“When people hear Seven Days, Rewind or Walking Away they are thrown back to being a teenager. To be in a position to play to people who were there the first time round as well as the younger ones, it’s incredible. I’m very grateful.”
I’m talking to garage star Craig David who performed to 34,000 people over two nights at the O2 in Greenwich, London, as part of his UK tour, coming to the SSE Arena in Wembley on Sunday, April 9.
He found fame back in 1999 after featuring on Re-Rewind by Artful Dodger. Since then he has sold 14 million records around the world with 20 UK Top 40 singles.
Despite huge initial success, after less than ten years in the limelight his single Officially Yours (2008) reached a meagre 158 in the UK charts. A few months later the release of his Greatest Hits album gave the impression he was tapping out of the industry.
There was much speculation as to why he faded out of the limelight. Many will place blame on his rubber masked caricature performed by Leigh Francis on the British comedy show Bo’ Selecta!.
He was the most commonly mocked character and in 2007 Craig told Digital Spy: “It stopped people taking me seriously.”
Fast forward another ten years and his sixth studio album, Following My Intuition, released September 2016, went straight to number one in the UK Album Charts. It was his second to reach the top spot since Born To Do It at the turn of the millennium.
He was just 16 when his career kicked off, now 35-years-old I asked him what he thinks went wrong.
“Do you know what, I’d been writing songs and performing from so young. I had so much energy and just wanted to go, go, go. Even with the magnitude of going from club shows at places like KoKo, which at the time was called Camden Palace, the next thing I was in arenas and I wanted to keep going. It was all about the next tune.
“It was so constant that creatively I got to a point where I was wasn’t sure what I was writing about. I didn’t want to write about being on planes and travelling to places. I felt like I need to live life.
“I had bought a place in Miami along the way and ended up spending more time there and just enjoying it. The silver lining out there was when I started to get past the sun and the beautiful lifestyle, there was the club scene.
“For me the elitist VIP thing of supposedly being more special than those outside, I hated that. So I started throwing these house parties in TS5, which was my apartment. Little did I know, that would be the key element in my performances now.”
Craig’s current album tour show offers the best of both sides to his music. He opens with a full band, singing all your old favourites as well as the new ones. Then the band leaves, the decks come out and he does a TS5 DJ set. Despite affably telling me he was “an open book” at the start, I was somewhat terrified at the possibility of offending someone whose music makes up the soundtrack of my youth and so I tentatively asked whether he would call it a comeback.
“I’m cool with it” he replies, casually. “People don’t see you for ages and they don’t know what you’re up to, so it’s a comeback. That’s cool, I always know that I was never gone anywhere. I was living life and doing it, now I’m back on the radar in this way. I don’t take that for granted, I’m very grateful.
“Last year I did a lot of festivals with TS5 and the crowds seemed to be a lot younger and then I’ve seen now that at the shows there’s such a cross section of teenagers, older brothers and sisters and mum and dad as well. Everyone is getting off to the same tunes, it’s amazing.
“I had so many songs on my laptop that had no outlet because I wasn’t signed and I didn’t have a way to put it out there like I wanted to. I just kept my head down and kept writing songs and then all of a sudden the opportunity came and I was so ready for it.”
So what is it that has made him so appealing once again? There’s nostalgia for some, his place in the history of garage for those interested in the return of both that and grime, and then there’s his melodic lyrics for the R&B fans - but why does he think brought him back into the charts?
“Its little things happening along the way. I remember how it was the first time round, things tend to go to the right places when you don’t overthink it. Life doesn’t always go like A, B, C. You’ve got to be adaptable.
“I had a viral song from the 1Xtra Live Studio with MistaJam and Kurupt FM; then meeting Big Narstie and working with him. Next thing I do a Live Lounge of Justin Beiber’s Love Yourself and that goes viral, I was seeing Diplo and Justin Beiber hitting me up, and Skrillex as well. I couldn’t have written that.
“Also people I was working with at that time were quite unknown, like Blonde and Sigala. Six to eight months later those people were having huge hits. I always know that if I’ve got lyrics that draw you in, I could work with any producer that is current and fresh for a 2017 sound.”
With my time with Craig running out I couldn’t resist asking what he does when he chills on Sundays. “That old chestnut,” he says, with a slightly forced laugh. I could tell he was disappointed with my question.
His answer was a little disappointing too: “I love to hit the gym on a relaxed one, also it’ll be a cheat meal on that day so I’ll really enjoy it, and then a movie. Recently I watched Passengers and I really liked it. After kicking back and watching a movie its getting ready for the next day.”