Music can calm you and it can elevate you while inspiring thought and mood. Although music can bring people together, these days that togetherness has taken on the shape of video – conference apps. Instead of tip-toeing around the very large pink elephant in the room, Covid-19 has changed the way we enjoy listening to music… and we all miss live performance. It is remarkable how music artists around the world have taken up the challenge to ensure we can still fill our cups with their live performances. Someone that’s very familiar with live performances is Canada’s very own music recording artist, Dru.
Dru is a Juno Award Winning and Certified Gold selling International R&B Artist. His much anticipated new single, YNF made it’s hugely successful debut on April 7, 2020. It’s been described as a soulful sound with the edge of 90’s Hip Hop. I’ve heard it and I would describe it as a hit! The music combined with the lyrics engage like one instrument, the beat is addictive and if you listen to it while driving, I hope it’s in a parking lot because you’ll be sit dancing. YNF has everything you expect from the best R&B out there.
From Dru’s early days working with the hit-making popular R&B group In Essence, it motivated Dru to take his talent to a new level and reach a broader audience, both as a solo artist and songwriter. His first solo album, The One, was released in 2008 to critical acclaim. His songs have been nominated for a Juno multiple times and he received his first with the popular group In Essence. He’s collaborated with many other R&B artists that have also garnered Dru more Juno nominations. His songs have been heard all over the world and they’ve climbed the charts like a grass fire.
Dru just wrapped a European promo tour of 15 dates, hitting 10 cities in 7 countries & was a contestant on ‘The Voice – Russia.’ Dru will be returning to Europe and Russia this summer for his ‘Rebirth 2020 European Tour.’
“I was enjoying some of your music videos recently and have to congratulate you on having a tremendous voice. You’re an amazing singer, does it require training and practice?”
“I’ve been singing since the age of 7 or 8 and I didn’t even know I could sing until my older brother confirmed it for me. From then on it’s become a part of my life. I did practice a lot, but it was more about finding myself and developing my skill as a solo artist. After being in a group (In Essence) for so many years and rehearsing everyday, we’d hang out and we lived together, so it really instilled some good habits into me at a young age. As a solo artist, I like to go into the studio and rehearse songs from Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye or even the band. Sometimes we’ll jam and feel the energy; it’s more about that.”
“Are you more comfortable in the recording studio or performing on stage?”
“I think I’m more comfortable in the studio; it’s just me. I do all the writing, I do all the vocal production and it’s just me and my producer ‘Hollywood’. I don’t feel the pressure of all the people watching me; I’m in my comfort zone, I can mess up and change things. When you’re live on stage you need to be perfect, you have to look right, you have to look comfortable and you have to sing well. There’s so much to think about when you’re up there.”
“Do you always use the same recording studio?”
“Over the years I’ve used different studios but when I’m working on a project I like to keep it down to a small group of people. From time to time, my producer and I will work with other producers or work with a song I didn’t necessarily write. By keeping the circle small it also maintains continuity and the same thread throughout the entire project. It’s usually Hollywood and me at Hollywood Studios in St. Claire (district of Toronto). It’s his own personal studio, so we’ll create the idea and then move it to another studio out of Brampton. If we need to send it to the US for mixing, we’ll also do that too.”
“It must take so many hours of hard work to record one song. Is it always much the same process?”
“I think a lot of people have a different process for making music. Some people will be working on a song for months; there’s a part of the verse that they keep tweaking and tweaking, I don’t work like that. The more naturally a song comes to me, then that’s how the song is supposed to be. If I get writers block on a song, I’ll just move right onto the next song and not give it another thought; my process is a little quicker. If I go into the studio for a 6 hour session, I’ll come out with a fully written song and a demo of the song already recorded. Hollywood will come up with the beats and music, I’ll be writing the chorus and by the time the beats done I’ll have the first verse finished. Before you know it, you listen to it a couple times and the second verse is written and the songs done (laughing).”
“Would the marrying of the music with the right lyrics be the hardest part of creating a good track?”
“I feel like that part just comes naturally; I can’t really pinpoint how it works because I don’t overthink it. That’s why music is so amazing because everyone has their own process.”
Dru adds, “I don’t write down my lyrics anymore, I just record straight into the microphone. I know Lil Wayne does that, as well as Jay Z. When you’re inspired you just wanna say the words instead of taking the time to write the words down on paper; it can get lost. There’s times I’ll just come up with something that might not make sense and then go back later to listen to it and piece in lyrics, so it catches that vibe.”
“You’ve been nominated multiple times and have won a Juno. What did it feel like to be recognized as the best in your category?”
“It felt good, it was a cool moment. I was still with In Essence at the time and we were up against some hot talent in our competition, Robin Thicke, Glenn Lewis and us, In Essence; we thought there was no way we could win, so we went up to the guest bar to have a drink. The A and R ran up to us and told us to get to our seats right away. As we were getting to our seats we could hear them announcing the nominations for the best R&B and then they said, In Essence! What in the world is going on right now!?”
Dru later added that his Juno is safe at his parents’ home.
“The single, YNF just came out and it sounds incredible. Is this song part of an album that will come out later?”
“The album isn’t out yet and this is another single that will be on it. The album will be coming out in 2020. We’re in the studio mixing and should have it all mixed in two and a half months, but I always say ‘the albums not done until its printed and released.’ I could come up with a new song tonight and Hollywood will say ‘no way man, the album is done’, so we go back and forth. We have so much material for this album it’s going to be hard to only choose 13 songs.”
“A lot of R&B artists have used choirs/church choirs to collaborate on some of their songs. Have you considered doing that as well?”
“It’s funny that you mention that because the new album is called The Rebirth 2020. For my album release I’m going to have a full choir at the event. It’s going to be part of the intro to the show. I don’t want to give away too much but it’s going to go with the theme of rebirth and being reborn. This album is like a rebirth of my career because I took many years off to help raise my daughter. When the group was touring in Europe, my daughter was really young and when I came back she’d look at me with a blank look on her face that said, ‘are you my daddy?’ I didn’t like how that felt and it scared me, so I took a little time to make sure I’m here… and now she’s 15 and saying, ‘go daddy, go do what you need to do.’ Now she’s my biggest fan.”
“I read that you had competed on ‘The Voice, Russia’. What inspired that decision?”
“First of all, it’s Russia and it was a combination of a few things. The Voice in the US is oversaturated with people like me and it would be harder for me to stand out, even in the UK or Canada. When I came to Russia, people were like, ‘who is this black guy?’ Being one of the only international artists in the show really helped. As a TV sow, they knew they needed a couple of international artists. There were 40 million viewers a week and it worked really well for my branding and in extending my international reach. The Russian audience is incredible and they love supporting great raw talent. The first judge turned her chair around pretty quickly into the song and then another judge spun around. I was so jetlagged and so exhausted, if you watch it on Youtube, I made it to the semi-finals.”
“In 2008 you released your first solo album after leaving In Essence. Was there any trepidation heading into the studio as a solo artist?”
“No, not at all. When I was with the group I still had to do the vocal arranging and produce the vocals but I had to get the approval of 4 other people while I was doing that. Now that I’m solo I’m in the studio by myself and my word is the last word. I was going through so many songs in the beginning and I hit the ground running. I was the youngest one in the group and had to carry a lot of the weight and when I went solo, it was freeing.”
Dru is quick to thank the band for helping him overcome his shyness. When he was younger he would stutter and could never talk in public. The members of the group, In Essence would force him out front, leaving him no other alternative other than facing his fears.
“Is there anyone that you’d want to collaborate with?”
“There are many people I’d love to collaborate with. If Bob Marley were here, I’d love to collaborate with him. If Marvin Gaye were here, I’d love to collaborate with him; Stevie Wonder. The list goes on, I’d also love to work with Jay Z; I’m a big fan of his. I’d also like to collaborate with Brian McKnight and New Edition.”
“If you could disguise yourself as anyone for a day, who would it be?”
“That’s hilarious… let’s see. If I could disguise myself as anyone for a day, it would be Will Smith. (Laughter) I’m trying to think of someone that wouldn’t be too difficult to change up my look.”
“If you could take a trip around the moon… or a trip to the bottom of the ocean, which would you choose?”
“Hmm… that’s a good question, because there’s places in the ocean that haven’t been discovered yet, but there’s places in space that also haven’t been discovered… I think I have to say space, a trip around the moon. There’s something magical about space; what else could be out there? Is everything we’ve been taught and conditioned to believe, reality?”
“You mentioned earlier that you’re inspired by music to create your lyrics. Is there other things that inspire lyrics for you?”
“Usually it’s from my own personal experiences but 10-20 percent of the time it’s from other peoples experiences, like friends of mine. Sometimes just a conversation with someone will spark ideas.”
“Have you written lyrics/songs about personal tragedy?”
“There’s definitely things I keep private but I have opened up before. On my first album there’s a song called, Through My Eyes and it was written from the POV of my daughter, who was 9 mths. old at the time. Her mother and I were going through a lot of issues, so I wrote it through my daughters eyes and it was the hardest song I’ve ever wrote. I had to pull over from the highway; a Jay Z beat was going through my head and I just started singing… ‘through my eyes… can you see… how I feel when I’m crying out to you? I feel your pain, I feel your love, I feel your joy… if you would only take the time to see through my eyes.’ I got choked up on the side of the highway. The lyrics just flowed out of me.”
Incidentally, Dru has never told that story to his daughter, who is now 15 years old. If she’s reading this, her dad loves her very much.
“When you’re in the studio are you always collaborating on songs or is someone taking the lead?”
“I respect him as a producer and he respects me as a songwriter. I can give my input when it comes to production but I respect his lead on that. When it comes to vocal and harmony, he might say the vocals don’t work, I can override him and he’ll respect that. There are certain things I won’t say in my lyrics that I decided before I met Hollywood. For instance, I won’t use the ‘N’-word. At the end of the day I get the last word when it comes to the look, the choices or the sound but Hollywood has his input. We’ve known each other for 7 years but this will be our first finished album together. There’s been many setbacks, I was with Universal until the deal dissolved, going solo and looking for funding, looking for investors in entertainment. It finally came back full circle and we received some funding courtesy of Canada grants after applying approx. 6 times. It shows that there’s success in persistence. It’s about taking peoples advice, seeing where you fell off and seeing what you can do to fix it; what could you have done better? Focus on that for the next time.”
Dru expands on his answer, “As an artist that comes from an era where you also had to market your song; make sure you have a quality video and marketing for that video. You have the follow up single to that, the third, the fourth… have it all planned out in advance. Yes, you can apply for Factor and they will give you the funds you need to put out a proper international release, if you know how to use the money wisely and stretch it. Some artists spend money in the wrong places. They’ll spend 10,000 on a video before they spend 10,000 on the marketing of that video. Maybe you should spend 3000 on your video and the remainder of the balance on your marketing. The marketing budget should be more than your video, that much I know.”
“Have you ever considered lending any of your songs to films?”
“Actually, a couple years back I had a publishing deal with Olay. I was writing 12 songs/year that were strictly for commercials, TV and movies. I’ve had my music used on The Family Channel to HBO movies to BET shows, Love and Hip Hop in Atlanta.”
“How many songs do you think you’ll be releasing before the album is completed?”
“I’m going to be releasing 2 more singles before the album comes out but it all depends on how the Covid – 19 goes. There’s a video I wanted to shoot in early May but I may have to change the concept or reschedule the shoot for a later date. I also had a tour across Europe in the works for the end of May. It was going to be my first headlining tour and I was going to bring other artists with me. One positive thing to come from staying home is that more people are streaming music and it’s a good time to release new music. Music has the power to change your mood and I find that people are going to music more now than ever.”
In closing, Dru had talked about doing a ½ live Instagram show on his account in the very near future. He said he’d move his bed, set up some lights and microphones. When he does do it, people should really tune in. He’s an incredible Canadian talent with an amazing voice and new songs to share and soothe those stress levels. Music is good for the body and mind, so lets get as much into us as possible.