Good Vibes Only: Craig David In Conversation

Garage survivor chats smash hits, tantric connections, and embracing the moment…

Craig David’s favourite word is ‘appreciate’. He deploys it like a dozen times during our half-hour chat. He appreciates his lengthy showbiz career – 22 years and counting, hence the title of his forthcoming eighth LP. He appreciates the very respectable roster of collaborators he’s rustled up this time around, including Wretch 32 and nu-school smoothie Nippa. Craig David even, apparently, appreciates a cringey story I tell him about my old band covering his slick 2000 hit ‘Fill Me In’. 

“People tell me anecdotes like that all the time,” he says, looking very tidy for 41 it must be said. “The memories made, time stamps in people’s lives. How those tunes transport people back to a certain place and era, to who they were, what they were doing. That means it landed. And I really appreciate that.”

Lucky old me, I got to fanboy out with the Born To Do It ledge for a bit. Here’s what went down…

Hey Craig David, how’s life?

Wicked, thanks. Relaxing today after playing back-to-back shows at Forbidden Forest festival and Little Hadham in Hertfordshire. Both gigs had really great energy. We were catching vibes.

You’re all about catching vibes eh, what’s the secret?

Everybody is constantly reading each others’ vibes. Right now we’re in a dialogue. I’m not letting the things you say go in one ear and out the other. It’s about being present in the moment, not worrying about what comes after. Us getting a feel for each other. Are the words we’re saying congruent? Do they land? The secret is being present in the moment. Not worrying about what comes after this. I see you smiling.

I’ve got freaking vibes for days, Craig David. 

That’s what I’m saying my man, I feel you. 

Your new album’s really good, well done. 

Thanks. There were several late sessions in the studio, where I’d drive home after listening to what we’d done at maybe four, five o’clock in the morning. When the streets are quiet, with my new stuff blasting in the car. I thought to myself, if people get the same feeling I’m getting from this, then we’ve done something special here. 

‘Gold’ is a gorgeous track, what’s the story there?

I wrote that song with Carmen Reece, and Mike Brainchild. We’ve got a great rapport in the studio. It’s about relationships and sex, but not in a blunt or straightforward way.

There’s enough songs about that already. So we decided to talk about tantra. The ways in which sex isn’t always about the physical. You can have a lot of energetic communication between two people. When sex is more of a ritual than an act of passion. You get to the same place, maybe, but without necessarily ‘going there’. I love that. 

Good Vibes Only: Craig David In Conversation

Crikey. Your new tune with Wretch 32 is pretty legit too. 

I’ve got so much time for Wretch. Not only his freestyles – I think his Fire In The Booth is still among the best – but he’s also a very talented melodic songwriter. He can sing. That’s a side I didn’t know. When I write, instead of being rigid, I like to ask whoever is in the session about what’s on their minds. An open brainstorming discussion. On that day Wretch came in as this bundle of joy and energy. It was infectious. That’s where ‘What More Can I Ask For’, the song, came from. The vibe definitely wasn’t Wretch popping in, doing 16 bars and dipping straight after. We made this whole song about not needing more. About the grass not being greener. About appreciating what we have in front of us. It’s such an honour to have him on my record. 

Dawww, you guys. The album opens with a very ‘oldschool’ Craig David ‘yeah yeah, yeh yeh’. A conscious acknowledgement of your career-defining early hits?

That came about very naturally. We had a song – ‘Teardrops’ – that was just keys and guitar at that point. There was space at the top end, so I went into the booth and naturally laid down this Rewind-ish kind of feel, because that is my go-to, and my producer was just like, bro, I think we need to go with that.

Your early material is rock solid, no sense shying away from that is there. My old band used to cover ‘Fill Me In’, y’know. 

Stuff like that give me a whole different take on what this music thing is all about. For so long I was obsessed with chart positions. Thinking it was all about getting to this random point. But no, it’s the stories people share that actually mean something. For me as well. When I wrote ‘Fill Me In’ I was 16, 17 years old. The stuff about creeping around parents, trying to keep it low-key, that was real. Alright, I was looking at a regular bathtub thinking ‘let’s make that a jacuzzi’. And there wasn’t a ‘four-by-four’ because I hadn’t passed my test yet. But that poignancy serves me well, because now I sing it from an older perspective. So people can reminisce. But the younger crowd get it too. There’s definitely kids out there who, for instance, shouldn’t be at this for that festival I’m playing. But they are, in spite of the fact they’ve been told no. 

Romeo and Juliet for the 2-step era. Anyhoo, you made it big before social media – ever feel like you dodged a bullet there?

The beauty of social media is I now have a direct, close connection with everybody who listens to my music. It’s great for collaborating with artists, too. But the best thing is if somebody says they came to my show, with their kid who’s now 16, and she’s a huge fan, I can actually write back. There’s a relationship there. That said, the way I came up was by actually going out and doing shows, at the local community centre, lugging boxes of DJ equipment and breaking my back for a little 15 minute set. It wasn’t as easy as just getting your phone out. It made me more resilient, too, I learned more. So if ever the technology goes wrong, or the needle skips or whatever, I’m experienced enough to freestyle and keep things moving. 

You moved back to England from Miami, why?

I didn’t like the segregation of the red rope, the smoke and mirrors thing of people in the VIP areas of clubs, supposedly having a good time while other people on the other side presumably aren’t. For a period I opened up my home – apartment TS5 – as a party venue, where everybody had the same food and drinks, everybody could get a shout-out on the mic. That felt great, very empowering. Then I had a phase in 2016 of creating music back in the UK, doing that viral moment in the studio with MistaJam at OneXtra and Big Narstie. Plus ‘Ain’t Giving Up’ with Sigala. There was a wave, and a number one album in ‘Following My Intuition’. So at some point I actually decided to follow my intuition, and I moved back home. 

You seem happy.

I am. I consider myself a journeyman. I’m still learning. But so long as I can leave a lasting impression with people, an impression that feels uplifting, it’s all I want to do. 

Thanks for the moment of zen, Craig David. 

I appreciate your time, really nice vibes. 

Craig David will release new album ’22’ on September 30th.

Words: Andy Hill

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