Face to face with Ricardo Drue

ricardo 5It’s not a good sign for soca music when merely typing the word results in the dogged appearance of a red squiggly line and a handful of ‘helpful’ alternative spelling suggestions. Regardless of whether or not we should credit Microsoft Word with the weighty status of a barometer of societal significance, one thing is for sure: If anyone can drag the uptempo genre into the global mainstream it’s Ricardo Drue. The 28-year-old Antiguan-born, Orlando-based performer is one of its most prolific trailblazers. An amalgam of soul and calypso, soca has everything to do with breakneck percussion, frenetic rhythms and some rather risqué dance moves. And nothing to do with soda. Or socks.

Did you always want to be a performer?
Ever since I was a little kid. I would take other people’s songs, keep the melody and change the words. Then I’d say ‘hey mom, I’ve written a song’ (laughs). Later I started getting random melodies coming into my head. My inspiration comes from different moods, different things I have gone through in the past, sometimes just being on the road for Carnival, and also from my kids (three boys aged seven, five and three).

What’s the best part of being on stage?
For that hour you’re up there you get to encourage, inspire and command – everything people want to do on a daily basis. Carnival 2014, for me, was the best carnival ever in terms of reception from the people, reception for the music and the vibes in general.

What’s been the proudest moment of your musical career so far?
Winning Soca Monarch for the first time (Carnival 2014). I’m still in shock. I keep having dreams where I am due to perform the next day and feel really anxious! I am definitely a perfectionist; I am told I need to focus more on my performance, not on what’s going on behind me with the band and dancers, but I can’t help myself.

What’s your favourite song to perform?
It always used to be ‘Socaholic’. Right now it’s ‘Vagabond’. I actually expected ‘Vagabond’ to win Soca Monarch, I won’t even lie. In fact, it was ‘Hide & Seek’ that won.

How do you think soca is being perceived internationally now?
I think there’s more awareness of it but there’s still work for us to do. People like Bunji Garlin (2013 Soul Train Awardee) and Machel Montano (Trinidian singer/songwriter) are doing well for the art form but they’re just two individuals; we need more ambassadors. I believe we have what it takes here in Antigua if we can open our eyes a little more.

ricardo 3Who have your best musical collaborations been with?
Bunji Garlin, Patrice Roberts, Edwin Yearwood, Dr Evil aka Leftside, and Claudette Peters. Bunji is very cool, very reserved. And an incredible freestyler! He asked me what I wanted him to say, I told him exactly what I wanted, he looked at the wall, looked back at me and came straight out with it. I can’t do that like him; I can’t even put my words on paper, I have to sing them.

You were just a baby when you left Antigua. What was life like growing up in Trinidad?
A little rough. I mean it was decent really, I had friends, and I didn’t want to leave at the age of 13. But I was getting into trouble and my grandfather, who lived in Florida, thought it would be a good idea for me to go there. Florida wasn’t how I thought it would be; I expected to see all the girls from the MTV videos! Later I went back to Trinidad and started my musical career there in 2009. In 2010 I made my first appearance in Antigua.

What makes you a proud Antiguan?
Our beaches most of all; there’s so many I haven’t even been to them all. My favourite one is a very quiet one near Dickenson Bay. And the people too; they’re just real, if they like you they like you, if they don’t they don’t - and they tell you!

Tell us some of your favourite places to hang out on island.
Well I’m a night person – I like Studio 79 (formerly Rush nightclub), and Last Call (Friars Hill Road). And I love Halcyon Cove Resort – I often spend two or three days there relaxing by myself. As for restaurants, when I am hungry I go anywhere! My favourite local dish is fungee with saltfish, ducana and plenty of hot sauce.

What’s the last book you read?
I’m not sure I can remember but the best one I’ve ever read is The Secret (by Rhonda Byrne). It had a huge effect on me. I really try not to put negative energy into the universe. It’s a very important lesson; if you want it out there, put it out there positively – or don’t put it out at all.

Do you have an all-time favourite song?
Probably something by Neyo. I’m going to say ‘Lazy Love’.

Do you sing in the shower?
Yes! Often. Anything that comes to mind really; sometimes my own stuff if I am writing it right then or preparing for a show.

If you could switch places with anyone, living or dead, for a week, who would it be?
Albert Einstein – just to understand his thought processes as one of the smartest men in the world, to know how he felt and what went through his mind.

What’s your biggest regret in life so far?
I don’t have any. There are some decisions I wish I had made sooner, but I think every decision has a consequence and every consequence teaches you a lesson. I try not to live with regrets.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about you?
I have been told I look vain, arrogant and full of myself. It’s absolutely not true. I am actually one of the most reserved people you will ever meet. Not shy, more introspective. I disappear into my thoughts – a lot.

Tell us something about you that people don’t know.
A lot of people don’t know I have three kids. I would do anything in this world for my children, even if it meant giving up music. I like to play with them and teach them lessons. They teach me a lot too, the most important thing being that your energy, your vibe, can affect someone standing next to you. Sometimes they will say, ‘daddy are you ok, you seem sad’, and I am like, wow, you can feel that?! If they can feel it, then other people around you can too.

What are you working on right now?
Touring (Florida and the Caribbean) for my first album, My Time, which was released in July 2014. For 2015 I will be working on my second album, ID Nation. In the meantime, people can follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter – the keyword is ‘itsdrue’.