Home // Music // Interviews // Interview: Naughty Boy
Naughty Boy

Interview: Naughty Boy

Naughty Boy is one of the UK’s most entertaining new talents. His number one single ‘La La La’, has clocked up over 47 million views on YouTube, and is the biggest selling single by a British artist this year. After taking a not so conventional route into the music industry, this Watford-grown musical mastermind has worked with everyone including Rihanna, Cheryl and Wretch 32. He is now set to release his debut album, ‘Hotel Cabana’, one of the highly-anticipated pop albums of the year, on August 26th. The album is preceded by new single ‘Lifted’, with Emeli Sandé. We manage to grab some of Naughty Boy’s time for a chat about the new album, and here’s what happened…

Planet Notion: So, let’s start with your stage name. Why do you go by Naughty Boy, and not your birth name [Shahid Khan]?
Naughty Boy: I know, back then I was a bit shy, in that sense of being a ‘music person’, so it was easier to create something, and like have an identity, a bit like a superhero…

PN: Like an alter ego?
NB: Yeah, basically!

PN: Looking back now on your appearance on Deal or No Deal where you won £44,000, how did this urge you into getting involved with music?
NB: Well, I think when I dropped out of my degree in 2005, I knew I wanted to make music, and that I needed money to buy equipment, because I wanted to do it seriously. Winning the game show actually gave me confidence, in that things are possible. I thought, ‘if I can go on a game show and win 40 grand, I must be on the right path’.

PN: And it was around that time that you’d recorded ‘Black Boys’ with rapper, Bashy?
NB: Yeah, so that was when I was working with rappers, that was my first single. I hadn’t worked with a singer until I met Emeli, at the end of 2008.

PN: And was that on the song ‘Diamond Rings’?
NB: Well yeah, we met just before then, at a showcase. She was in Glasgow, and I was in London. We started sending each other stuff, I sent her the beat for ‘Diamond Rings’, and she wrote the lyrics while she was hoovering! It was nice be a part of that whole urban wave, transcending into like, mainstream radio and everything.

PN: What was it like to see that song get so big?
NB: Yeah that was my first radio chart hit, and so yeah, it was amazing! Because at that point, we’d written half of Emeli’s album, and the first songs we’d done were ‘Daddy’ and ‘Mountains’. For song’s like ‘Clown’, we wouldn’t write it again now, because different moments in life give you the songs. We’d written them when we were broke and we borrowed someone’s studio, because I only had my garden shed. We were getting offered deals, and it was an exciting time.

PN: So when did you begin to think you wanted to become an artist in your own right?
NB: Do you know what, I genuinely never thought of that, because I’m not trying to be a singer or anything.  Even when I did the singles deal with Virgin for ‘You’ll Never Be A Woman’, a song with Emeli, I still never thought I’m gonna do my own album. They offered me an album deal, and it was never in my plans. I always wanted to be a producer, I always knew what I wanted to do something with music, I wanted to, you know, change the world and all that. It wasn’t until I thought of the concept for ‘Hotel Cabana’, when I was like maybe I can present it in an art form, where I am the artist, because it’s my story, my concept, and that’s when I got really excited. I’ve been signed to Virgin for three years, but the first couple I’ve been working on Emeli’s album quite heavily, but I’ve only really focused on mine for the past year.

PN: I can imagine, because that was a huge success last year, with Emeli’s ‘Our Version of Events’…
NB: Yeah, we won an Ivor Novello award this year, and that’s my first project I worked on, executively so, and it’s mad to win something like an Ivor. So I feel like I’m just starting out.

PN: How indicative of the album is the new single ‘Lifted’?
NB: The mood of ‘Lifted’ definitely suits the album the most, because it’s quite a dark album as well. I’m telling the story of fame, temptation, money and success, and so it kind of gets darker, and tells stories also. But it’s still entertaining, because that’s what I’m here to do.

PN: So when you talk about the temptations of fame and success, isn’t there a song that you’ve done with Gabrielle that covers this?
NB: Yeah, it covers it a lot, it’s called ‘Hollywood’. It’s a song me and Emeli wrote, but Gabrielle was perfect for it, and she’s done an amazing job. It’s got such a brutal message, about the culture of Hollywood. One of the lines from the verses is ‘cracks start to show now, I’ve lost my grip on things somehow, they’re paying her more than me, wind blew over my money tree’. It’s very vulnerable, for an artist as well.

PN: You’ve actually got such a star studded cast, on the album, did you write the song first, and then think that a certain artist will actually suit that track?
NB: I knew I wanted to work with the people I admire on my album, which was the first thing. Now everyone on there, I consider them a friend as well. So it’s not just like the label is putting people together and everyone came here, and voted for the songs – so that means a lot to me. Emeli was a big part of it as well; it defiantly wouldn’t be possible without her. Today when I saw the end credits on the trailer for ‘Hotel Cabana’, and I was thinking, ‘shit, all these people are on my album!’

PN: The line-up you’ve got is brilliant, and you’ve got some new artists like Ella Eyre, on the track ‘Think About It’, with Wiz Khalifa too – we heard it earlier today, and it’s so good.
NB: Yeah, oh good! Yeah that’s the next single.

PN: What would you say your favourite or proudest creation on the album is and why?
NB: I’d say the intro, with Tinie Tempah and Emeli. I’m a fan of the big intros, and that’s all lost in albums now, so I’m bringing it back. Some of the lyrics are, ‘confetti on their heads, strangers in their beds’- it just creates a world, and it was actually the first track that was done for the album as well.

PN: Oh really? So it sort of flowed from there?
NB: Yeah, from the chorus.

PN: I totally agree with you with the idea of having an intro, because I find some of the best albums have an intro, interludes and an outro.
NB: Yeah! ‘Hotel Cabana’ has outro music too! Yeah I really wanted it to feel like an experience, because I feel that’s what’s lost. People are so concerned with record sales, and you’re also making a lot of throwaway music, and you need to create a balance. People are gonna buy one or two albums a year now, and you gotta make it worthwhile. That’s why, and I don’t think it’s just the consumer who is to blame; we have a job of delivering art, and something that’s worth buying as well.

PN: So, random question, but if you had your current music influence and status in the current music industry, which era of music history would you love to work in?
NB: 1960s. Yeah, I’ve been thinking about this recently. I just think that this was the age to really be an artist, musician, actor or an entertainer -and it’s lost now. Getting to number one, as great as that is, it’s not the most difficult thing to do now, you know. There are songs that I don’t always ‘get’ that will make it to number one. Success just has a different feel now, but the 60s would be amazing to have success and be on this journey of music.

PN: I read that you take inspiration form Aaliyah and Timberland’s ‘Try Again’?
NB: Yeah, I loved it! That song changed my life! Yeah honestly, I used to queue up in Virgin Megastore just to listen to it on the listening posts, just because I couldn’t afford the CD! I used to queue up and listen to that track every Saturday (laughs).

PN: So post ‘Hotel Cabana’ and ‘Lifted’, what’s next for Naughty Boy?
NB: Well, I’m working on Emeli’s next album, which is amazing. I’ve just done four tracks for James Arthur’s album actually, which is coming out soon.

PN: What’s it been like working with him?
NB: Yeah amazing, he’s a real artist. I feel like the songs we’ve made could have easily been pre X-Factor. There’s no bullshit, and I feel like we’ve got some great songs. I’ve also done a few songs for Tinie Tempah’s next album, ones with Paloma Faith, and ones with Laura Mvula, and they’re amazing! I can’t wait for people to hear the music.

‘Hotel Cabana’ is released on 26th August on standard and deluxe edition. ‘Lifted’ is available to per-order here. Keep up to date with Naughty boy on Twitter | Facebook | Online

Interview by Ben Lifton

Have an iPad? Download our app | Have Windows 8? Download our app

Leave a Reply