Craig David retains the ‘comeback king’ status by crossing the generational divide: ‘You have to lean into the unknown to stay relevant’

Craig David 'leans into the unknown' to stay relevant
Craig David recently performing his TS5 set (Picture: Joseph Okpako/WireImage)

Craig David is back with his seventh album, and he’s bringing back his 90s R&B vibe. But how does someone, who took a six year break from the music industry, manage to stay relevant?

Somehow, Craig definitely does.

There is no denying that his massive success over the last couple of years, with tracks such as When The Bassline Drops and Heartline, has definitely earned his status as comeback king after a break from the music industry. And it isn’t about to wane with this new record.

Craig David’s latest album The Time Is Now is proof he is the comeback king

When asked about his successful comeback Craig exclusively tells ‘I’m beyond humbled, grateful and flattered by everything.’

Despite the strong love from fans, Craig admits that it does feel different this time round: ‘Having a moment in this way feels so much bigger than when I released Born To Do It, I never expected to have two generations connecting together and to be in a moment where I feel like that 17-year-old kid all over again, full of passion, full of enthusiasm, but the wisdom to be grounded.’

Craig David 'leans into the unknown' to stay relevant
(Picture: Joseph Okpako/WireImage)

For Craig, it’s all about things coming full circle, and from his comeback experience he shared his important success factor: ‘The most important thing is to always lean into the unknown if you want to be relevant. It’s not just rehashing out what you did before, and I think that’s been one of the most important things for me.’

His new album The Time Is Now, his seventh in total, has left the singer ‘beyond excited’, and it’s the follow up fans have been waiting for.

Nostalgia has featured as a heavy influence and Craig was determined to capture the sound of an earlier generation: ‘It just feels like the R&B that you are now hearing is very reminiscent of what was happening during the late 90s, early 2000s.’

And he’s using this nostalgia to cross the generational divide: ‘If you do it in a way that is relevant to the young upcoming 15,16-year-old kid, what happens is that you have this new generation come on board, but also your fans from the first time are happy because you’re back doing the R&B bit, and you can straddle the line really well.’

Having been through it all in the business, Craig is now influencing the newer artists, particularly Yungen: ‘He told me that he remembered having his hair done the same way I did, like how it was in Slicker Than Your Average and he looked at the album cover and told me “bro, you have no idea about this tune”’.

Craig David 'leans into the unknown' to stay relevant
(Picture: Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)

On working with Bastille, Craig revealed the special relationship singer Dan had with his earlier smash hit Fill Me In: ‘I was on the Apple music festival with them, performing their song Fake It and little did I know that Fill Me In used to be his go-to song.’

Their collaboration was seen as ‘fate coming together’ as Craig was in the studio working with producer Fraser T Smith, who has recently worked with the likes of Stormzy, Dave and Kano, when he felt that Dan should be involved.

‘The first song we finished together was I Know You and it felt so in a lane where it didn’t feel too far removed from Bastille, it didn’t feel too far removed from me. It felt R&B, but it still had that chorus that was a bit more Bastille. And a drop that both of us looked at one another and we were like “ooh, that’s naughty you know” and he agreed.’

Craig David 'leans into the unknown' to stay relevant
(Picture: Dawbell)

Craig also worked with JP Cooper and explained that when it comes to choosing artists to collaborate with he has a formula: ‘I’ve been watching who have been slightly under the radar, or on the come up that I’ve been really excited about. It’s very easy to pick out names and just say I want to work with this person, or with that person. I feel like there needs to be some sort of organic thing that needs to happen.’

When selecting songs for a new album Craig follows a strict format of an A, B and C list, with songs usually starting in the B list and trickling into the A list spot. He’s selective about the music he puts out: ‘I only ever put an album out if it feels like the music is right. I won’t just rush it because of the time frame. So, then we got it down to 13, 14 songs for an album and the songs that didn’t even make it, not to gas them, but they are songs that other artists would release as singles all day, every day.’

Craig certainly does have a talent for spotting a hit and over the years he has developed an instinct: ‘I know when I’ve got a quote-un-quote hit when I cannot think of anything else but playing that song.

‘I’ve finished the song in the studio and I’m calling up the producer like a fanboy and saying “this tune is amazing, please don’t change that little bit of vocal” when I’m just really protective of the song, and that’s what I had when I had Rewind and what I had when I did Fill Me In I was really protective.’

Craig David 'leans into the unknown' to stay relevant
(Picture: Harry Herd/Redferns)

Ultimately for Craig the album is just about the music, not about the position where it charts or the commercial success and he has promised fans ‘if you want the feel good 90s, 2000s records, but in a way that is packaged differently then this is the one.’

Craig’s new album The Time Is Now is available from Friday 26 January.

Details of his TS5 set in Ibiza can be found here and tickets for SW4 Clapham Common can be found here.

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