Grammy nominee: Craig David
In a year that will be remembered for the emergence of such great new R&B singers as Jill Scott, India.Arie and Alicia Keys, Craig David is a standout.This 20-year-old Brit is debonair and has a silky voice - and a soul-drenched songbook. But don't lump this singer into the mellow smooth-groove category. His multi-platinum album, "Born to Do It," is laced with electro-funk, edgy two-step ballads and odes to all the girls he's loved before.
"When I sing about girls, I'm singing in my first vocabulary," David told The Post from the London hotel he calls home. The man appreciates women, and females flock to him, but presently he's unattached and "concentrating on my career."
So far, the plan's working. Craig was a highlight at this year's Jingle Ball at Madison Square Garden, he makes his headlining debut at Roseland Ballroom Wednesday and later this month, he's off to L.A. for the Grammys, where he'll cut heads with Michael Jackson, Elton John, Brian McKnight and James Taylor in the Best Male Pop Vocal category for his song "Fill Me In."
There are definitely Michael Jackson influences in your music. What's it like to be up against him for the Grammy?
David: He is one of my idols, so when I saw his name in the same category as mine, I immediately thought, "I'm not worthy to be there with him." It's beyond belief. I mean, it's Michael Jackson, man.
Like Mr. Jackson, when you sing, there seems to be a naturalness to your voice. Is singing that easy to you, or do you work at it?
David: I'm self-taught. So I think it's been easy for me.
How did you teach yourself?
David: I would listen to artists I liked, then I'd play their records and I'd try to imitate them. I'd listen to the phrasing and I'd listen to when they would riff, and I'd try to copy it until I got it perfectly.
Isn't copying bad?
David: I used great vocalists as a benchmark. Copying wasn't the goal, it was a tool. By doing that, I learned what my range was, I knew what my voice could and couldn't do.
What came next?
David: After that, I started to write my own songs and sing them. Maybe that's why I have an ease with these songs - I wrote them for me.
You're a natural. Is there any part of your voice that a proper voice teacher might improve?
David: One thing is that if I had my breathing technique down, I could take my singing to another level. I'm sure a teacher would be appalled at all my bad habits as a vocalist.
Do you write from personal experience?
David: My mood is what forms a song. If I'm up, the song will follow. If I'm down, it'll be sad.
OK, you're sad, the lights are dimmed low and it's raining outside. What's next?
David: I start to sing, all nonsense words and phrases, and regardless of what the song is about, I'll use words like girl, lady, baby.
You'll sing nonsense words?
David: I've written lines that make no sense, but sound better than what I'm actually trying to say. That's a problem, because I want people to listen to my songs for their lyrics. I want to make sense.
There are a number of great songs that make no sense.
David: I love John Lennon's "Come Together," and there are phrases in that that make no sense to me. I think he liked the way they sounded.
After someone listens to your songs, do they know you better?
David: On the "Born to Do It" album, there are a number of autobiographical songs, but most of what has happened to me has happened to everybody. I'd like to think that there are a few people who listened to my music and were able to see into my soul from the songs.