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  • Interview: Savage

    Wed, 31 Dec 2008 09:47:16

    If you can get Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen grinding together, you've got some mad skills. That's exactly what Savage did with "Swing," the chart-topping single that fuels Knocked Up's pivotal and hilarious club scene. The track is one of many booty-bouncing club-starters on Savage's Universal Republic debut, Savage Island. Savage's talents extend far beyond rockin' the dance floor though. His unique flow and tribal sense of melody examines themes ranging from unity to love, and that's what makes Savage Island a spot worth visiting. While in Los Angeles shooting a video with Baby Bash, Savage took some time to speak to ARTISTdirect about Savage Island, film music and much more in this exclusive interview.

    How do your songs tend to begin?

    New Zealand's a small country. We're very up-to-date with our urban music. New Zealand was one of the first countries to break urban records. The whole process, during the album, is me being influenced by the West Coast, the East Coast, the Midwest and Down South. I made the whole album suit all different areas. I like to be a lot more versatile. I don't focus on one style of music. I like to challenge myself on writing and doing different songs. I'm a big fan of hip hop worldwide. All of the different styles really influence me as a hip hop artist.

    With "Swing," you've already established an audience. It's quite a feat for an artist from New Zealand.

    Things have been going great. I'm the first Samoan hip hop artist to go platinum in the U.S. That's a great achievement. I'm taking everything one step at a time, and I'm embracing it all.

    How did the two separate versions with Soulja Boy Tell'em and Pitbull come about?

    When we first launched "Swing" in the U.S., we wanted to get someone that the audience was more familiar with on it. With me being a new artist that really made sense. We reached out to Soulja Boy because "Swing" really works with the younger generation. I've been a big fan of Pitbull for a minute. When the time came for another remix, Pitbull was the first in mind. He kills that verse. He certainly nails the song. It really adds a lot to it.

    "Wild Out" with Baby Bash is also really hot.

    I just finished up shooting a video for that yesterday. That's the whole reason I'm up in L.A. We had people come up from Hawaii, San Diego and the Bay. Baby Bash and his whole crew from Houston came up for the video. It was crazy! It was a really fun video shoot. When it comes out, people are going to bug out. Baby Bash is a really cool dude. We went to the Ozone awards down in Houston, and he really looked out for us. Some of the things Bash says crack me up. We clicked straight away. When a funny situation happens, you've got to be quick. That dude and I just go back and forth all day. He's a really good friend. His whole team is amazing. His co-writer and hype man is Samoan as well. Bash knew a lot about my culture, and he was really amazing to work with.

    You get to blend in different cultures too because he's one of the foremost Latin presences in hip hop.

    He taught me a bit about him and his traditions. I also told him a bit about ours. Yesterday was the first time he ever drank from a coconut [Laughs]. He liked it. He said, "Man, this tastes like Malibu!" I said, "That's where they get it from, dude!"

    Your culture is a big part of your sound.

    New Zealand was one of the first countries outside of the U.S. to embrace urban records. The hip hop scene is very upbeat there. It's also very in-tune with everything that goes on the U.S. We have our own little community or movement. It's been running for the last 20 years. In the last 10 years, our hip hop scene has been topping the charts there—also, it's been breaking through to Australia and other countries around the Pacific.

    I'm just hoping to create an album that everyone can feel

    "Soldier" and "I Love the Islands" stood out. What's the story behind those?

    The album, to me, is a work of art. It's the best album that I've done so far. I'm so proud of it. It touches on so many different feelings. Every song has a different feeling, but at the same time it all blends in with me as an artist. I really try to connect with the audience on a lot of those songs. "I Love the Islands" is pretty much a tribute to my roots. The best dudes I could get were Rock City because they're from the Virgin Islands. We worked really well together.

    "Soldier" is a song I recorded back in New Zealand. It was during what was one of the toughest times with my independent label. We were sort of struggling for a minute there. I just came up with that song to strengthen everybody.

    There's a bit of everything on the record. There's a street song on there called "Knock a Hater Out" featuring Gangsta Riddx from Boo-Yah Tribe. I've been a big fan of Boo-Yah Tribe since I was a kid, so it was only right to get the legend on the track. There's that song, then there's a song called "Family Tribute" that's more of a personal insight for everybody to see exactly where I come from and the struggles I went through to where I get to now. You also have songs like "Hot Like Fire" that really celebrate life. They get people in a really good mood, just like "Swing." When you hear "Swing," you just want to have a good time and enjoy yourself. That's the kind of music I enjoy making, something everyone can relate to.

    You've got to listen to the album from the start-to-finish.

    I've got a lot to present to the whole world. I've been in the music industry for a while. I'm actually part of a crew back in New Zealand. There are four members of the crew. It's been a crazy journey, but it's all good.

    The record mirrors that journey.

    It does. We recorded the whole album in Atlanta, but at the same time, we went to 36 different cities. We just embraced everything from the East Coast to West Coast. We even had an apartment in Brooklyn. I'm just hoping to create an album that everyone can feel or have a song that they like.

    Do you feel like "Swing" was the catalyst for everything?

    Man, that really played a big part in my success in the U.S. I've been in the game for 10 years now. I'm a new face to the U.S. The song "Swing" came out in New Zealand in 1995. It was a number 1 single. From there, my publishing company got it to the producers at Universal. They played the song in Knocked Up and the director requested to have the song on the menu, so people that really loved the movie when they got the DVD and put it in, it's the first song they hear. When that happened, people started hitting my myspace like crazy. From that point, my managers put it on American iTunes. Once that happened, it jumped up to the top 100. It jumped to number 17. It's been eight months now, and now it's platinum. "Swing" has been in the top 20 for the last 25 weeks. The single went platinum. It's doing really well. It's crossing into pop. It's just doing really well. It's a pretty exciting feeling to go to a club in the U.S. and hear my song played. It's crazy.

    Has America been good to you so far?

    America is a place people go to follow their dreams. To see places I'd only seen in the movies before with my own eyes is crazy, man. I'm really enjoying it. I love traveling to places I've never been before. I can see a lot more of what America has. It's such a big country with so much to offer.

    —Rick Florino

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