Twenty-year-old Jason Derülo has certainly had an incredible year. It began with his first tour ever, where he found himself not only traveling across the country, but performing for thousands of fans as an opening act for pop megastar Lady Gaga. His hit singles, “Whatcha Say,” “In My Head” and “Ridin’ Solo” have topped the charts for months, and now he’s wrapping up a headlining world tour. OurStage got the chance to speak with Jason about adjusting to the star life and what’s in store for his undoubtedly bright future.
OS: Though you’ve always been a performer, you originally made a name for yourself in the industry as a songwriter for Lil’ Wayne, Cassie and Danity Kane, to name a few. How did you land that job at such a young age?
JD: I was 16 when I got my first placement, and I wasn’t chasing the writing dream. What I was doing was kind of tricking the producer that I was working with into thinking that I was a writer [laughs]. I just really wanted them to record records for me…but I was posing as a songwriter so I could get them to record me. While I was doing this, I just so happened to get a placement and the ball just kind of started rolling. Once you get one placement, it just kind of snowballs…then Lil’ Wayne, Danity Kane, Cassie, for all these people…P. Diddy…all of them kind of fell in line. Once you start getting more and more, more come.
OS: You had over 300 songs recorded before the album was put together. How did you narrow down that huge list to the nine that eventually ended up on the CD?
JD: I think every song is special in its own way…and I wanted to have every song be totally different from the last. You can kind of tell from the singles… none of them were really in line with the others. Every single song can really spin on its own and be it’s own story. When I narrowed it down, I took the best in each category. Those were the ones that I felt were special.
OS: Your hit single “Whatcha Say” samples Imogen Heap’s song “Hide and Seek.” What made you decide to use that piece for the chorus of your own song?
JD: It was actually JR [Rotem, producer]‘s idea to sample that. When he brought it to me, I was floored because it’s just so different… I knew it would be something that would cut through and would catch people’s attention. It’s such a beautiful song…and when I wrote to it, it really meshed together and it just happened to be magical.
OS: You work with so many other artists as a songwriter but haven’t collaborated with any yet. Who would you most like to collaborate with on a future release?
JD: I’m not that person that’s going to have a million features on his album, because I think that your album is a representation of you. I don’t really need to hang on anyone’s coat tails, you know? If it is a collaboration, it would be a collaboration that’s right for the song. I wouldn’t sacrifice a song that I thought was good on its own to have a feature on it. But, I mean, if I had my first choice…I would choose Madonna! [laughs] She’s been able to reinvent herself time and time again and I have yet to be a part of another reinvention. I grew up listening to Madonna because my mom listened to Madonna.
OS: Earlier this year, you spent six weeks touring the country as an opening act for Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball. What was that experience like?
JD: Lady Gaga, she’s awesome…I had a great time on tour with her. She’s spectacular in terms of helping the process run smoothly. She was an absolute sweetheart and her staff were really helpful in making my first tour a success. It was my first tour, so I needed time to get acclimated to being on tour….living in a tour bus, performing in front of thousands of people everyday…it takes some getting used to. It’s a completely different life. But she was awesome throughout the whole thing. She’s inspiring. She said a lot of inspiring words to me. She’s a kind, kind girl.
OS: Your live show is very energetic. How do you prepare for weeks of touring?
JD: It’s crazy. My schedule is so crazy that I have minimal time to really, really prepare. I feel like every show is somewhat of a rehearsal. Because literally, before my tour, I had one rehearsal on my set. I was thrown on the stage in London, one of the biggest cities in the world…and I had to do my thing. And I think it makes for a better performer, being put on the spot, and to just go. I think that’s the beauty of performance…when you can just go and be yourself, without all the gimmicks…you can make a great show.
OS: In addition to being a singer, songwriter and dancer, you’re also an actor. Do you have any plans to return to the film set in the near future?
JD: It’s crazy, you know…I never thought I’d be turning down film roles left and right… it’s pretty crazy. I did this series online and it raised a lot of buzz in the acting world. It was the story of my life…I played myself, it was called “The Walk of Fame.” It raised a lot of attention. I’m getting offered film roles left and right, but I can’t—everything that I’m doing is taking up my time, in the music world. But I hope to in the near future, because I love it. It’s an amazing thing, also.
OS: You have an incredible work ethic and don’t seem to ever rest. Do you have any interest in working on the business side of the industry?
JD: Yeah, I actually have a girls’ group coming out in Australia, first…and I [am also mentoring] a young girl, Alyssa, she’s 15, as well. I’m really into fashion, too, so I’ll probably do that.
Don’t miss Jason Derülo at the last dates of his world tour:
10/20 – Arizona State Fairgrounds, Phoenix, AZ
10/21 – University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
10/22 – Rider University, Lawrenceville, NJ
10/23 - Warehouse Live, Houston, TX
10/25 - House Of Blues, Dallas, TX
10/27 - Center Stage, Atlanta, GA
10/28 – The Ritz Ybor,Tampa. FL
10/29 – Alumni Hall, Fairfield, CT