Starboy Nathan is making his way onto the music scene again after three years on hiatus. He's recently toured with JLS and is about to embark on a tour with The Wanted and N-Dubz. Discovered at 14 and with a number one album at 17, the singer formerly known as Nathan is about to hit the charts with his new single ‘Diamonds’. In an exclusive interview, he told TaleTela about his new album, why he loves Twitter and why he added 'Starboy' to his name!
Hi! So what have you been up to since you’ve been on your break?
Since I’ve been away, I’ve just been going to different places, working with different people and just writing and stuff. Writing and just trying to grow as an artist from my first album, I felt like in order to make a different album, I wanted to grow as a person and grow as an artist and use a different process to making the first album 'cause I didn’t wanna do the same thing twice. There’s that saying that it’s madness to do something again and again and expect different results so I wanted to change it up a bit.
So now you’ve grown up, you feel like you can try different avenues of music?
Yeah, now I’ve just got better at what I do or one side of my music, like there’s one side of my personality coming out of my music, you know, the more sexy and sleek kind of R&B, that type of R&B and I’ve just expanded more, I’ve learned how to do the more fun, uptempo songs as well as more meaningful songs. I’ve just grown as a songwriter so I know how to do different types of songs, I know how to express myself and my personality.
Do you feel an added pressure to do well after taking such a long break?
I always pressure myself, until I reach a certain level there’s always gonna be that pressure I put on myself and even then I’d pressure myself to do more so there’s no added pressure because I’ve been away, it’s not that at all. I don’t even feel pressure in that way 'cause every time I release a song or an album, I approach it like I’m a new artist anyways and I wanna keep on doing that 'cause it’s a blessing, it gives you that hunger and that drive to prove yourself and even when people make it, they don’t feel like they don’t have to prove themselves anymore but the best artists are the ones that keep on proving themselves album after album. Beyonce, she proved herself 10 years ago but every album she’s still trying to prove that she’s the best and Michael Jackson did it and everyone tries to do that, the best ones, Madonna, all of these people they always try to prove that they’re the best with each album and they don’t get comfortable and so I’m gonna try to do that.
Let's talk about the new album and the new single. How was the experience working on that since being away for so long?
The new album’s been really fun to make, it’s been really eye-opening to chronicle how I’ve grown as a person and how I’ve grown as a songwriter, and even after the album after this, I’ll get even better at doing it, I’ll just explore how to put more of myself into the music and making it about me and relating it to other people so other people can feel it. It’s been fun and ‘Diamonds’, which is the new single out 18th April, it’s just the first taste of it and it’s just me doing what I’ve always done and I feel like it’s me doing it well. I’m really happy with the reception it’s getting and what I tried to do with ‘Diamonds’ as a song is like, well ‘Diamonds’ is a metaphor for love that you have for a person, that you’d give them anything, not just diamonds, it’s anything they want, anything you can, whether it’s your jacket when they’re cold or if you can afford to buy them diamonds, it’s diamonds or a hula hoop wedding ring! It’s whatever it is, it just signifies them a lot.
I bet you’re a huge fan with the ladies because of that kind of attitude!
I like to be open, I’m an open person, I’m an openly affectionate person. I think life is too short not to be, so that’s how I am.
Do you have a girlfriend at the moment?
I don’t mind you asking and I don’t mind saying that I’m single as well! Right now, one of the reasons is that it’s very difficult, especially when I’m focussing as much as I’m focussing on the music like it takes up a lot of your time, in a good way, so you got to find a very understanding person that understands how much my music means to me and how much success means to me and cannot just be there but can help in a way, in ways and make it easier for you so it’s very difficult to try and find that kind of person whilst doing the best you can at music too.
You’ve picked up a large fanbase just from the JLS tour. Would you ever consider dating a fan?
Yeah of course, why not!? I definitely would, I just think fans are people and I’m a person and it’s all about people at the end of the day. I’m the type of person who wouldn’t rule anything out before learning about and it all depends on the circumstances.
When you first started out, you were known as ‘Nathan’, just ‘Nathan’. For the readers who don’t know, why did you add Starboy to your name?
You know what, you kinda proved my point when you said ‘Nathan, just Nathan’ and that was the point ‘just Nathan’ and I just wanted to have a bit more fun with it. It came from when I was young and I used to perform in front of my family and my parents and my Mum just to say “Starboy time”, it’s just a bit of fun and it’s more distinctive. I mean, you can type in Nathan, just Nathan into Google and I might come up or you get 50 million other things whereas ‘Starboy Nathan’ is very defiant and it’s definitive and you can search it and all of my library will come up and stuff so it’s a bit more like that. And I’ve changed the Twitter name to ‘Starboy Nathan’ and the Facebook name as well. It didn’t confuse any fans, I told them , they were with me on it.
Do you keep in contact with your fans on a regular basis?
Yeah definitely! Facebook is very important, my fanpage, which I obviously do myself, is very important. I’m also on Twitter as well. I think because you don’t have a lot of people who do it or you don’t know if it’s the real person who’s doing it, I think that’s what makes it so important that I do it because I think we’re blessed to be, obviously there’s good points and bad points about the way the music industry is now and the Twitter and Facebook and stuff but the best thing about it is you can communicate with the fans like one on one and they feel like they know you and you do! You know what I’m doing today, you know how I’m feeling today, you know how I feel about the music I’m making so it gives you a closeness to the fans that is very important, you’d couldn’t have before. I think we should use that to the best of our ability because when people know you, they wanna buy your music more. Just leave it all to me; I’ll be in charge of everything!
You started off very young, at 14 years old and got your first hit record at 17. Do you feel because you’ve been in the industry for so long, you’re now able to offer advice to upcoming artists?
Yeah hopefully I always wanted to be that type of person and I love inspiring people so if anyone asks me for advice, I wouldn’t hesitate to try and tell them what should be done. I mean it’s been a wicked journey; I’ve enjoyed it a lot, I love doing what I do and I wouldn’t do anything else, I love it so I’m happy I feel blessed to be in the position I’m in now.
Do you mind the comparisons to singers like Chris Brown and Jason Derulo?
I expect people to compare 'cause that’s what they do for everyone; especially they haven’t had a chance to get to know you as an artist. When Chris Brown came out, they were comparing him to Usher and Michael Jackson, which is an amazing comparison, so until you create your own name and people get to know you as a person, then they’ll see you as just Ne-Yo, just Chris Brown, just Nathan, just Jason Derulo, whoever you wanna talk about. You have to carve out your career path first then you can be your own artist so I expect it, which is the reason why I believe that I still have so more much to do, I still think I’ve haven’t achieved anything 'cause people still look at me as “he’s like this, he’s like that” when you release three or four albums and people can see that consistent style that belongs to you then you can ‘don’t compare me to anyone else!’. Madonna can say it, Michael Jackson can say it, these people who’ve shown longevity and shown they’re staying true to themselves and it only takes longevity to do that so I don’t expect not to be compared to anyone.
You've been in the music industry from a young age. What’s your opinion on shows like X Factor and American Idol where singers are propelled almost instantaneously into fame?
Well honestly, this is my opinion, if I wasn’t in the position I was in, I would have done the X Factor, I would have done all of it because when I was 14, I was doing talent shows, I love talent shows. I think it’s a great way of getting exposure and putting yourself up against other people and challenging yourself as well. If I was on the X Factor I think I would have been on there trying to sing different songs, not just run of the mill, what you’d expect from me to sing. I‘d kinda switch it up and challenge myself. Obviously the downfall is that sometimes the show comes more about entertainment than the actual talent so sometimes talent can suffer, sometimes, but I still think it’s a great thing to do and something as big as X Factor where you get millions of people watching you and JLS didn’t win but they’ve had a chance to have an amazing career so far and I hope they keep it up and it goes to show you that you don’t have to win it to have a positive career from it so I would do it, I would definitely do it and I’d keep on doing it as well 'cause the competition that set me up I lost two times I entered and the third time I won so I would just keep on doing it, it makes you better.
Speaking of songwriting, you’ve worked with award-winning songwriters Frankie Storm and Angela Hunte. How was it working with them?
It helped me a lot, Angie, Angela, she’s like a big sister to me, like a mentor to me so she taught me a lot about how to express myself and to just not care about anything and just put yourself into the music. She just gave me a lot of encouragement so I always think about the conversations we’ve had when I’m writing.
As a songwriter, how important do you think it is to show off your song writing skills in today’s music industry?
I think it’s important for me, I think it depends on each individual artist, sometimes as a vocal artist, you stretch yourself more when someone’s written a song for you, sometimes as an artist you stretch yourself the most 'cause you’re written the song cos you know what you can do vocally and you know how to stretch yourself. There’s a lot of people who are better expressing something someone else has written and they know how to sing it the right way and then for me I like writing it but on this album there’s one or two songs where someone has played a song to me and I’m like “I liked that! I could sing it and I could do it in my way and stuff” so there’s different ways of doing it, it varies for different people. Personally I love writing. It doesn’t always come easily but it’s always rewarding, so sometimes it comes easy, sometimes it doesn’t but every time I write a song I feel like “nice!” especially after writing something I really love.
What’s your favourite track off the album?
I’ve got a few. There’s one called ‘Star’, there’s one called ‘Hangover’. At the moment I’m writing a song called ‘Rise Again’, which I’m really happy about, I can’t wait to finish it, it’s more fun. In the last couple of weeks I’ve been doing something on my Twitter called ‘Freestyle Fridays’ and I do a freestyle every Friday and I did one of Chris Brown and Chipmunk and ‘Rise Again’ is that type of vibe where I’m singing and rapping, I really like it, I’m happy about it and looking forward to people hearing it.
If you could have picked one song you wish you had written, what would it have been and why?
Probably ‘Human Nature’ by Michael Jackson, that song’s amazing. Probably that or ‘Remember The Time’ by Michael Jackson. It would be definitely be Michael Jackson.
When you went on tour with the JLS guys, did they give you any tips or advice?
Yeah we would vibe out and just have a lot of fun and we were on a level, they’re just such humble guys.They’re don’t need to impart wisdom, they just vibe with you 'cause they’re just so humble. That showed me a lot, helped me a lot and it was just a wicked experience just to be with them and I loved it.
So what’s next for you? Headline tour perhaps?
Diamonds is out 18th April and Starboy Nathan's album 3D is due out in the Spring.