What can people expect from the album?
For fans who have listened to my music since Born To Do It [released in 2000], which was a very R&B pop album, this is all of that but with young up-and-coming producers, so it feels very fresh and 2018. For anyone who has just discovered my music, it’s uplifting tunes that take you to a place where you can turn off what’s going on around you.
Why have you had this resurgence in popularity?
I’ve always believed, even when I made the first record, that you’re only three minutes away from a song that can change your life. There might have been a period when those songs weren’t connecting but you ask yourself: ‘Are you willing to be diligent and keep going into the studio and leaning into the unknown?’ I moved back to the UK, embraced working with these young producers and was ready to be a brand new artist all over again. Becoming relevant to a new generation was pivotal. People who have been with me from day one are still with me so we’ve joined everything together.
Has your approach changed or did the audience change?
I’m happiest when I’m in the studio creating new music, when I’m on stage performing, and when I’m with my friends and family. Those are simple things and I went back to that. I stopped telling myself the story about how many records I’ve sold and tours I’ve done, and treated myself as a brand new artist. I needed to prove myself to these producers to be relevant. I’d go into the vocal booth and give it everything and wait for the talkback button for the response and I’d hear: ‘Whoa, Craig, you’ve still got it.’ I remember meeting one of them when he was seven — his dad was one of my backing singers. All people want to know is if you’re relevant to them now.
When you weren’t having as much success, did you get despondent?
I put out a covers album. Seal had just had huge success with a covers album and I thought: ‘If I get this right, I can do a record with my new original material.’ The record did alright but when I was doing (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay but very straight, not a remix or anything, I realised I was 28 and wasn’t the kid doing Rewind and being part of the culture. I realised I needed to step away from it — and I’d just bought my apartment in Miami so I enjoyed that lifestyle for a while. Then I realised I needed to be back in the UK working with young producers to ignite that flame again. I started [house party] TS5 in Miami so every cloud has a silver lining — and that started because I was fed up with the elitist attitudes in the clubs. I wanted everyone to feel equal.
What’s your gym routine like now?
I fit going to the gym around my music. There was a time when I was all about the gym but I’m not training to be an athlete because I’m not an athlete. If I go three or four times a week that’s good but it’s not a disaster if I don’t — I’d rather write a new song and impact possibly millions of people’s lives than lose an hour I could have been in the studio.
How much were you doing when you were at your fittest?
Five days a week, which isn’t unusual, but my diet was very regimented — I was eating very clean. So you see results super quick. Now if I want a pizza, I’ll eat one, I just don’t go crazy with it. But junk food and alcohol don’t serve you well if you want to do your best performance with your most energy.
Do you still collect trainers?
Yes, I’ve got around 100 — but I wear them now. There’s no point them gathering dust. As a kid, I’d save up for trainers and really look after them. So when I got to the point where I could afford them, I was like a kid in a candy shop — and I’m thankful it was that instead of gold or cars.
What’s your favourite pair?
I worked with a guy who customises trainers on a Louis Vuitton Adidas NMD trainer. He cut up a new Louis Vuitton bag and deconstructed the trainer and put it all back together. I’ve worn them in videos and I’m going to bring them out again. Before I had my house parties in Miami, the place was immaculate, I kept it all fresh, but then I thought a home isn’t a home until you have people in it who enjoy it — then I opened it up and TS5 happened. It’s the same with stuff. You can hold on to things but it’s better to wear them and enjoy them.
The Time Is Now is out on Friday. For our review see page 24