Before this song blew up you were a tennis instructor, right?
Yeah, I was playing tennis and singing with my gospel choir. I’m very competitive, so I guess that’s the only thing that’s the same [between tennis and music]. I want to be the best. Maybe that’s a bad thing to say, but it’s the truth. It’s all you got these days, you gotta be the best.
Is there any part of you that misses your life from before this song got so huge?
Yes and no. That’s where I came from, you know, the choir and playing tennis. But people grow up, and I’m doing what I really want to do right now. Tennis was something that made me feel good, but this is my life. Singing is my life. So I’m very happy with where I am right now.
What music are you working on right now?
I’m working on a solo project right now, and I’ve just been making a bunch of hooks—my management told me to send them a bunch of hooks, so I’ve been making loads of them, and making songs that I can release next year. Not really big artists, but a lot of artists have wanted to work with me, and I think that’s nice. It’s a compliment.
Who would you like to work with?
Well I’d love to work with Celine Dion, she’s a really good singer. She has insurance on her voice—that’s crazy, you have to be one of the best singers in the world to have that. I love Lady Gaga’s music, and I like how she wants everybody to feel loved, I think that’s very important. And I like Missy Elliott ’cause she just does her own thing. Kanye too, Kanye does his own thing.
What types of things have you learned from being in the studio with Macklemore?
Take your time. Make the music how you want it to be. You’re not in a rush to make good music. You know, I’m not with a label, so I don’t have someone saying, “This needs to be done by this time.” That’s hard, because when you go into the studio thinking, “This needs to be a hit record…” At the beginning when I was making my music, I was like, “This needs to be like ‘Can’t Hold Us,’ I need another ‘Can’t Hold Us,’” and it was messing up my flow, the way I make music, the way I write. So I just had to chill and make the music. “Can’t Hold Us” is on its own.
What direction are you going with your new project?
Electric soul. I like soul singing. Electric soul is like pop-soul, but it’s soul with a little twist. I don’t know anybody who makes electric soul—I’m making it up. A new genre. I always listen to Sam Cooke, Amy Winehouse. I’ve just been listening to random stuff lately, I haven’t found an addiction yet. I’ve been working with a lot of people—Kinetics, Young Yonny, who worked with Lil Wayne. A lot of producers.
What are you looking forward to at the VMAs this weekend?
I hope I win an award—what I got planned is a moonman in my hand. [Laughs] I really want to meet Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars. I just want to kick it with all the singers. Cee-Lo, I wanna kick it with Cee-Lo, he should be there.