Hitmaker Naughty Boy has crafted smashes for the likes of Beyonce and Sam Smith. Now though he’s expanding his focus to the talent of tomorrow.
The 33-year-old Londoner has teamed with Shake Shack and Monster Products to launch an innovative campaign designed to discover creatives from the across the spectrum. Singers, songwriters, producers – Shack Sounds is open to all.
Unsigned artists and talent between the ages of 16-35 years old are invited to enter their music for a chance to enrol in the program. Naughty Boy will then select five finalists who he will nurture and develop in preparation for their live performances.
We caught up with the the star to discuss the project, his work with Beyonce, shaking things up on Cheryl‘s upcoming album, his own LP ‘Bungee Jumping,’ and much more.
Head below for our chat with Naughty Boy…
That Grape Juice (Sam): You’ve worked with megastars and now you’re on the hunt for new talent.
Tell us a little about the Shack Sounds campaign?
Naughty Boy: One thing I’m eager to make clear is that this isn’t like a talent search where there is a “yes” and a “no.” No one person is going to… win. I want all entrants to be winners, you know. I want to find talent and that is not based on the notion of that having to tick all the boxes. Like, the more individual you are the better. It’s all about nurturing and developing and giving you a lot of guidance.
You know, sometimes shows on TV which I don’t need to name, it can seem focused on getting it right and wrong. That can end up affecting the confidence of genuinely talented people. That might mean that they give up. I don’t want to be in a position where I am asking people to show me their talent and then say yes or no because actually that’s quite detrimental. As musicians, as like influential people, I think the best thing is to give guidance and that’s what this whole thing with Shake Shack is about. To give guidance, wanting to give direction and not necessarily trying to tell anyone their role.
That Grape Juice: What can entrants expect?
Naughty Boy: This is quite an intimate experience because once you enter it’s me that is-I’m the only person they’ll work with; (I) give advice, give guidance. So it’s quite intimate. I don’t think you get that with other platforms, which is why it was important for me to do it for the first time in this fashion.
I want to get the people to apply who wouldn’t think they’re ready to apply for anything. I want to get them thinking like “okay, it’s between me and him.” And yes I think that makes a massive difference. I think I’m going to get certain kind of people applying that’s never tried this ever. So hidden talent – that’s what I’m looking for.
That Grape Juice: That sounds great. And why Shake Shack? That’s a really unique partnership.
Naughty Boy: I agree. It is unique. So, to be honest, when I was in the Middle East (in Dubai) and Shack burgers are huge and so popular. And I was like how do you bring this to London? I saw Justin Bieber last summer at the BarclayCard Festival in Hyde Park and I met the guys from Shake Shack there and they asked “how do you feel about doing something with us?”
I’d already known about the brand. Then I went to New York with them and met everyone there and just saw them (in action). They’re not just about trying to sell to you a burger; they have a story.
It started off in New York as a kind of charity to help rebuild one of the parks. Basically the owner of Shake Shack started a little shack in the park. All the money that was raised through hot dogs and burgers went back into the park and regeneration.
So that kind of thing excites me when a brand isn’t necessarily just about the material gain but they’re just trying to make a difference. I don’t know. It just sounded like the perfect partnership with me, with them and also Monster Products. They’re involved as well on the audio side. It just feel like a good team.
That Grape Juice: What also sounds great is the fact that the campaign is open to entrants aged between 16 to 35 – which is quite a wide range. The industry can be quite youth-geared, quite ruthlessly as well.
Naughty Boy: Yes, it can be.
That Grape Juice: Yes, so why did you feel it important to have such a broad range?
Naughty Boy: Because I don’t want to miss a gem. I don’t want to miss anything by givingit a demographic of say 16 to 24. There might be a 26 or a 27 or a 28 year old who’s actually ready for this just as much. And I think because of the variety of artists I’ve worked with; from Emeli Sandé to Sam Smith or Susan Boyle’s as well.
I think it’s important to be as open as possible – especially now when it feels like there’s more freedom with like just being who you are. Why should anyone be prevented from being who they are when they’re 30 or 35 just because they’re not 16 anymore? This will allow for a wide pool of talent.
That Grape Juice: You’ve worked with everyone. What’s the best advice you’ve received on your journey?
Naughty Boy: I would say the best advice I’ve ever received is never to get comfortable because being comfortable is a sense of achievement, it’s a sense of “okay, I belong here.” And I think the only way to carry on is never feeling like you belong anywhere; constantly striving for the next thing.
And that’s what the Shacks Sound team is also a part of; like I want to find what’s next. I could get comfortable and what I’m doing but what’s next? And I feel like that’s important.
Naughty Boy: I would definitely say Beyoncé is a big inspiration because getting to knowher during the process of ‘Runnin’’ and just seeing her work ethic. It just shows you that no-one really gets comfortable and even Beyoncé. When I spoke to her about wanting to do ‘Runnin’’ – she’s quite normal, grounded and focused on getting the best result. I get inspiration from someone who’s such a legend (and is still like that). I think that that can only inspire me to carry on doing what I’m doing and how I’m doing it.
That Grape Juice: And speaking of popular names that you’ve been working with, there’s been a lot of talk about you working with Cheryl. How did that collaboration come about and what can we expect from it?
Naughty Boy: Well I can tell you one thing is that we’ve created some incredible music. I can’t wait for the world to hear it. Cheryl’s so down to earth. She’s so relatable and I can see why she’s had this big stamp on just general popular culture and from Girls Aloud to her own solo career.
And I feel it’s a good project for me to get involved in and shake up and give them something they wouldn’t expect from Cheryl. And that’s exactly what we’re doing.
That Grape Juice: We can’t wait to hear it!
The music industry’s notoriously hard to navigate; so beyond Shack Sounds, what advice would you give to those trying to get their foot in?
Naughty Boy: I would say if you feel it in your heart and you feel it enough for you to be like “no, there’s nothing else that I could be doing with my life apart from this” – then go for it. You might get people around you telling you “you’re wasting your time or give up. Do this instead. This is more sustainable.”
There comes a point in your life when it’s okay to ignore what people are saying. It’s okay to follow this inner strength of “no, but I believe in this. There’s something telling me to carry on.” And I feel sad when people give up on their dreams just based on what they’ve been told or what they think is acceptable.
So I like to think I’m a disruptor and I think that the world needs disruptors more than ever. And I’m not saying disruptors is a bad thing …
That Grape Juice: Oh, no. It’s a good thing, for sure.
Naughty Boy: Disruptors change the game. They reinvent the game. So find some inner strength where you can find the confidence. Just think “no, you know what? I’m not going to conform to anything.” Whether it’s music, art whatever, film; like just … do you.
It’s quite a thing to find a disruptor these days and I get really excited when I meet one. So yes, disrupt away. That’s what I think.
That Grape Juice: We know that your new album is titled ‘Bungee Jumping’…
Naughty Boy: Yes.
That Grape Juice: Cool. Tell us a little bit about that. We know you’ve worked with Emeli Sandé on the title track. Tell us a little bit about that and also what we can expect from the album holistically.
Naughty Boy: It’s becoming kind of like a female empowerment album. The whole album is full of females. I’ve done something with Julia Michaels on there that I’m excited about. Obviously there’s Emeli. There’s Raye is on the album. Ray BLK’s on the album too.
It’s an exciting mix of what’s going on currently and what’s about to happen – but from a very strong lyrical female perspective. And I feel like that’s a great statement for me as Naughty Boy to make and just for me to stand alongside them as well.
Not taking anything away from the male singers, but I just think it’s a great time for females to speak out and tell the world exactly what they’re feeling. So I feel I’m celebrating that on the album.
That Grape Juice: And final question; Shack Sounds sees you building an empire beyond the production desk. What are some of your goals for the future?
Naughty Boy: I want to get into more charity work. I’m ambassador for the Prince’s Trust now and I’m actually the best kind of ambassador because I benefitted from a grant from the Prince’s Trust ten years ago.
Charity is important for me to get involved in and create awareness about things even in the Asian culture; issues in the third world; I could be a great advocate for creating awareness.
I think it’s important not just for me but for any artist right now is: what can you create awareness for? What needs a light to be shined on?
Click here for more on Shack Sounds – including info on how to enter.