‘I’VE learned that so-called failures are actually just the other side to success. My being off the radar has allowed this moment to happen. Now I’ve come back I’ve got the hunger of a 16-year-old kid again, and it’s so much sweeter the second time round.’
So says self-professed ‘Mister Positive’ Craig David, 35, who has reason to feel sanguine as he leans back on a record industry office sofa and beams, enjoying what must be the biggest pop comeback of recent times.
Last year he played a 350-capacity venue in Hackney, north-east London, ‘to test the water’. Fast forward and he has just announced a giant arena tour for next spring, with an on-fire Glastonbury debut and a legendary Ibiza Rocks performance under his belt. David has been on a rollercoaster since the late 1990s, one that’s a lesson in our proclivity to build someone up only to tear them down.
In 2000, Born To Do It became the fastest-selling debut album released by a male British solo act, spearheading UK garage and spawning two No.1 singles. The infamous but amusing lyrics to 7 Days notwithstanding, David was a Y2K superstar with the world at his feet. Until one day, along came Bo’ Selecta! with its rubber-masked caricature and ubiquitous catchphrases. David had become a laughing stock, and it was clearly difficult to know how to respond.
The Southampton-raised star moved to Miami, rattling around a gaudy monochrome apartment papered with giant photos of scantily dressed women and posting endless #EatCleanTrainDirty selfies on Instagram. For a long while he seemed a little, well, lost — even as he was supposedly living the high life.
‘It wasn’t fulfilling me,’ says David, swigging from a big bottle of squash. ‘I was so far removed from my friends, my family, the culture and the music that I love in the UK. I ended up cancelling my ticket back to Miami and I owe so much to that decision. The material things won’t give you the satisfaction you’re looking for. Been there, done that.’
Fed up with red-roped VIP areas and sparklers in bottles, David started hosting house parties, an inclusive vibe he now carries over in his TS5 live shows. And luckily, following a scary bodybuilding phase, he seems to have learned to enjoy the odd sarnie again, now he’s living back in Blighty.
‘I looked 30 years older in the face, like ET,’ he admits. ‘Part of it was sort of having been overweight as a kid. Psychologically, I took it too seriously.’
David’s new album impresses, showcasing just how much he has still got it as a songwriter. The first half is stuffed with out-and-out bangers made with UK stars such as Big Narstie and Blonde; the second a more chilled selection of R&B jams. Unmistakably British in vibe, the album goes a long way to explaining why David is appealing not only to the ‘all over your boink’ generation but also to a crowd who weren’t born when he first made it big. And he’s embracing the modern realities of smartphone and social media fame.
‘I genuinely get so happy when someone comes up and asks for a selfie,’ he insists. ‘Or if I see people going nuts to a song on Instagram and I can actually respond. I’ve never had that before. And isn’t that what this is all about? You can run around with statistics all day long. If I’ve made an impact on that many people’s lives, then that excites me.’
In an era when irony and cynicism reign supreme, David’s puppyish earnestness and love of a cheesy affirmation could be all too easy to mock. But, you know what, it seems to be working out for him. And he’s also just really, really damn nice. Enjoy your Craigaissance, Mr David. You deserve it.
Craig David’s new album, Following My Intuition, is out on Friday. Tickets for his UK arena tour are on sale now