We first met the then-17-year-old Sean Kingston in 2007, when the sweetly retro R&B-irie single “Beautiful Girls” became an inescapable Billboard-topping summer smash. Now 19, the Miami-born, Jamaican-bred singer has yet another chart blazer, “Fire Burning,” and a new album, due in stores September 22.
Below, our Q&A with Kingston, who talks touring, sampling rock classics, and Gwen Stefani:
Entertainment Weekly: Hi, Sean. So let’s talk about your new album, Tomorrow — not coming out tomorrow, but called “Tomorrow.” The single “Fire Burning” is already at number seven on Billboard…
Sean Kingston: Number six!
EW: Oh, sorry! I stand corrected. Can you tell me a little about what makes this new album different than your debut?
SK: Honestly, just a lot of growth. I grew up since the last album, and I’m talking about things I didn’t talk about on the first one. You know, since my debut, I’ve been around the world, I learned a lot of stuff in the industry, and the melodies, the concepts of the songs, the producers… it’s all new stuff.
EW: Well you’re definitely a ladies’ man when it comes to live performances – you’ve opened tours for Gwen Stefani and Beyonce in the last two years, two bona fide female superstars. Did you learn anything from them?
SK: Oh definitely, I learned a lot. Especially from Gwen, as far as performances, just giving a good show every single night — she’s phenomenal. It’s way better to tour with women, it’s just more fun. It’s still, like, competition but it’s different, you know? It’s a blast.
EW: You’ve had two hits built on pretty famous samples, “Beautiful Girls” with Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me,” and “Me Love,” featuring Led Zeppelin’s “D’yer Maker.“ Are you going that same route on your new album?
SK: No, I didn’t really want to do that on this album, so I didn’t; everything’s original. You know, “Fire Burnin’” “Wrap You Around Me,” “Tomorrow” – all my singles are original music. It was just creativity and being in the studio, whatever worked, just vibing, and this time it didn’t really come up to sample anything.
EW: That’s fair! So you were born in Miami, but grew up mostly in Jamaica. Do you feel more American or Jamaican, musically?
SK: More Jamaican, probably, cuz I’m always around Jamaicans, I spent a lot of time down there — it’s more home to me.
EW: You’ve had “Fire Burning” on the charts for a while, when will you be taking it on the road?
SK: I’m gonna be doing a lot of different stuff, be headlining my own tour for the House of Blues, performing, a full-city tour. We’re still figuring out right now who’s gonna open.
EW: You’ve done way more than most teenagers, but I’m guessing there’s are still things you want that you haven’t achieved …
Sean: A Grammy! [laughs]. A Grammy. That’s where I’m at right now.
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