While other grade school kids were carving their names on lunchroom tables, Jason Derulo was busy writing music; the Florida native penned his first track, "Crush On You," when he was eight years old.
The singer/songwriter, who has been performing since the age of four, met his manager when he was 12 and has been putting pen to paper for the likes of Lil Wayne, Keyshia Cole and Cassie, since the age of 16. In 2006, the same year he landed his first major placement, Derulo won the grand prize on the season finale of the TV show "Showtime at the Apollo."
"I told my mom, 'Ma, I'm going to be better than Michael Jackson,'' says the 20-year-old. "When I saw him [Michael Jackson] for the first time was when I knew that's what I wanted to do. From then on, my goal in life was to express myself through song and to showcase it to the world."
Today, Derulo, who also dabbles in dancing, acting and producing (he was enrolled in a performing arts school where he studied music, classical voice, jazz, ballet, opera and theater), is signed to Warner Brothers by way of a joint venture with producer J.R. Rotem's Beluga Heights label (Sean Kingston) and is prepping the early 2010 release of his as-yet-titled debut.
His lead single, "Whatcha Say," which samples Imogen Heap's song, "Hide and Seek," debuted at No. 54 on the Hot 100 and currently sits at No. 5. The song, which he originally wrote for Kingston, is also No. 2 on Hot Digital Songs with 775,000 copies sold, according to Nielsen Soundscan.
"Our chemistry is amazing," Derulo says about signing to Rotem, who discovered Derulo's knack for singing when he flew Derulo out to L.A. to write music. "We recorded six songs that night and even though other labels were putting their offers on the table, the music was so compelling that I didn't leave without signing a deal with J.R."
Other songs slated to make the album, which was produced entirely by Rotem and written by Derulo with the exception of one song, include "What If," "about meeting someone for the first time and wondering what the future holds;" "My Bed," co-written by Claude Kelly (Kelly Clarkson, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus); "Around The World," which finds Derulo "searching around the world for the right one;" and "Riding Solo," which samples The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony."
To roll out the album, Derulo is currently on a promotional tour and will star in the MTV Films flick, "Turn the Beat Around," early next year.
"I never wanted to be a songwriter -- it just kind of fell on my lap. I love writing, but I always wanted to be the voice not just the pen," says Derulo about his newfound singing career. "I always yearned to sing my own song, and now, here I am doing just that."