Tell me about your new album, Nightlife. What sort of inspiration did you have when putting the album together, and what goals do you have for this album?
The thing is, with my first record, I produced it all myself, the second record, I started collaborating with other producers as well. The third album, I thought I proved myself as a producer and a song writer, so the whole album was made by a lot of producers in studios around the world. I just wanted an album that could be played in the car, in the clubs, at home, especially since weve been doing a lot of club events. I wanted some club bangers on this album.
Why did you choose to cover Africa, by Toto?
Its funny. I was just talking to my agent about this exact story. I was about 10 years old and I remember I would go to school and I would play that song for everybody, and all my friends, they wouldnt get it. I just love the song. I love the harmonies. It just hit me; my parents are musicians, so just the musicalitys of it just blew me away.
After doing so many collaborations with other artists, what do you think is the best and worst part of collaborating?
Well, it depends if the artist is good and I try to surround myself with good artists. They can inspire you even more to come up with more amazing ideas for a song. The worst part is when the idea isnt that good and theyre trying to convince you of it and youre trying to fight for your space and time on the song. But Im really lucky I worked with good people on this record.
And who have you collaborated with so far?
Ive collaborated with Snoop Dogg, Culture, Loon, Sway and Ive collaborated with all the guys on my team here. I might make my agent sing on an album with me.
If you could pick one female and one male artist to collaborate with who would you pick?
I really want to work with Shadai. Thats really one of my goals. And Akon.
I read that you are interested in acting and we might see you on the big screen soon. Can you tell me more about that?
Yeah, my agent got me an offer for Saw 7, so theyre probably going to cut off my toes or something (laughs). Im having another meeting this Monday for a big romantic comedy, not as a lead but still a part, which is cool. Im starting to do films. Im doing a lot of directing. I directed the music video for Yalla Habibi, Im directing all of my music videos and acting in them, so Im slowly getting into acting.
Carrera is my favourite song of yours, and Id like to know what the story behind that song is.
My dad was always into Porsches since we were young, but he never got one, he was never able to. So when your parents really want something, you kind of want to live it for them, so its the car that I love, a Carrera.
Yalla Habibi was shot in the UAE and you get to travel all over the world. Where is your favourite place to travel?
I grew up in Dubai and I love going back there. All of my friends are there and the beach is beautiful. Dubai is probably my favourite place.
Do you have any special routines before a big performance? Do you still get nervous?
Yeah, I mean, you dont get nervous anymore. Its like another day at the office. You know what youre doing but I usually do some pushups before. I hang out with my buddies, and we take a drink of water (laughs). I do like at least 150 pushups before a show
How did it feel to perform in Toronto on New Years Eve in front of thousands people?
It was fifty thousand people and 3.2 million viewers! It felt great but it didnt feel like fifty thousand people. I could only see the people in the front but it was the craziest feeling. Ive always wanted to perform in Toronto outdoor for the last 10-15 years Ive been in Canada, and every year Im like next year, next year. It finally happened and it was a dream come true.
What is your favourite song on Nightlife?
My favourite song is my new single Hurting. I love that video and its going to be crazy.
Hurting is a great song. All of your fans can relate to it. Why did you choose boxing for the video concept?
Its a long story. Its about my ex-girlfriend. Its the truth so Ill tell you. Its basically a metaphor about my life and my career but I didnt want to use me being a singer and the stage and studio as my training ground. I really wanted to do something in a different vibe than music because its a true story about my ex-girlfriend. She never understood my career and where I was going and I kind of neglected her. Because of that, in the video you see that with me at the gym and then at my main event, she didnt show up so I messed up. Its that kind of story.
So that brings me to my next question. How have your relationships changed since the limelight?
As you go on in this industry, you realize you need someone who understands the business, understands you and I think security in a woman is very important. If shes secure in herself, then Im very happy.
Is there anything you wish you knew about the industry when you were starting up that you know now?
I dont regret a single thing because where I am is amazing, and this year is going to be amazing. We just finalized a deal in Europe with Sony and this is going to be my year, so I dont regret anything. All the things Ive done Ive learned from. You just roll with the punches.
What do you think is the most important advice anyone has ever given you?
The most important advice that anyone has ever given me is when I first did the song Africa, four or five years ago. My agent at the time told me to do my own style and not just a straight cover. I did four or five versions of that song before it became the version it is today and now its triple platinum—its exploding all over the world. We sold half a million copies in Japan. It was all because of him directing me a little bit.