R&B singer-songwriter Taio Cruz (it’s pronounced “Tie-Oh”) has already made a name for himself back home in the UK, where the sweet-voiced 26-year-old scored a number one record last year with the club-ready “Break Your Heart.” (He’s also penned hits for Brit-centric acts like Tinchy Stryder, Cheryl Cole, and Sugababes.) Now, “Heart” is racing up the US singles charts, putting Cruz on track for transatlantic pop stardom. EW caught up with him this week to find out more about his upcoming album (due in the states this summer), his influences, and his new video with Ke$ha.

Entertainment Weekly: What is it about “Break Your Heart” that’s connecting with US audiences?

Taio Cruz: I think it’s a catchy song. It’s got a good melody. It’s a fun topic. And I think both guys and girls can get into that character, of kind of being single, being free. Going out and kind of toying with the opposite sex and saying, “I’m only going to break your heart if you mess with me.” [Laughs] That kind of vibe.

EW: Is it based on anything personal?

TC: Well, yes, but it’s kind of an exaggeration of an experience. It’s not like I really went up to a girl and was like, “Listen to me baby…” [Laughs]. I broke up with my ex girlfirend sort of the beginning of last year. So when I was going out, I just didn’t want to have a new girlfriend at that time. And I turned that into a song, and then I just exaggerated it and made it sound a little more fun.

EW: Do you usually make your songs larger than life?

TC: Yeah, kind of. They’re like little stories, little mini-movies. So it’s good to kind of fantasize and exaggerate things. I write in a very visual way. Like, I can see the music video.

EW: The video for “Break Your Heart” seems like a nod to old-school Puffy, with the yachts and the bikini babes. Was he an influence?

TC: Probably on some kind of subconscious level. I just love supermodels, I love sunshine, and I love sports cars. And this time we also added a speedboat. So you go the four S’s in there.

EW: Music-wise, who are your biggest influences?

TC: There’s just too many. Generally it’s always pop. I like Michael Jackson, Madonna, Culture Club. I sort of like Boyz II Men, Mariah Carey, Jay-Z, Coldplay, Keane. It jumps all over the place really. But as long as it’s good catchy pop music that you can sing along to, I’m usually into it.

EW: You’re shooting a video with Ke$ha, right?

TC: It’s the second single off my new album Rokstarr. It’s called “Dirty Picture.”

EW: How did you two hook up?

TC: I had heard of Ke$ha ages ago, before she put out “Tik Tok.” And I wanted to do some work with Dr. Luke, who produced her album. I loved her voice. It’s got this awesome kind of yodel-y effect to it. I’d produced and written this “Dirty Picture” song, so I just thought, let’s put a female on it. She loved the song, and now she’s kind of blowing up and becoming a humongous superstar. So I offered to come down for the video.

EW: What can you tell us about it?

TC: The concept for the video is bascially, we’re gonna have the coolest, most underground scene ever, like being invited to this party that only the coolest most trendy can be invited to. And we’re just going to have a raunchy dirty party where people take pictures of themselves in corners doing naughty things and sending them to each other all over the place. And she’s in a bathroom being filmed. It’s kind of fashiony in that it’s a bit dirty, but very slick the way it’s filmed.

EW: Anything else?

TC: It’s got a few twists that I don’t want to say yet. It’s going to be good though.

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