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Jason Derulo Discusses Growing Up in South Florida and Creating Music During COVID

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Bedlam Vodka
Jason Derulo grew up in Miramar, Florida and attended Dillard School for the Performing Arts. His new single Lifestyle is out now with collaborator Adam Levine

Miramar native Jason Derulo spoke with WLRN's Caitie Switalski Muñoz about life at Dillard High School, creating new music during the pandemic and spreading social awareness on his social media.

Growing up in Miramar, Florida in a Haitian American family, Jason Derulo had a single aspiration for his future.

“I had an inspiration and that inspiration was [Michael Jackson]. I saw Michael when I was four years old, and that’s when I decided this is what I was going to do for my life,” said Derulo on Sundial. 27 years later, Derulo is one of the biggest pop stars around the world.

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His music has gone multi-platinum, reached hundreds of millions of listeners on Spotify and iTunes and he’s grown a massive presence on social media platforms like TikTok.

Derulo attributes his success to his creativity, hard work ethic and a focus on creating good content.

“Good content wins. It’s a very equal playing field, everyone has an opportunity to go viral,” he said.

Derulo has remained busy during the COVID-19 pandemic, releasing the hit “Savage Love” with a high school aged TikTok producer last summer. Last week, he released “Lifestyle” with Maroon 5's Adam Levine. He also recently launched a new partnership with Bedlam Vodka.

WLRN Broward County reporter Caitie Switalski Muñoz spoke with Derulo about growing up in South Florida, using social media for activism and creating upbeat music during the pandemic.

The conversation has been edited for clarity.

WLRN: Take us back to Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale and give us a sense of your expectations. What were you seeking from the school?

DERULO: It was always about just trying to become the consummate performer. So I learned every in and out of music that you could possibly learn. Dillard High School was a big part in continuing my journey in classical music and jazz music. I got introduced to jazz music in high school. I was in a jazz band. I was a jazz singer. I was one of two.

So, you know, that really, really immersed me into the jazz world for a couple of years. Whereas, you know, when I was in elementary school and middle school, it was like, you know, just classical music and learning to read music. And then I also got introduced to musical theater in high school as well. And that kind of gave me the bug. And I actually ended up going to musical theater college. I became really, really knowledgeable about everything about music from perfect pitch to having to read music every single day.

It's cool to see that your music in quarantine has stayed this club-style music with upbeat tempos, music that you want to move to. And I'm curious, has the pandemic spurred a period of new creativity for you?

Definitely, and I've got to say that I feel like there's just so much music out there right now, there's just really, really kind of like sad and like down tempo. I don't think like the entire Top 10 needs to sound like that. People need to be uplifted. People need those sounds that are just going to take us out of the situation that we're in, the mindset that we're in. Just because we're having a bad day doesn't mean that we have to listen to music that sounds like that all the time. I mean, it's cool sometimes to obviously to "be in your feels," of course. But I feel like we need some more [upbeat] music, like that right now.

Jason, you've accomplished so much over the course of your career ... what's next on your horizon that you want to tackle?

I'm tackling everything that I want to tackle. I definitely want to continue down the same path to my music. And I've started a few things that I'm super passionate about. One being a musical podcast. It's a drama, but a musical on a podcast like it's this whole other new thing that's never existed.

And then I'm doing a comic book from a character that I created named Uzo with the editors from Marvel [Comics]. And also I'm writing a book on how to grow your brand. Utilizing those same tools, it can happen for anybody. So I wanted to write a book about how to create a brand for people.

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Chris knew he wanted to work in public radio beginning in middle school, as WHYY played in his car rides to and from school in New Jersey. He’s freelanced for All Things Considered and was a desk associate for CBS Radio News in New York City. Most recently, he was producing for Capital Public Radio’s Insight booking guests, conducting research and leading special projects at Sacramento’s NPR affiliate.
Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, produces WLRN's midday public affairs program, Sundial weekdays at 1 and 8 p.m. Prior to transitioning to production, Caitie covered news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News for four years.