Jason Derulo gets giddy with excitement when discussing his feeling as artist with a hit debut single like Whatcha Say.
Not because of the fame that tags along with it’s no. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, or 750,000 sold copies, or invitation to join Lady Gaga on her Monster Ball Tour, but the anticipation, knowing that he hasn’t even tapped into his potential as an artist yet.
“I’m just beginning man,” Derulo tells andPOP from Los Angeles. “It’s definitely an interesting feeling. It’s almost as if I feel like people have no idea of what I can offer as an artist, the impact that I can have.”
The Miami-born’s initiation into the music industry is looking promising thanks to Whatcha Say- a watered-down upbeat version of Imogen Heap’s Hide and Seek- which has been on the chart for nine weeks now since it’s original no. 54 spot on August 29.
With a sense of humor, the 20-year-old jokes about how he should celebrate the single’s climb to the top of the chart. He mentions possibly mimicking Will Ferrell’s character in Old School and going streaking through a quad to the gymnasium “maybe butt naked for a mile,” he says.
But then again in all seriousness, the artist doesn’t feel like celebrating as if a one-hit wonder. He’s aware of all the eyes looking towards his Sophomore single and debut album, and to be honest, he’s eagerly looking towards them too- without hesitation.
“I am so excited,” he says with enthusiasm. His response is so convincing even from three time-zones away.
“The first single was just an appetizer to the main course. That’s the only way I can put it.”
Derulo says he’s had that passion and swagger since he wrote his first song at eight-years-old- as a kid who would admire musical greats like Michael Jackson and Madonna, and always have a knack to pen lyrics.
Eventually at 16, his portfolio would read writing tracks for industry big-hitters like Lil’ Wayne, Pitbull and Birdman- an experience that Derulo describes as “both incredible and nerve-racking.”
“It was a bit intimidating in the beginning,” recalls Derulo, “seeing these guys in person, the guys who you see on TV growing up. But once we started creating and writing the music, it was a blast.”
Chuckles the artist, “and that kind of cred didn’t hurt while picking up the ladies in school.”
But Derulo has realized that his imagination and creativity is unlimited when focusing on his own written work- when he’s not adjusting to the restrictions of another artist’s song.
“When it’s just me, the sky’s the limit,” he says. “I can experiment, try and break barriers, and try and do off-the-wall different things.
“But I remember when I was writing for someone else, you can’t try and do anything different in that situation. I always had to gear it towards that person, and make their voice come out.”
At that point though, what Derulo really wanted was to have his voice come out, and get a chance to display his ability as a solo performer. But the songwriter decided to further polish his raw talent through formal musical schooling at the New York American Musical and Dramatic Academy, where he studied everything from opera and theatre, to ballet and musical genres.
He remembers the long nights memorizing and learning songs at the piano by heart, the perfect standards he had to meet while singing in musical theatre, and also the endurance he learned while working on his dance skills.
But among many hardworking memories, Derulo vividly recalls what he learned about Shakespeare as a writer, and how it helped define himself as a songwriter.
“I remember that in Shakespeare,” says Derulo, “every word is strategically placed to make sure it has a purpose. From that I’ve learned to stay away from having any filler lines in my work.
“All of my formal training helped tremendously.”
As a bona-fide vessel of talent, Derulo’s discovery would come immediately after mega music producer J.R. Rotem (Britney Spears and Sean Kingston) flew him to Los Angeles to -originally- write music. However when Derulo decided to sing to his own lyrics that he created while in the studio, Rotem realized that the kid could write and sing, and decided to rush him into a sound-booth the same day so the two of them could begin working together.
“We recorded six songs in about three hours,” recalls Derulo. “That’s how amazing our energy levels were. We were at the exact same pace.”
Derulo compares the chemistry between him and Rotem to guys like Jackson and Quincy Jones. That connection got Derulo signed to Beluga Heights and Warner Bros. Records in 2009, a deal that had Derulo focusing on his debut self-titled album- due out in March 2010.
“J.R. has great Pop sensibility,” says Derulo, who admires Rotem’s ability to view the industry as both a musician and a fan.
“As musicians we tend to get caught up with our work and our style or craft, but he’s also able to take the point of view as a fan, and hear the song from that perspective.”
According to the artist, the best part of the deal is the leniency he was given to write all of his songs. While some musicians would cringe at the thought of writing and recording over 300 tracks in eight months, Derulo just humbly laughs at the prospect.
“Difficult?” he asks chuckling. “I had the time of my life. I had my own studio, so it was amazing that I could be inside the entire day for hours working on my craft.
“What more could I ask for. I was able to come in and do what I love every single day. And I put my heart and soul into it.”
Yet the songwriter admits to finding some difficulty, ironically while trying to narrow down all those prospects to a CD selection. But he overcame the obstacle apparently in confidant fashion, assuring fans that he chose the best set of tracks possible for a record that boasts strong Pop roots.
“As a songwriter,” says Derulo, “you may have certain connections to certain songs for different reasons. But you have to put that aside, you can’t choose a song because it was sentimental to you.
“But I think we chose an amazing selection, and there’s a lot of quality stuff on it that’s going to show my versatility and potential as an artist. I can’t wait.”