Interview: Sean Kingston
Sun, 20 Sep 2009 12:08:31
Sean Kingston has already set the charts ablaze a few times.
However, his latest single, "Fire Burning," is the kind of undeniable dance anthem that'll light up clubs for a long time. It's just a taste of Sean's sophomore album Tomorrow though. Due out Tuesday September 22, Tomorrow is the kind of pop record that'll make you dance and make you think. It's got the requisite bangers of course, but the record has a reggae soul that's befitting of its legendary collaborators such as Wyclef Jean.
Sean's grown up a lot since meeting all of those "Beautiful Girls," and now he's ready to clench the pop crown he's had his sights set on since debuting. Tomorrow is here, and nothing's going to be the same.
Sean talked to ARTISTdirect.com editor Rick Florino about ushering in a new Tomorrow, his personal evolution as a songwriter and making prank phone calls with Good Charlotte in this exclusive interview.
Do you feel like Tomorrow is a big evolution from your first record?
Yeah, I feel like my growth is the main thing behind this album. My voice has gotten better. The music, production, direction and everything have all gotten better too.
What did you do to set that evolution in motion?
I wrote catchier melodies with deeper concepts. I really tried to put a message behind each record. Everything opened up. I was using different topics and different words. It's a whole different style from the first album—switching it up a little bit.
Was there one overarching theme for the record?
I didn't really create a theme. I just wanted to make an album that people could connect to and relate to. There are songs for everybody. I wanted to make a record that people could play from top to bottom without skipping over a song. They can party and have fun while they're listening to it. I want people to sing the songs off this album. This is a sing-a-long album. I wrote catchy hooks, so as soon as soon as people hear the songs they get the message and the words.
Did everything come together pretty quickly?
Yeah, man! We did the album in about four or five months. That's only because I had to move around to go to different producers. I had to go to New York to work with Wyclef Jean. I was in L.A., Miami and Jamiaca. The whole recording process was great. I'd go into the studio with a producer and start writing and bouncing ideas off of him immediately. I like to write in a peaceful zone where I'm the only one in the room. It was really cool to work with different producers on this album.
What's the story behind "Why U Wanna Go?"
Basically, you and your girl have built up an amazing relationship. Anybody who's been in a long-term relationship, over two or three years, can relate to this. After all that time, all of a sudden a little something happens, and she wants to leave—even though it took so long to build it up. Most of my songs go in two directions. That song tells this story. You and your girl have been together for a long time and suddenly she says, "I don't want to be with you anymore" over something little. She's ready to leave, but you're saying to her, "It took so long. We've been grinding it out, arguing and getting our kinks out, and now you're ready to leave?" It took so long to get here, why do you want to go? Then, on the other hand, it could be a metaphor for me. I'm on my second album. I'm glad I made it here, and I refuse to let everything go. People said I wouldn't be able to come back that I was just going to be a one-hit-wonder for "Beautiful Girls." Then "Fire Burning" dropped, and it was a huge hit. It took so long for me to get my dream that I'm not going to let it go. The song can go in both directions.
A lot of your songs can be perceived in a few different ways.
That's what I'm saying! I put an edge into most of my songs. Definitely this song is about a relationship because in a lot of long-term relationships, something small can unravel everything. You can't let that go away as simple as that though.
Did you have a good time working with Good Charlotte on "Shoulda Let U Go?"
It's a fun record, man. It was fun working with them too! We were in the studio wrestling and throwing pillows around. We were prank-calling people. There was an amazing vibe, and those dudes are a lot of fun! I'm fun too [Laughs]. The studio was like one big playhouse with us. It was crazy.
What was your best prank call?
We prank-called a lot of people [Laughs]. We were just going through Joel Madden's phone prank-calling people, acting like the pizza man. For real!
That's the way to cut a record!
Was working with Wyclef Jean a dream come true?
Wyclef was amazing. I grew up on his music. I used to jam Wyclef and Fugees CDs every day on my way to school. I definitely am a huge fan. I had to take the chance to work with him when I got it. I flew out to New York to work in the studio with him. He was amazing, humble and down-to-earth. We cut like four records together, and "Ice Cream Girl" was just the most special one. It added a whole different flavor from all of the other tracks I recorded. I knew it had to go on the album.
Your lyrics also evolved.
I've been through so much, man. I've been around the world, seen a lot of things and I've been inspired a lot of stuff that's going on. I'm an international artist. I'm overseas all the time. When I'm at these places, I start writing songs and I put ideas down in my Blackberry. I research topics. There's definitely a growth. I'm writing everywhere, taking notes and topics down. I lay voice notes and melodies down so I don't forget them.
Do you feel like each place you've been influences you?
Each place I've been, I take a little something from. It depends on if something in that place sparks me. All of the struggle in Africa was crazy. It motivated me to write a song like "War."
What was up with "Fire Burning?"
RedOne called me right when I got back from Africa as a matter of fact. He was like, "I've got this dope beat, and I hear you all over it." I told him to send it to me, and he didn't want to send it because so many email accounts are getting hacked nowadays. He didn't want this beat to leak, so he told me to holler at him when I wanted it. When I was in LA, he was the first person I called. I went over to his studio, listened to the beat and I got goosebumps. I knew it was going to be a club smash with the right melodies and hook. The beat has so many different elements—techno, pop, R&B and reggae. I started coming up with different concepts and topics, but I kept humming "Fire burning, fire burning." I knew that was it. The next thing we knew, the track was cut. It sets up the record the right way.