Interview with Project Icon Judge Jason Derulo



What led you to create the show Project Icon?

I’ve watched a million talent shows, from all over the world, and very few artists have actually made it after being in one of those shows. There has been a select few, but over the last 20 years, the ratio isn’t very high in terms of having successful artists from singing shows. I think the reason why is because the shows are largely based on singing alone, and that’s not the real world, we live in a world where people are attracted to not only someone’s voice, but also a song, someone’s personality, what they do on social media… In Project Icon we’re testing artists on their song writing ability, as well as their voice, and also how well they brand themselves, and how compelling they can be on social media, in interviews, and on stage. We live in a day and age where in a click of a button you can reach millions of people. That is as important as having a great song these days. I created this show as I want to find a consummate artist!

What are you looking for in a winner?

I am looking for someone who is already a star, someone who is self-sufficient enough that a team can come in and be a supplement, but not someone who is going to use us as a crutch. I want to see the magic that they already have and enhance it.

Out of all the challenges and tasks that take place, which is your favourite and why?

I love the social media challenge, I feel like it’s a piece of what the modern day looks like. Nowadays you have to be able to be an amazing artist, but you also have to be able to connect, and social media is the best way to connect with the fans. Back in the day artists were really mysterious, and fans didn’t know much about them, but that has completely changed in recent years.

We also see social media is a big part of your music promotion and a great expression of your personality online. Do you think musicians and performers need to have a strong online presence to be successful today?

I don’t think it’s mandatory, but it’s a great tool as it offers you a huge stage. If you have access to 56 million followers on an app, and you can click a button and they can all hear what you’re saying, it makes the process a lot easier. It’s not mandatory but it’s a huge plus and a clear advantage!

What’s your judging style?

I try and be helpful in the process, they are all on a journey to finding themselves as artists. I want to be a tool that they can utilise to help them along. When I tell them I don’t like something, I try and give them reasons why, to help them improve, almost like a sort of bootcamp. I wish I had something like this as a young artist, having someone who has already been there before me to advise would have been really nice. It is a really tough industry, I don’t sugar-coat things as I don’t think that makes you a better artist, so I try and be real.

You have had an incredible music career thus far, what do you think is the key to longevity as a music artist?

I think the key to longevity is humbling yourself enough to know that there is always room to grow and change, you have to change with the times because music changes and different styles of music arrive. For me, I think I have always had the same level of hunger that I have had at the beginning, I have always had the dream to perform on stage, and I had this insatiable desire and spent every waking moment reaching towards that goal. Now I have reached a certain level, I haven’t let up, I still push the gas the exact same way. I never feel like I have arrived somewhere, I am always onto the next thing. Another major thing is keeping young, fresh talent around you. There are fantastic young producers out there, up and coming young artists, I am always looking at what the next wave is and I think that’s key. You have to reinvent yourself each time, so people can’t guess what’s coming next, from music, to hairstyles, to the way you sing, and it happens naturally too as you grow older.

What’s it been like working alongside the other mentors?

It’s been incredible, of course I knew Frank was going to be great, our relationship is natural as I’ve worked with him since I was 13 years old, so he is a long term friend. Becky was my first choice of a third mentor, she has so much talent and she is fantastic. I wanted to get someone in who is relevant today and in the charts, and someone who speaks their mind, and Becky is all that wrapped into one, she is fantastic.

Can you tell us any memorable moments you’ve had whilst filming?

In episode one, one of the contestants, Jay, sings a very leftfield song that comes out of nowhere, and I can’t get it out of my head. At the time I put it down, but watch it become a viral hit, I can still hear it in my head now, I think that’s going to be a highlight moment. I did tell him I thought it was the worst song I had ever heard, but now thinking back, maybe it’s not so bad!

Lastly, describe the show in a few words.

An innovative way to find the modern day superstar!

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