Get involved! Send your photos, video, news & views by texting HL NEWS to 80360 or e-mail us
Naughty boy checks in
6:00am Saturday 14th September 2013 in Music
After a TV game show win and helping to launch Emeli Sande's career, Naughty Boy is one of Britain's most in-demand producers. Now his debut album's out, he tells Andy Welch why it's based on his time working in a hotel.
Naughty Boy is on his way home from a live session and interview at BBC Radio 1. The same week, he's already done Radio 2 and a handful of commercial stations, demonstrating the wide appeal of his music.
He's perhaps most famous for co-writing and producing Emeli Sande's award-winning album Our Version Of Events. Plus he's worked on tracks by the likes of Cheryl Cole, Britney Spears, JLS, Tinie Tempah, Jennifer Hudson and Leona Lewis.
But now it's time for Naughty Boy, real name Shahid Khan, to step out from behind the mixing desk and release an album of his own music.
It's called Hotel Cabana, a concept of sorts inspired by his time working in a luxury hotel not far from his home in Watford, and features a host of famous voices including Professor Green, Ed Sheeran, Wiz Khalifa and Bastille, while Emeli Sande and Tinie Tempah also appear on a track or two.
"Getting those people on there is a good way to catch listeners," says Khan, 28. "The artists featured on the album - I wasn't trying to make their kind of music, I was making a Naughty Boy album and they're singing on it, they're guests. I wanted to take them out of their comfort zone with the musical style and lyrics. It was exciting, not just for me but for them too."
Explaining the hotel theme, he adds: "I'd never seen the five-star world before working there [at the aforementioned hotel] and I became a bit obsessed with it all.
"It was a weird environment: people with a lot of money, a lot of waste, a lot of affairs and escapism. Lifestyle of the rich and famous and all that...
"I always thought there was something not quite right about the whole thing, and doing an album about a hotel is perfect.
"It lets me discuss morality, temptation and money, all the things that people have in life, looking at how what you want and what you need are different, exploring fame and celebrity and how people crave it. Hotel Cabana represents the age we live in."
It took two years to record, mainly due to waiting for windows in the schedules of some of music's busiest artists. Khan insisted they all came to his studio - not just to bring their vocals but their ideas as well.
"They're not just singers I've got on the album, they're songwriters and they've got what I was trying to do. I was bringing them into my world, but at the same time I needed them to bring a part of themselves to it too," he explains. "I'm a producer, so it was important for me to be in control."
Back in 2005, Khan had dropped out of a business and marketing degree and was working in various jobs: making pizzas at Domino's, working in Watford General Hospital and the hotel, of course
Applying to go on the TV show Deal Or No Deal changed everything. After a couple of weeks watching others play the game, it was his turn and he ended up winning £44,000.
Adding that to the £5,000 grant he'd previously received from The Prince's Trust, he quit his job at the takeaway ("I think they were going to let me go anyway, I was on 26 shows of Deal Or No Deal so I was never there") and began setting up his studio.
"I think I used my money wisely," he says. "I did have some fun but I used the majority to build a life, and music was the reason I went on the programme. I started late. I wish I'd started earlier, but I can't do anything about that now."
After the initial injection of cash and enthusiasm, Khan says there were times when he was deflated by the way his career was shaping up.
Then, in 2009, after being signed to Sony's songwriting and production stable, he produced a song for Chipmunk - Diamond Rings - which featured the then unknown Emeli Sande.
The pair got on well, and when it was time for the Scot to make her own album she knew who to turn to. Khan was, after all, one of the few people who'd believed in her when she was struggling.
His own album project was starting to come together at the same time and Khan says: "There were times when I was disheartened about the whole thing, and I didn't know if I'd over-thought the whole concept of the hotel.
"I had all these questions, but being part of Emeli's album and observing the whole thing gave me confidence to make the songs I wanted to make. After her album, everything fell into place."
Our Version Of Events has since sold almost two million copies worldwide, a mega-success. It's little wonder the likes of Britney Spears came knocking, while Khan is one of the producers Lily Cooper, nee Allen, approached for help with her much-anticipated comeback.
"It's all unexpected, but it's been amazing," he says. "With Emeli, I knew I was working with something special. She's a special singer, artist, songwriter and person. To help bring that out, at an early stage when I wasn't a professional, was brilliant.
"We really learned the craft of writing songs together, and we weren't listening to anyone else, just doing our own things. Now those songs are being played at weddings and funerals - not that I wanted to do that, but it's an honour that they are."
Winning a prestigious Ivor Novello award for his songwriting earlier this year also made him realise that he and Sande had "done something worth remembering".
If he's become more comfortable making music, live performance is something he's still to get used to. This summer has seen him perform at V, Wireless and a handful of other festivals.
"I'm just getting into it," he says. "When you have songs that people sing back to you, it makes it much easier. These shows have come after having a bit of success in music. I did shy away from performing for a time but you can't do that, not when you're signed to a major label."
Despite his successful run, Khan is staying firmly grounded. "I'm not doing loads of interviews, but it's nice to connect with people who like your music," he says.
"People asking for photos can get a bit much though. But I might not make another album of my own, so I know I've got to do everything I can to make this one a success."
Extra time - Naughty Boy
:: Naughty Boy was born Shahid Khan on January 1, 1985.
:: He enrolled to study business and marketing at London Guildhall University (now London Metropolitan University) but dropped out after his first term.
:: Before his win on Deal Or No Deal, he made music in his parents' garden shed.
:: After the win, he set up Naughty Boy Recordings and moved to a studio in Ealing, West London.
:: His song La La La featuring from Sam Smith went to No 1 in the UK earlier this year.
:: Naughty Boy's debut album Hotel Cabana is available now
Comments are closed on this article.