As any regular readers of this blog will know, I’m quite obsessed with songwriters. My ultimate favourites tend to be Swedes like Max Martin and RedOne, but there are a few excellent writers based in the UK and as Xenomania haven’t been on top form lately it’s given Fraser T Smith the chance to creep up and make a play for their crown.
Fraser first got into the industry thanks to Craig David, who he wrote songs (such as the ridiculously underrated World Filled With Love) and played guitar for in the early 2000s. He was even caught up in controversy when Craig’s American label refused to let Fraser play guitar with Craig as he is white and may “alienate black music fans”. Back in the UK, Fraser began working with many of the biggest names in UK urban music, such as Kano and Plan B. However, it was only when I noticed that Fraser had been involved in 2 of my favourite songs at the start of 2009 (Broken Strings by James Morrison and Strong Again by N-Dubz) that I became aware of him and since then I have been following everything he’s done.
From that moment on, Fraser’s name has gotten bigger and bigger as he has become a ‘must have’ for the credits of any new pop album. If there’s any proof that Taio Cruz is the new (more poptastic) Craig David, it’s that Fraser has worked closely with Taio over the past few years. He has credits on much of his best work, as well as many of the songs for other popstars which are generally accredited to Taio, such as Stand Up by Cheryl Cole and Keep her by JLS. In 2010 Fraser has been involved in some of the biggest R&B-pop hits, such as Until You Were Gone by Chipmunk and In My System by Tinchy Stryder, as well as Tinchy and Taio’s forthcoming single Second Chance.
As British urban music has propelled itself into the mainstream in the last 2 years, Fraser has been there every step of the way. He’s the man of the moment so I was very keen to interview him for my Thank You For The Music feature, and luckily he agreed and gave me some very interesting answers…
You have written songs for artists ranging from Keane to Kano, Kylie to Kesha, but which of your songs would you say represents your personal musical style the best?
I wouldn’t say I have a personal musical style. I try and write and produce for the artist, so as long as it represents what they’re hoping to achieve, I’m happy. I’m excited about Clare Maguire’s forthcoming album though. It’s a hybrid of huge drums, epic strings, and Clare’s unmistakable voice.
How did you feel when you achieved your first US no.1 with long-term collaborator Taio Cruz?
I literally felt on top of the world – it was quite emotional, the fulfilment of a life long dream. I called my wife and manager, Sarah and my Mum and Dad, then went back into the studio to celebrate with my engineers (Beatriz and Izzy), and Ed Drewett, who I was working with at the time. We drank a glass of champagne, and then it was back to work.
Have you had the chance yet to work with any of your personal musical heroes, or if not who would your dream collaboration be with?
I’ve had an amazing couple of years working with a list of heroes, including Cee Lo Green, James Morrison, Damon Albarn and Keane. It’s been incredible. My dream collaboration would be U2 featuring Jay Z.
Are there any artists you have worked with who have surprised you by being more talented songwriters than you had expected?
I usually work with artists who can write, so I’m not usually surprised – but I recently worked with Kylie, and found her to be an amazing singer and writer.
It’s a great time for British ‘urban’ music at the moment but how much of this success do you think is due to collaborating with songwriters such as yourself who are able to reinterpret their music for a more mainstream market?
It’s certainly an amazing time for British Urban music, and I’m really proud to have been a small part in the success. From the outset, there was a certain amount of reinterpretation needed to take music from the street and onto mainstream radio – but now the genre has broken through, it’s become the new pop music and it’s great to see artists such as Roll Deep, Skepta and Tinie Tempah making such great music, and really pushing the envelope.
Have there been any of your songs which you think did not achieve the success that they deserved?
I felt ‘This Is The Girl’ (Kano featuring Craig David) was a big track, but struggled at radio. I remember people telling me that the verses were too hard for radio, and that it was all about the US sounding rappers, like 50 Cent. It’s great that times have changed!!!
I love hearing about songs that were intended for one artist but ended up being recorded by someone very different – has this ever happened with any of your songs?
Taio’s ‘Break Your Heart’ was originally written for Cheryl Cole. We listened to it back, and I told Taio he should keep it for himself. I felt the ‘Heart’ reference was too close to Cheryl’s ‘Heartbreaker’… Taio felt the lyric was a bit cocky for him to carry off – I told him he sounded great on it.
What have you been working on recently which you are especially excited for us to hear?
As I mentioned, I’m really excited about the debut album from Clare Maguire – we’ve written the whole album together, and it’s been an amazing experience. I’ve also written some great tracks recently with Adele, Cee Lo and Liam Bailey.
For more on Fraser check out his official site http://www.frasertsmith.com/