold a conversation as I like to have intellectual conversations.

What advice can you give to new artists that you wish someone had given to you when you were starting out?
(Laughs) Don’t get into this business! Nah, on a serious level I would only advise doing it if you love it and your heart is into it because the music industry is changing rapidly and if you are not in it for the right reasons, it won’t be fun for you. Oh and watch out for crooked people as there are so many snakes in this industry.

Words by Lynnike Redway