American songwriter, singer and producer Raphael Saadiq has had a career spanning four decades, and yet shows no signs of stopping. With his new album Stone Rollin' out this month, Raphael talks about his journey to stardom and what we can expect from him this year.
CM: Hey Raphael, how you doing?
R: Yeah I'm good thanks.
CM: So let's start from the beginning. When was your earliest memory of wanting to be a singer?
R: I didn't really want to be a singer, I just wanted to be a musician really, but I was pushed into the singing thing. I guess it was just wanting to be on stage, being around musicians and playing bass [laughs]. It's always a highlight when you see a concert being advertised. I always wanted to play at the Coliseum near my house; that was probably the thing I thought of the most if anything.
CM: Why the name change from Charles Ray Wiggins?
R: Nobody ever called me Charles anyway. When you were in grade school and people would call you 'Charlie', you would be associated with 'Charlie Brown' so you would get away from it. When I was older, everybody would call me 'Ray'. The 'Raphael' thing came when I played with Sheila E and I changed my surname to 'Saadiq' for my first solo album. I changed it because Wiggins didn't sound like a singer's name and Saadiq meant 'man of his word' in Arabic.
CM: You began your career touring with Prince. That must've been an amazing experience.
R: Yes it was a great experience to travel with Sheila and Prince because he was at the top of his game and it was a great experience to see that day in day out.
CM: You have worked with a calibre of artists. Who was your favourite to work with in the past?
R: Stevie Wonder probably. Steve is the holy grail to music for me and everyone speaks his language. Just to be around someone who is that great is amazing. He is a very humble person, even though he has been around that long and has had so many hit songs.
CM: Is there anyone you haven't worked with yet that you wish to?
R: I like Bill Withers. But I'd like him to work with me so he can teach me something [laughs].
CM: After such a lengthy career, it must've been great picking up your Grammy in 2003 for 'Love of my Life'.
R: I didn't really think about it. It wasn't a big deal to get a Grammy for me. I don't really work like that. I get the reward when the song is done and I hear it back on the speakers. It's great to be recognised by the Academy - it's a great Academy - but I just love music. If it comes, it comes. The reward is when you make the music, not when you get the medal.
CM: Your new album Stone Rollin has been receiving critical acclaim. How would you say it's different to your previous offerings?
R: It's a slight departure. It's not really a Motown record. It's got a more of an edge to it. A lot more of guitarish imitations and the strings are more orchestrated so there are a lot more up-tempo songs. To me it's all the same. I don't really produce so-called commercial pop music so I haven't changed so much. I've been on the one path always.
CM: How have you re-invented yourself to ensure you remain as current as possible?
R: I feel like I have re-created myself on every album. I try to do that. It's like playing a game with yourself, trying to compete with yourself.
CM: You're about to embark on a US tour. Do you still get nervous even after all these years?
R: I get butterflies always, but I think that's normal. I'm always trying to be grateful and attempting to be consistent. When you love what you do, it pays off, and that's the best reward you could have.
CM: You're coming back to Europe at the end of the month. How do your UK fans fare differently from the US?
R: My UK fans are quite similar to the States but they pay much more attention to the details, that I like. They listen, party, and dance moving through the changing moods of the music with me.
CM: What can fans expect from your new shows?
I guess with the rockier stuff, they got to be ready to rock this time round [laughs]. The UK fans like a lot of my earlier stuff so I try and do my old stuff but also bring them up to date with the new stuff too, so they got to be jumping around and acting crazy. With the rockier sound, I spoke to myself about it in the middle of the record. I was being more aggressive so I decided to make the rest of the record that way. There's going to be a lot of touring, mostly in Europe. I would love to go to smaller places in the UK such as Manchester and Liverpool and play there. It's much more intimate; you got to get down and gritty, getting closer to the people.
Thank you Raphael.
Heartbeat Song (Kelly Clarkson cover) [Live]
Sweet Memories [Lyric]