Seven years ago Shahid Khan was delivering pizzas and dreaming of forging a career in music. Things looked bleak. He’d dropped out of Guildhall University and was back living in Watford with his parents.
Fast forward to 2013 and it’s a very different story.
When it comes to music production, Shahid’s one of the hottest properties in the business.
He’s signed to Virgin Records, he’s got two Ivor Novello awards under his belt, was behind Emeli Sande’s phenomenal chart-topping album Our Version of Events, and has worked with the likes of Cheryl Cole, Leona Lewis and Rihanna.
It’s a massive turnaround for the 27-year-old, who goes by the name Naughty Boy, and used to make music in his parents’ shed.
His fortunes began to change after he applied for and secured a £5,000 grant from The Prince’s Trust in 2006. Around the same time, he bagged himself a place on Channel 4’s Deal or No Deal, appearing on 26 shows and collecting a prize of £44,000. Using this cash, he bought the studio equipment that would set him on the road to stardom.
And although musicians on both sides of the pond are clamouring to work with him, Naughty Boy has just reached Number 1 in the mid-week charts with his single La La La featuring Sam Smith.
The track, from his forthcoming album Hotel Cabana, reached the top spot the day after it was released.
“It’s mental, the whole thing is crazy“, laughs Shahid. “I won the Ivor Novello awards on the weekend and I couldn’t believe it, and now my song has gone to Number 1, it’s nuts, I mean, it’s beaten Daft Punk and that song is amazing. This is the best week of my life.
“I’ve worked with some brilliant artists and it’s weird to think that all the focus is on me now, that so many people want to speak to and interview me.
“Emeli has had mad success, I want people to know who I am worldwide, that’s the plan, but I’m still a producer and hopefully, because of that, that’ll mean I’ll be able to get away with more,” says Shahid, who went to Westfield Community Technology College
in Tolpits Lane.
Hotel Cabana, set for release in September, has been three years in the making and features a host of musicians including Ed Sheeran, Tinie Tempah, Professor Green, Wiz Khalifa and Emeli Sandé.
The first single off the album, Wonder, by Naughty Boy and Emeli Sandé, acted as a blueprint for the album,
“It’s a very diverse, musically organic album,“ says Naughty Boy, excitement rising in his voice. “There’s a lot of dance-future music that’s going on now.
“Without trying to sound cheesy, I’m hoping it’s an album that’s going to change something.
“As it’s a producer’s album, it’s got a concept. The idea is that the album is like a hotel, and just like guests coming to stay, musicians appear on the album.
“Each song does stand alone, but all together, the album tells a story, it’s one guy’s journey, a bit like the song Hotel California, it’s a twisted journey. You can visit, but you can never leave, you can listen to the album, but you won’t be able to stop.
“I wanted to entertain people, and the best way to do that sometimes is with a concept.“
Whereas the majority of musicians and artists would perform their first gig in a backstreet boozer, Naughty Boy’s debut performance will be at Wembley Arena in June.
But it’s not really that surprising, given Naughty Boy’s meteoric rise, it’s evident he doesn’t do things by halves.
Although he’s busy promoting his own music, he’s just finished working with Lily Allen and X Factor winner James Arthur, and in the coming months he’ll be heading to America to shoot his next music video, as well as working with Britney Spears on some new material.
Nonetheless, Naughty Boy says he’s staying true to his Watford roots.
“I’m still a local boy, I’m still living with my mum and dad in Charlock Way,“ he says. “I don’t want to leave them just yet.
“Dad’s retired from working as a taxi driver and I like being in a position where I’m able to take care of them. I don’t record music in their shed anymore, I’m working in studios in Ealing.
“As for what’s next, well, I wouldn’t mind being Watford’s most famous resident. It’s not going to be easy, but there is room somewhere in between Elton John
and Geri Halliwell
lNaughty Boy’s La La La featuring Sam Smith is on sale now. Details: www.hotel-cabana.com