With over 50 million singles sold and over five billion streams on YouTube, the 29-year-old Miami-based artist amassed a huge fan base over the last decade since his debut single “Whatcha Say.” His most popular songs include “Wiggle” (featuring Snoop Dogg), “In My Head” and “Swalla,” whilst his most recent track, “Goodbye,” was a collaboration with David Guetta and features the vocals of Nicki Minaj and Willy William.
When Derulo is not recording music or touring, he’s a savvy investor in many enterprises, including clothing line LVL XIII (pronounced Level Thirteen); Catch LA restaurant; and Rumble Boxing, along with Sylvester Stallone and Ashton Kutcher. He also has his own record label in partnership with Warner Brothers Records and a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell Music.
As a first-generation Haitian American, perhaps the project closest to his heart is his Just For You Foundation, which raises funds to promote health and education, and to provide shelter and food to orphans, families and the homeless in Haiti and beyond. Derulo recently sat down with Cayman Airways Skies to talk about his music and passions — and even shared the qualities he looks for in a woman (including some sage advice for our female readers).
Are you looking forward to visiting Cayman and performing KAABOO?
I jumped on the opportunity to perform at KAABOO, because, you know, it’s paradise. The fact that I get to go to paradise is incredible. I’m excited to finally experience it.
You have a diverse musical range — dance-pop, R&B and hip-hop — but there’s also a strong Caribbean influence, too. How would you define yourself musically?
For me it’s important to stay true to myself. For one, music is an extension of who I am, so whatever vibe I’m in, I try to go with it. I never try to go off someone else’s vibe. The Caribbean vibe — I’m from Miami; I’m Haitian. That Caribbean feel comes super-naturally to me. In terms of my music being diverse, it comes from me being a fan of music and believing in the spirit of music. When I was a kid, I studied all types of music; and it’s way more exciting when songs don’t sound alike. It’s a pet peeve of mine when the songs on albums all sound the same.
Who were your musical influences whilst growing up? Who influences you now?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be Michael Jackson. I started singing and dancing because of him. As an adult, I aspire to be the best version of myself.
You wrote your first song at the tender age of 8. Do you remember what inspired you?
I had a crush on a girl in my class and wanted to give her something but didn’t have any money. So I said, “I’ll write her a song,” and then I sat down and wrote her a song — and that’s where the journey began.
You launched your career first as a songwriter for big artists like rappers Diddy and Pitbull and later as a solo performer. Do you find that writing your own tracks makes you a better performer?
When you’re a songwriter, you write and speak for anybody’s voice. That definitely helped and strengthened the writing muscle. You’re not subject to the next person writing your song, and you don’t have to wait around for the right song — it does make things a little simpler for myself.
Your lyrics range from playful to raunchy to dramatic ballads. Is there a fair amount of “art imitating life” in your songs?
For sure. Certain songs are strictly for fun, like “Swalla.” And then there are more serious songs, like “Marry Me,” “The Other Side” and “It Girl.” It really depends on my mood at that particular time. My next album is called 2 Sides and shows my wild side and my more emotional side. Music for me is an extension of who I am. I’m not a serious person at all times. I have those moments when I want to let loose and have a good time. And then there’s moments when I have issues in a relationship, or when I’ve fallen in love with somebody. We all have that.
What was it like working with David Guetta, Nicki Minaj and Willy William on “Goodbye”?
I worked with Nicki on “Swalla,” and David and I have been meaning to work together for a long time — and then the perfect opportunity came along to record the song. I thought Nicki would be the perfect female to feature because she can both sing and rap on the song, which is what it calls for. The chorus is a little more singsongy, and I wanted a more duet vibe for it, whilst the verses are a little dirtier. Then there’s Willy. He’s actually from France but sings his part in Spanish.
How do you maintain focus and stamina when on tour whilst also juggling your other business interests?
It’s really hard. You have to prioritise your time and be able to marginalise it as well. There’s a lot going on all the time, from the time I wake up in the morning to the time I go to sleep… in the morning. I also have a strong team who helps maintain what’s going on. You’re only as strong as the people are around you. They are incredible.
I work out every day. I do 200 to 300 push-ups [press-ups] after every show. I don’t want to be stiff before the show, so I go to the gym about four hours before, and right before the show we all warm up by doing about 15 minutes of calisthenics to build up a sweat. So when we get on stage, we’re ready to perform.
Tell me more about your Just For You Foundation and its mission for the people of Haiti.
Haiti is a country that has had a lot of tough luck, but it also has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and amazing people and sites. I believe the press always talks about the negativity and paints the country in the wrong light. I think it does it a disservice rather than helping the situation. There’s so much positivity about the country, and it’s one of my missions to show the world. We raised US$600,000 at my first gala, Heart of Haiti, which is a great starting point; and it’s mostly going to help with education there, which is another mission.
You went to performing arts schools as a kid. You sing and dance. Would you like to do some acting in the future?
I have actually written a couple of scripts, so yeah, there’s something on the horizon. It’s next on the list.
Lastly, for all your single female fans, how would you describe your ideal woman?
My ideal woman is someone who’s ambitious, who wants something or is chasing something of her own, and who is confident with herself. We all have moments of self-doubt, but as a holistic picture, you should love yourself and know your worth. And besides that, somebody I can connect to and converse with.
Author: Lisa Boushy