“Six nominations, no Brits for CD,” sang Craig David at the 2001 Brit Awards. It's a moment that sums up the rollercoaster ride of the Southampton-born, now Miami-based singer's career. A teen garage MC who found himself elevated to pop stardom thanks to the massive popularity of tracks such as 'Re-Rewind', 'Fill Me In' and '7 Days', his debut album 'Born To Do It' sold eight million copies.
Despite achieving 11 Top 10 hits, however, his profile faded away gradually, some linking this to the caricature of him portrayed on the TV show Bo Selecta!, while a 2010 documentary showed him gym-toned and living in a Miami hotel like a buff Alan Partridge.
Craig now has a weekly Sunday night show on Capital XTRA, a spin-off of the pre-party he hosts in Miami. His TS5 tour, a combination of him DJing, MCing and singing, has just returned from Australia, and he hits London's Oslo on July 16th for a sold out show. There's even an Ibiza residency in the works, and he's been busy in the studio too, working with the likes of Diplo, Kaytranada, Clean Bandit, GotSome, Jake from Blonde, newcomer White N3rd (who supports David at Oslo) and more.
Your tour is called TS5, which was your apartment in Miami. Are you still living in the hotel?
“Yes, the whole vibe came from early 2012 when I started putting on a really intimate pre-party. I'm talking ten friends coming over and playing music through the house system. There was an iTunes playlist, then everyone got involved wanting to play their own stuff. So I was like, let me take this back, get some decks, a Pioneer CDJ set-up over by the piano I've got in my lounge. So they were like, if you want to be Mr DJ then you have to grab the mic, because that's what you do. It's gone from ten friends to 100 or 150 people can end up coming through my house.
“Then I put an hour of the show on SoundCloud, which led to Kiss picking it up, and they were broadcasting an hour of the show every week. Now it's on Capital XTRA doing the same thing every Sunday. So it naturally evolved. Everyone was saying, I'm coming over to the TS5 party, hence the name.”
Is TS5 you Re-Rewinding back to your roots as a DJ?
“When I started off I was MCing for another DJ in Southampton, and he was ten years older than me. We were doing all the big clubs on the South Coast. I learnt so much. It was the days of vinyl still, so we were still on the 1210s doing our stuff. He'd give me maybe a ten, fifteen minute DJ set, which was normally when he was trying to chat up some girl. So I'd be like, I definitely think that girl is into you over there, I think she's checking you out. I'd keep trying to get these little moments.
“I can DJ, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to mix two tracks together, that's why there are so many DJs coming out of the box who can mix. But even the biggest EDM DJs, as great as they are — David Guetta, Calvin Harris, Tiesto, they're amazing doing what they do — when it comes to getting on the mic, it's always a very brief moment. It's a thank you to the crowd, or 'Come on, let me see your fucking hands in the air', then the mic goes back down again. I felt like I can bridge that gap. I can mix some songs, I can drop some of my own stuff but also I can grab the mic and freestyle over someone else's track.”
Does it feel like, after walking away, the UK is ready for Craig David again?
“It feels like a full cycle has come around. Preditah sampling 'Rewind', there was a girl called Pia Mia with Austin Mahone who did a cover of 'Fill Me In'. Even listening to Disclosure, Clean Bandit, Blonde, Rudimental, Gorgon City, a lot of the stuff that's coming out of the UK and crossing over into the States, if you listen to the bare, raw elements of it, it's very '90s dance music but freshened up — new kick, new snare. It's kind of that 'Ride On Time', Black Box — female vocalist. When you hear Jess Glynne doing her thing I'm like, ‘Oh man, this is amazing’. This was lost for a while, this very soulful vocal but with beats that are very current and contemporary.
“Also, the climate now of seeing so much R&B from the '90s and 2000s getting remixed, it's kind of the same thing that was happening with garage in the '90s. It was all sampling music from a couple of years before that. And the jungle scene was sampling all the dancehall that was going on from the '80s and '90s. It's a beautiful time for me because it feels like I'm just in my lane. I'm not trying to jump on the EDM thing. Call it garage, call it R&B, it's really having its moment. I'm excited about where it's at.”
Does it feel like your music has outlived Bo' Selecta?
“I think at the time when the show was at its peak, there was mixed messages as to how I really felt. To be absolutely honest, I thought it was actually quite funny. I remember growing up watching Spitting Image, which was pretty much the same thing. Instead of it being Prince Charles and whoever else they were covering back in the day, now it was me, Mel B, David Beckham, Michael Jackson, it wasn't like I wasn't among some quite big artists and celebrities.
“What happened is that the whole PR machine kicks in. On the one hand you have PR saying, you need to embrace it so have Leigh Francis come on the show, which I was doing at the Royal Albert Hall. Then the PR side were like, ‘We don't think we've really nipped it in the bud, now you need to come across that you're really angry and it's really affecting you’.
“I wasn't going with what my intuition was, which was that I really wasn't that bothered. The way it was handled it didn't really feel like I was controlling the ship, I was just holding on for dear life. Also, success is kind of loaded with failure. It's necessary to have moments in your career when it's not rolling perfectly.
“Having had that, it allowed me a moment of reflection. What am I doing this for, am I truly happy and where am I going? It was important to have that because now I'm doing things from a real intuitive place and I've truly fallen back in love with music.”
Have you kept up 'eat clean train dirty' on the road or are you just eating burgers in airports?
“To be honest, I'm really on it. That philosophy is as set in me as getting up and brushing my teeth. I get up in the morning, get my shit together and go out and train. My drinking is so limited. When you get a second chance and there's a buzz around what you're doing, you put down all the vices and the BS and you grab it with both hands.
“My problem was I took it to such an extreme after being an overweight kid back in the day. You kind of have this psychological thing of wanting to go to the other extreme. So I got super ripped, down to lower than 5% body fat. But I got very gaunt, which makes you look very old in the face. Now I'm in a really nice place where I enjoy working out, I eat pretty clean, but if I want a cheap meal I'll have it, and I'll balance it. It's a metaphor for everything in life, if you can just balance it you'll be cool. It's when you go way too far in one extreme, the other side has to come back at some point.”
Do you still chill on Sundays?
“I probably chill on Saturday's as well now. When you're 17 out the box, you can do with one day. Now I'll take a Saturday and a Sunday.”