The name on everybody’s lips is COLBY O’DONIS, and who can blame them when Colby’s first single, “What U Got”, featuring Akon has been tearing up the charts? Often referred to as ColbyO — at the young age of 20, you would think Colby was just getting his feet wet in the industry, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
FV recently sat down to chat with the R&B singer about his start in music, his debut album, and working with Akon & New Kids on the Block!
Can you tell us more about your start in the industry?
You know I started when I was nine. Should I look at you? [Then points to camera] I’ll look at you; it’d be pretty weird if I looked at the camera. Well I started when I was nine. [Laughs] I’ll look at you. Take two.
I started when I was nine, I was working with Full Force who did a lot of stuff with Lisa Lisa, ‘N Sync/Justin Timberlake, Usher, Jennifer Lopez; they did a lot of stuff with all those artists. Ten years old I got signed to Motown Records to sing on the Little Stuart soundtrack. Umm, and you know before I signed my deal with Akon I actually had six independent albums, so I’ve been doing it for a long time definitely.
Oh wow, you’ve kept busy.
Yeah, real busy.
How did you hook up working with Akon?
My manager hooked it up, some connections that they had. I got in the studio with Akon, played him my demo … my production, my writing and he fell in love with it. From there we were just in the studio a bunch more times after that, worked on some music. He was like ‘I’ve got this label Konvict Muzik, and I want you to be apart of it’.
Who are some of your musical influences? You mentioned you were on Motown; did you grow up listening to that?
Yeah, I grew up in the Motown days, listening to The Temptations, Luther Vandros, the whole Motown gang I was listening to that my parents had. Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Usher, grew up listening to them too … Mario! I’m here opening for him now, so it’s kinda cool, it’s a surreal feeling.
Your single “What U Got” has become a huge hit! Did you ever think it would become as big as it has?
You know what I didn’t know it was going to blow up as big, because you know they say new artists coming out of the gate it never happens like this. I was expecting it to do great, but it just went beyond what I expected it to do; which is a blessing. Because now it’s got me doing big things … MTV, BET, I mean everything. Now I’m about to be going on tour with New Kids on the Block, I’m gonna be going on tour with them so that’s exciting. I’ve got a lot of big things happening for me right now.
Well, were did the inspiration spark for the song? Was it about a specific girl?
It was more we were thinking of an anthem kinda thing, generalized song. Everybody knows somebody that knows somebody that’s always talking about what they got. So you’ve go to … It’s an anthem really, it’s everybody’s anthem right now.
Where were you when you first heard it on the radio?
Uh, I was in LA in my apartment. I heard it with my family and it was very emotional for all of us, because if you know how long we’ve been chasing this, you know that it was finally a great thing.
Well with six albums…
Yeah, six independent albums on my own just kind of writing, working hard trying to get discovered. A lot of people you know didn’t believe in us, didn’t think we’d make it. Now we’ve made it, so it’s great … we’re here, we’re in the spotlight! It’s amazing. It was definitely an emotional moment for us when we heard it on the radio.
You’re blowing up the charts … but, unlike most entertainers you stay out of the spotlight, the clubs, and the tabloids. Do you try and avoid that aspect of the industry?
Yeah, you know I just let those celebrities that do that … do that. To me you know I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t have any tattoos, I don’t go clubbing. But, you know the thing is I perform at clubs like 24-7, always; I’m always performing at clubs so any little time I have off I want to get away from the club [Laughs] because I’m always in a club. So, the little time I do have off, which is hardly anything now [Laughs] I like to be away from the club trying to relax; I’m constantly on the road now so. But yeah, I’m trying to just set a different image. Just let everyone like young kids, a lot kids are looking up to me growing up, watching me, seeing what I do and I know it’s monkey see monkey do.
Your debut album hits shelves in September; can you tell us what we can expect?
The album is great; it has a lot of good features. Akon is on the album, T-Pain’s on the album, Paul Wall on the album, Lil’ Romeo … it’s going to be a great album. I wrote fourteen of the fifteen songs, I got to co-write a song with The Dream on there, co-wrote with Akon on a song. It’s been a lot of fun and I’m just excited for this year and excited for the album to drop. It’s going to be a total of fifteen songs and half of them were produced by me, so I’m excited I can’t wait.
Your song with T-Pain, it’s called “Natural High” right?
“Natural High”. [Nods]
Can you tell us about that?
The leak? [Laughs] Yes, I can tell you about that. I don’t even know how that got out, crazy. But yeah, it’s called “Natural High” my song with T-Pain, that might be the third single … we’ll see we’re talking about it. That’s definitely going to be a smash, a big smash we’re excited for that song to come out too.
You’ve been working with everyone lately, from Akon to Lady Gaga and Prima J! Is there anyone you haven’t worked with, but would like to?
Luda. LUDA! LudaCris man that’s … I’ve always wanted to work with Luda, since forever. Akon and Luda were my two top on my list. So it’s cool ‘cause it’s in the air right now it’s not a guarantee ‘cause it’s not happened yet, but Luda might be jumping on my second single “Don’t Turn Back”; which is available on iTunes for sale, so go cop that.
You’ve been mentioning who’s going to be featured on your CD, there have been rumors that you actually collaborated with Britney Spears is that true?
Oh, Britney … nah, I don’t want to say yes or no. I’m just gonna leave that in the air too. [Wink]
So, may be a rumor may not be a rumor?
Might be, just might have to wait and find out.
“Just Dance” is a fun song that’s becoming quite popular! Will you be working more with Lady Gaga in the future?
Maybe, possibly … I mean she’s a great friend of mine Lady Gaga, label mate, Konvict. So, you never know, you never know.
You’re opening for the New Kids on the Block soon. How did that come about? Were you an NKOTB fan growing up?
Yeah, New Kids on the Block I grew up listening to them, you know big fan. My sister is OBSESSED with the New Kids on the Block; my parents love the New Kids on the Block and now I’m going on tour with New Kids on the Block, so it’s crazy. I worked with New Kids on the Block on some songs, they’re great guys … they’re really down to earth, really nice. I feel blessed and honored to be able to be going on tour with them.
Did you have a favorite song of theirs growing up?
Favorite song? I loved all their songs. It was just kind of all over the place for me.
Akon refers to you as his “secret weapon” and we hear that you’re teaching him to play guitar. What makes you guys such a great team?
Man, me and Akon we’re just … I think the best thing is that we just don’t get caught up in the hype. I’ve learned it from him, watching him and seeing him do everything he does and he doesn’t get caught up in the hype. He kind of taught me not to get caught up in the hype. So, just being around his presence and his aura, and everything about him is just great … great thing and a great guy. He definitely you know, loves the music, loves the fans and I kind of just picked up from him. Me and him are collaborators, we have great chemistry … he’s like my big brother and mentor. So, it’s great definitely.
You’ve been producing and writing since you were very young and you’ve been able to use your talents on your debut album. That’s rare; most artists don’t have that much creativity on their first album. What else do you want to tackle in the music world? What are some goals you hope to accomplish?
Well, right now my main thing is focusing on the music, launching it. Once my music is completely launched I’m going to go into the entrepreneur side of the business. Try to do the business end of things, because I love it. My dad always taught me business, I was in business meetings with him and I just kind of loved that business aspect of things. So, once I launch my music career I’m going to try and you know go in that path.
It seems in this business even 15 year olds turn 25 over night. So, what keeps you grounded?
My family, my family definitely keeps me grounded; you know my family, my friends. I keep everybody in my camp are people that have been around for years. Like my road manager he’s been around for five years, he’s like family, he’s not… I don’t look at him as a road manager I look at him as family. That’s probably why I abuse him so much. [Laughs] I’m just kidding. He’s like family to me. You know my dancers; they’ve been dancing with me for like four years, they’re all family. Everybody in my camp is family, my dad he’s like in my camp, my mom … everybody’s like this. [Puts hands together] When I bring new people in its cool, but I like having people I know have my back, people that were there way before. That’s literally my whole camp, is my family.
Good way to work.
Yeah, best way to work.
Well, thank you so much…
Oh wait! Don’t forget colbyo.com, c-o-l-b-y-o.com and don’t forget to cop the second single off my debut album, which drops September 16th it’s called “Don’t Turn Back”.
WATCH our interview with ColbyO below as well as special performance!
Make sure you take a look at more photos in the gallery.
IN STORE & ON ITUNES SEPTEMBER 16TH!
photography: Chanelle Justice ©FANVASION