As a child, Craig David was already a big Michael Jackson fan and then he broadened his musical horizons and discovered artists that would influence his musical direction and taste for the rest of his life. Artists including Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Al Green captivated the young Mr. David and now, almost 20 years later, he’s paying homage to them on his new album, ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’. “I think that I have taken a different approach to making this record,” Craig explains. “For me it is an album of songs that I have wanted to put together, that had an impact on me growing up as a kid. Influencing me both consciously and unconsciously. I felt like this album was not as much about new material but about me having the challenge to vocally step up to perform these iconic songs.” Despite his passion and enthusiasm for the Motown sound, David was concerned – even anxious – about the project. “I could easily crash and burn on this album, songs like ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’, like ‘Mercy Mercy Me’, like ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’. These songs have a place in musical history and are performed by iconic artists so the pressure is on me to step up and do it properly… I thrived on this challenge.”
It’s obvious that Craig’s relishing this new focus and direction, along with the freedom of the new contract that he signed with Universal Records. “Universal showed a lot of interest in me and my talent as an artist. I had the opportunity of staying with Warner or going for a new deal with Universal. It sounded a bit too good to be true because Universal is by far the biggest label in the world right now. While not having a record of new material, and for them to sign me on the basis of my talent, I felt that I could make the record that I wanted to make.”
To cover a few songs on an album is already a big ask as people will instantly compare it to the original. But to create an album full of covers, that’s quite dangerous. “As a songwriter I can respect what it is like when someone covers your songs. I think that it makes sense to bring something new to the table by adding your own style while also respecting the original. With Stevie Wonder’s ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’, it is a song that technically you try and sing but it’s not a technical song, so it is more about the performance. You can only capture that if you approach it in the same way that he recorded it back in the day.” With modern recording techniques it is possible to create an almost perfect vocal track while not being an accomplished singer, and Craig was keen to avoid over-producing the tracks. “We did use Pro Tools but without the plug-ins and effects, keeping the process as basic as possible. When you are singing a track from start to finish, you get those points when you capture your breath which has knock-on effects with the next notes.”
With a new sound and technique in the studio comes the challenge of delivering a live show that’s equally as engaging. Something that Craig’s looking forward to. “I have the eight-piece band that I always had and we are thinking of stripping that back for some of the shows. It has been 10 years since Fill Me In, so with my repertoire of past hits plus these new classic songs, it is going to really make it a show for someone to see who hasn’t seen or heard it before. Or someone who has and give them something a bit different that they wouldn’t expect from my usual shows.” It’s not all about the heady decade of the Seventies, though, and Craig enjoys getting fired up for live shows with something a little more contemporary. “Notorious B.I.G and Faith Evans’ remix of ‘One More Chance’ is the best song to get me going and my favourite song to play when I DJ.” Is there a chance the Craig will be showing off his talents on the wheels of steel anytime soon? “I still DJ and have my 1210s here, but I don’t play as much. I think that I do it when people are least expecting it. If there is a house party then I would rock up and play with some vinyl. It is one of those things that if I wasn’t singing then I would be a DJ. There’s something fascinating about watching a DJ who loves what he’s doing.”
As Craig’s musical influences are highlighted throughout the new album, it’s easy to see this most recent project as the soundtrack to his life. He agrees and when asked to pick out a particularly significant track, thinks quietly. “To be honest, a song by Curt Stigers, ‘I Wonder Why’, which is on the record. It was a song that when I heard it, it struck a chord with me. I wanted to write classic songs with a structure where every part had a meaning and a reason for being there. Some songs have a section that you want to skip to get to the better parts, this one just has it all and that is why this song is on the record.”
Craig’s top tips for 2010? “The door was open back in the old garage days, even with acts like the Artful Dodger, and this has set a foundation for acts like Tinchy Stryder, Chipmunk, Tinie Tempah and Dizzy Rascal. They can be deemed as credible artists and also have commercial success and I am excited about the movement, they just need to keep it at a consistent level.” The thorny issue of commercially successful versus so-called credible’ artists prompts a question from OggieMusic, a Nokia Music follower on Twitter: Does Craig feel that the UK music industry hasn’t supported him fully, for example, by not awarding him a Brit award despite creating an album that sold over 11 million copies?
“I have never really been about the industry for me. It has always been about the music and making an impact, which is why I used to DJ. People who want to come and see you will do, and that’s why I do it.”
Craig Davids new single “One More Lie (Standing In The Shadows)” is in stores on with the album signed Sealed Delivered released on the 29th March.