We met singer Jason DeRulo at his record offices in Manhattan recently. His song “Whatcha Say” is one of our favorites.
When did you write your first song and what was it?
My first song was written when I was 8 and it was called “Crush On You.” I had a crush on this girl in my class and I wanted to write a song about it. At this point I had been studying classical music and in classical music you can’t really sing the song how you want to sing it. You have to kind of stay within the guidelines and stay with what is just written on the paper. You can’t really embellish at all. And when I wrote this song I noticed I could write whatever I wanted to and sing it however I wanted to. So when I wrote that song I started writing every single day after that.
What would you say if kids had a good voice and didn’t know what to do with it?
I would say reach for the stars. When I say things like I want to impact the world with my music, and with my performance. You know people might be like who does this guy think he is. But it’s OK to reach for the stars. It's ok to have big dream because if you don’t believe in yourself then nobody will. I’m still reaching for the stars. I still want to go way beyond where I am right now. This is just the beginning. You should always set your goals as high as possible. If you believe it in your heart it’s really possible.
What was the best moment of your singing career?
I have to say when “Whatca Say” went No. 1 on the Billboard charts. It’s an incredible feat. Jay-Z just got his first number one with “Empire State of Mind.” And my first single went No. 1, and it’s just incredible. That was like the ultimate moment for me. Hearing my song on the radio was also awesome, but going number one kind of topped that.
Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
I grew up in Miami and now I live in LA. I kind of live in hotels all across the country. But other than that my home is in LA.
If you could have another career, what would it be and why?
It would definitely be an acting career. I’ve been studying acting for my entire life also and acting is an equal love of mine. So definitely acting. I’m actually in an upcoming film called “Turn the Beat Around” coming out this year.
Who helped you along the way of your career? Did your parents?
My parents played definitely a huge part in this whole process. They put me into performing arts schools; they were always really supportive. They let me do what I wanted to do. It’s not easy for a parent to allow their child to go this route because it’s kind of the impossible dream and to allow your child to chase something that’s not realistic in most people’s eyes is a feat in self.
Who are some celebrities you worked with?
Lil Wayne, Danity Kane, Cassie, P-Diddy, Sean Kingston, I co-wrote “Replay” for IYAZ, which is another big song we know, Birdman, Pitbull.
How was it when you first performed in concert?
Nerve wracking when I was backstage. I remember being backstage and saying I’m not going on, I'm not doing it, no, I changed my mind, I’m OK. And I was talking to this guy and I didn't even know who this guy was, he just picked me up and actually put me on the stage. And once the music came on and I started singing, I was OK.
Do you rehearse a lot?
I rehearse so much. I don’t think anyone rehearses as much as me. I have always rehearsed a lot. That's what I spend all my time doing. Dancing, singing, rehearsing, acting. Just all forms of performances just always been my thing. I didn’t even consider it rehearsing because I love doing it. So it was just doing what I love doing.
Do you see yourself as a role model?
I would hope so. I think I could actually be a cool role model. I would like for people to be more involved in charity as I am. I cut 14 inches of my hair to donate to Locks of Love for children with cancer and various diseases. I’m constantly giving to different charities. I would really like it if people got involved in, you know, do some of the stuff that I do. Especially celebrities because they have a voice and people are paying attention to them. It’s really unfortunate some of the things that are happening now, cancer and HIV and all these things. There needs to be awareness and there needs to be more giving. Giving back.
How did you start or get discovered like found or famous?
It was no big break for me. It was as journey for me. I started when I was 5 years old. I started singing and dancing and when I was 8 I started writing songs. I always wanted to be a performer but when I started writing songs it was really fun for me. I wanted to continue to write songs. When I was 16 I wrote a song for Birdman and from Birdman it just kind of snowballed and I just kind of started writing for all different kinds of artists in the industry. Lil’ Wayne, P-Diddy, Cassie, Danity Kane, Sean Kingston doing all this writing and that’s kind of how I got noticed. They were like wow this young guy is writing all these songs for all these different people. So a bunch of labels started to get at me and my manager and the rest is history.
Do you get scared when you’re on the stage singing and performing?
Before I get on stage I get a little nervous. My palms get a little sweaty, but once I get on the stage then I’m OK. Then everything is just like home. I feel like at one with my fans and the audience. Before I go on stage it’s like a little nerve-wracking.
What’s you favorite hobby when you’re not singing?
Playing basketball would probably be my favorite. I try not to play too much because I don’t want to get hurt at this point because I got to go on tour. I’m on tour with Lady Gaga. It’s one of the great things happening and I don’t want to get hurt. I try to work out other ways.
If you were able to sing with any star, who would it be?
Madonna. I would love to do a collaboration with Madonna. She’s ground breaking. She’s changed the world with her music and I would love to pick her brain and go into the mind of a legend.
Who was your role model?
My role model was Michael Jackson. He was my biggest influence and he's the reason why I started singing and started dancing. When I was 5 years old I had seen him for the first time and I was like Mom I want to be just like him. And ever since then I just followed this dream. I didn't want to do anything else. So if you ask me to change a tire, I would be like what?
Where is one special place you would want to perform?
Madison Square Garden.
Why did you write the song “Whatcha Say?”
It was inspired by my brother. He called me one day. He was like I cheated on my girl, I don’t know what to do, she left me. What should I do Jay. I'm like stupid go beg for her love back you messed up. So it's time for you to get on your knees and beg. If she takes you back lucky you. I just thought that was so compelling. It happens every single day and so many people go through infidelity and stuff like that. So I wrote a song about it and it just happened to be magical.
What was your favorite subject in school and where you good at it?
Lunch. I was really good at lunch. People just don’t -- they didn't appreciate lunch like I did. Lunch was always so good to me. Mexican pizza was awesome. I loved the beef patties, chicken, chicken patties. I loved the chicken patties for breakfast. Do you guys have those still? OMG, they’re amazing. Aren’t they? And I use to like to pop the jelly. Like pop it on there.
What is your favorite song?
My favorite song of all time is “Dirty Diana” by Michael Jackson.
If there was a news article written about you, what should be the headline?
Jason Derulo the King. No. Jason Derulo, philanthropists. Philanthropy is just giving back like you know what I was saying, like with charity and stuff like that. So I would like to be known as one of the biggest, who has ever been in this whole entertainment thing. It's really important to me and I think I get this trait from my mother. She's always fed the homeless, stuff like that. That's just how I was brought up. I always think about others before I think about myself. That would be my favorite headline.