Nobody can deny that with his global chart-topping dance pop smash Break Your Heart, the invigorating new single Dynamite and a hot selling album with Rokstarr, Taio Cruz is enjoying a breakout year.
But the London, U.K.,-based Cruz — born Adetayo Ayowale Onile-Ere — comes by much of his production pedigree from America. In his early 20s, he apprenticed with producers Chris “Tricky” Stewart (Rihanna, Beyoncé, Britney) and Rich Harrison (Beyoncé, Alicia Keys) in Atlanta.
“I’m an information sponge — I like to learn from people who know a lot more than I do, and then try to apply it to what it is that I do,” Cruz told Metro during a promotional stop in Toronto this week. “I was very excited to work with Tricky and all those guys because they’re amazing and have made so many hit records. I wanted to learn production tips and songwriting techniques and other bits and pieces. I honed my skills.”
Cruz, 27, whom Universal Music Canada reports has sold more than 160,000 copies of Rokstarr here, says his U.K. musical pals had some interesting ideas about U.S. pop music.
“Everyone had this idea that American music used some sort of magic dust to make it sound so good,” he chuckles. “Some of my friends thought it was the current, because the electricity standard is different in America and it affects the sound waves.
“I learned that the reason the music sounds so good is that they use the best of everything. They’re not afraid to spend money.”
Cruz almost scored another bonus working with Tricky: He was there when Terius “The Dream” Nash wrote Rihanna’s No. 1 smash Umbrella and actually recorded one of the song’s very first demos.
“I thought it was an amazing song,” Cruz recalls. “I really wanted to release it, but as you do as a songwriter, you send it out to various people and loads of different artists, and Jay-Z loved it for Rihanna. The rest is history.”
Besides his distinctive synthesized Europop sound, Taio Cruz is trying to make history of his own, as Rokstarr isn’t only the name of his sophomore album, but his own line of hip sunglasses. Cruz has plans to expand Rokstarr into offering watches, fragrance and luggage.
“I’d love for the Rokstarr empire to be as big as Apple one day,” says Cruz. “Steve Jobs and Apple — they’re my inspiration.”