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10-year journey: Craig David on reaching his lowest point and coming back big

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10-year journey: Craig David on reaching his lowest point and coming back big

In 2007, not many people were sure where Craig David – once one of Britain’s biggest pop stars – had gone. Then, last year, he put out a hit album, and now he’s following it up with another. Words: Matt Blake, photos: Tom Barnes.

The time is now. That’s the name of my new album, but it’s also my mantra. I’ve been through highs and lows in the past decade, but I see no point in dwelling. You have to enjoy the journey or what’s the point in going on it?

I used to wear a watch that had no hands or numbers, just the word “NOW”. I don’t rock it now, but it was a quirky reminder for me to slow down. You clock it and it’s a conversation piece.

There’s nothing more satisfying than when the creative process solidifies into a song that has the potential to be in people’s DNA. Better still if it has the potential to take me onstage, perform it and feel that energy from a crowd.

The Bo’ Selecta! thing was blown massively out of proportion. I never had beef with Leigh Francis. Reports that I wanted to punch him was all hype. It was like Spitting Image back in the day, and he wasn’t just popping at me.

There’s one thing that frustrated me about Bo’ Selecta!. It turned ‘Re-Rewind’ into, I don’t want to say a joke, but a guilty pleasure. That song changed lives and inspired artists. Yeah, maybe he took it a bit far but, you know what? That’s comedy.

10-year journey: Craig David on reaching his lowest point and coming back big 1

Craig David performing on The Jonathan Ross Show in September this year

My lowest point came in 2007 when I was unsigned, living in my penthouse at the Mondrian hotel in Miami. I was living the dream. I had the money, the car, the home. But something was missing. It was weird not being able to click my fingers and put out a record. I had a computer full of songs, some of which would’ve fit into the groove of what was happening. But I couldn’t.

That’s when I thought, “F*ck it, I’m going to throw a house party.” It started with me, an iTunes playlist and my mates. Then I got on the mic, called it ‘TS5’ after the lift button you press to get to my place, and it became one of Miami’s most exclusive pre-parties. Next thing I know, I was doing it at Ibiza Rocks and Brixton Academy for 5,000 people.

Then a junior at my management fed me some hard truths. He piped up in a meeting: “I feel weird telling you I’m a fan of your music because you talk a big game but you’re messing about. You’re saying you’re doing the songs, but you’re not.” It hurt my ego, but I realised he was right.

I faced a choice. Did I want to be a heritage act, living off the same songs, or did I want to get back out there and give it another go? I thought, “I’m not going to be that nostalgia guy.”

That’s why I called my 2016 album Following My Intuition. Because that’s what I did. I got a new deal with Insanity Records and the album went to number one in the UK – my first since Born To Do It 16 years earlier.

Last year, an 11-year-old girl came up to me, shaking. She said, “I’m your biggest fan. Can I take a picture?” It was a beautiful moment because it showed me that my new music was having the same impact as it did in 1999. I feel grateful and honoured that I have this opportunity to do it again. I’m ready for it now.

10-year journey: Craig David on reaching his lowest point and coming back big 2

Craig performing in Paris back in 2005

I never considered packing it all in. Music is my oxygen. It connects people. I want the music to do the talking now.

The best thing about fame is being able to inspire. If I can positively impact someone along the way, that’s a good day for me.

But there’s a lot of baggage with fame. I used to be too concerned about what people had to say. If you’re looking for life to play out like the story you’ve told yourself, you have to be ready for the story to change. Sometimes you have to accept it’s raining. You can’t think, “It should be sunny and things should be going how I planned.” Sometimes it rains and you have to ride it out. It doesn’t rain forever. Learn from it.

I’ve changed over the past 10 years. Mostly, I’ve slowed it down so I can take it all in. I don’t want to worry about what’s happening tomorrow, just today. That’s the thought that grounds me.

Happiness is being aware of what’s going on around you, not running, running, running. Otherwise you keep running away.

My favourite day of the week, now, is Monday. That’s when I’m in the studio. And Tuesday. I’m mixing tunes by Wednesday, and doing live shows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

I still like to chill on Sundays, though. That will never change.

Craig’s new single ‘Heartline’ is out now. His album The Time Is Now will be out in Jan ’18.