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Simple Obsession interview (from www.enigmamusic.com)

Location : Madrid, Spain
Time : July 1999


"Simple Obsession" is what Andru Donalds considers his music. It also happens to be the title of his new single. Taken from the excellent Michael Cretu ( ENIGMA ) produced album, "Snowing Under My Skin" and is the second release following the first hit single, "All Out Of Love".

The new single is one of the many standout songs featured on his current album. Michael Cretu, the genius behind the chart topping project ENGIMA, has carefully crafted an outstanding mix of world pop songs and ballads. Cretu asked to audition Andru for the forthcoming E4 project after hearing a single release, "Mishale" while vacationing in Greece in 1998. Andru explains, "At first I was surprised by the phone call, but then I thought, why not". He added "The idea for the new album came from the chemistry Michael and myself felt after the auditions for the Enigma project. It was a natural progression for us to work together". Production of the E4 project was halted for a six to seven week period during March/April 1999, while Donalds, Cretu and Jens Gad went to work writing and producing the album.

Although Andru is originally from the Caribbean Island of Jamaica, his travels have taken him all over the world. His father, a professor of Theology and Psychology, introduced him to travel at a young age, taking him to Atlanta GA, London UK, and New York City NY. These extensive travels have taken him to many cities around the world. While in London artist such as Seal and Terrance Trent D'arby impressed upon Andru immensely.
Andru also added, "You can have many different views in many different areas of music in England and the US. Different cities offer different perspectives on music. England has produced some of the best rock groups ever, such as The Beatles. The US has produced some of the best gospel and soul singers. I have learned a lot about the diversity of music from both countries."
While still living in Jamaica, Andru witnessed 2 great events that he classes as historical for him "One was where I was witness to Winnie and Nelson Mandela on a visit, and the other was going to see Prince perform in 1994 at the Sunrise Musical Theater."

From an early age Andru loved the The Beatles. His father played their music invariably, admitting there are too many favorites to mention, but "Hey Jude and Let It Be" stand out in the forefront. Reggae and rhythm master Sly Dunbar is also one of his favorites. He met Sly Dunbar through Michael Rose of Black Uhuru. "He is the complete master of the groove."

Andru Donalds first album was released in 1994 simply called "Andru Donalds". This album actualized the hit single "Mishale." This song is followed on the album by "My Sensual Love." These two standout tracks have an "island feel" to them I commented and Andru explained that , "My Sensual Love and Mishale were both written with my first producer Eric Foster White ( Whitney Houston, Hi Five, Brittany Spears ) while in Florida. Mishale, a true story, was written about a personal relationship."

"Damned If I Don't", Andru's second album was released in 1998. According to Andru this album was different than the first for various reasons. "It was more like a live recording than in the studio with a band." He added, "The lack of sales were due to the limited release of the record because of the many political problems surrounding this album."

Shortly after this release he got a call from Cretu asking him to come to Ibiza to audition for the E4 project. He was no stranger to Cretu's musical talent as Andru had heard "Sadeness" in Jamaica back in 1990 and thought it was great pop music. During this time at the auditions, Andru adapted to Cretu very well explaining, "We both have similar taste in music. Though his style is a little different from mine, it fits together perfectly to create a new sound. When the chemistry is good it makes it easier to adapt as music is music."

Visiting the island of Ibiza left an enormous impression on Andru. Although he came from an island himself, the environment was quite different on Ibiza. "The scenery was beautiful and the mood relaxing even though most of my seven to eight week stay was spent in seclusion working on the music." Andru feels that "musically, mentally, and psychologically I have learned a lot and become wiser, even though I am proud of my first two recordings, I feel vocally I have become a lot stronger working with Michael."

Jens Gad, Cretu's partner on previous Enigma/Sandra and TAAW albums is not often mentioned, but he is still a great influence on the album. Andru went to great lengths to credit Jens for putting his heart and energy into this album on the sleeve notes. He also added, "Jens is a brilliant talent and I enjoyed working with him as well." Jens co-wrote two songs on the album with Andru, "Holding On To You, and Waiting For The Hurricane." The latter could be another single released in the future.

The album is a smorgasbord of songs ranging from the Cretu written "Love Light In Your Eyes" to the cover version of the Aerosmith song, "Dream On" which is a staunch song on many US rock stations. For "Love Light In Your Eyes" Michael brought in the chorus with Andru, naturally developing the singing and the song developed from there. "Dream On" is a song that really compliments his powerful voice. He explains why he choose this song for the album, " For me, this was one of the best Steven Tyler performances and the song is brilliant. I wanted to sing this song over and put my own touches on it".
His favorite track from the album without doubt is "Snowin' Under My Skin". He explained enthusiastically, "This is a special track because it touches every aspect of me. My voice shows power, tenderness, grit, and emotion. The music goes through many different areas, ballad, rock, and the middle basically cover the whole record in one song."

"There were many ideas which were thrown away before they even became songs, and this album was developed at a fast pace and we didn't waste time trying to make them good." Andru also noted that "One track we recorded, but did not use was the old Guess Who song "American Woman" which was then done by Lenny Kravitz, so we decided not to include this one." The Kravitz version ended up on the 2nd Austin Powers movie soundtrack, "The Spy Who Shagged Me."

Thinking about the future, Andru added, " I will try to get better and better at taking music to people live. Bringing rock, reggae, soul, and all types of music together live on stage and tour, tour, tour, and tour are my goals. My future could go in many different directions, but if I didn't work with Cretu I don't know what I would be doing. This is as good as it gets in respect to music with the production, arrangement, and writing. If the chemistry is good, it is good. I would like to keep a good thing going for awhile until you can take another journey in your life."

I am sure Andru Donalds will put a large smile on many people's faces with the release of his new album, and future work with ENIGMA. Truly a talent that should be heard around the world. Andru is " Hopeful this might be possible with talk of an upcoming tour, if everything works out, for October / November throughout Europe, Japan, and South America." One thing is for sure though, the place he will be is in his hometown in Jamaica for New Years Eve 1999.

EngimaMusic.com wishes him great success in the future and many thanks for taking the time to talk with us.


©EnigmaMusic.com and Martyn Woolley 1999



Precious Little Diamond interview (from www.enigmamusic.com)

Location : Ibiza, Spain.
Time : July 2000


Andru Donalds took the time in between recording sessions for his new album to answer questions asked by myself and some other fans from around the through the Internet. We would like to thank him for taking the time answer our questions and for his support of his web page.

So this new album and single has come very quickly behind "Snowing Under My Skin", why so quick and what are the differences between this new album and "Snowing"?

ANDRU: This album is more about my life experiences and musically more influenced by my heritage; more uptempo, and definitely much better written songs.

How many tracks did you write or co-write on the new album?

ANDRU: There are 12 songs, I've written and co-written 9 of the 12 songs.

What did you think when you first heard original version of "Precious Little Diamond" by Fox the Fox before recording your version?

ANDRU: I didn't like it in the beginning but when I sang it acapella, I liked it more and more and wanted to put my thing on the song moving from low to high voice.

Did you or Michael suggest "Precious Little Diamond" as the new single?

ANDRU: Michael suggested to attempt to try and do something differenct with this song.

After the new success of "All out of Love" and the "Snowing" album did this change your way of thinking regarding the music that you wanted to make for future albums?

ANDRU: The "Snowin'" album was only about 40% of our potential. Michael and myslef are getting better and better writing together and are always learning from and with each other.

How much influence and how many new ideas have you gained from working with Michael over the last 18 months?

ANDRU: We have taught each each other a lot of things, as we are both from 2 different worlds. We have influenced each other a lot.

When was the album and single recorded and what do you remember most about the sessions?

ANDRU: Album is still not finished as we are talking in this interview - the sessions were a lot freer than before with our ideas - they flowed so easily.

What was it like to work with Thomas Job in your new video?

ANDRU: Thomas is very great - he will be one of the great video directors - very easy to work with.

Who are your current favorite bands or singers at this present time?
ANDRU: Seal, Sinnead O'Connor, Annie Lennox, Skin from Skunk Anansie.

Would you ever like to live in Ibiza?
ANDRU: Not really - Want to go back home to Jamaica!

If you had one choice for each sex to sing a duet with who would they be and why?

ANDRU: For the ladies it would be Annie Lennox or Sinnead O'Connor. For the men it would be 3 choices and they are Seal, Prince or George Michael - they stimulate me and I think these voices would be cool with mine.

What would you like to see done with your music in the future? (Question sent by Tim Carney)

ANDRU: I would love to grow musically by experimenting with a lot more musical styles and get all the musicians in the studio and play it live and direct.

What inspires you, and what inspires your music? (Question sent by Tim Carney)

ANDRU: Everyday life inspires me, everything that happens around me and of course the crazy stuff that happens in my life every second of the day.

This new album will be your fourth album. Are you thinking about a Greatest Hits album in the future? (Question sent by Roberto Gonzalez)

ANDRU: Well that's a far far-away dream - I need a few more # 1 songs to have a greatest hits album. I need all of you fans to buy more of my records ! :-))

Is God important in your life? (Question sent by Roberto Gonzalez)

ANDRU: Most definitely.

How does working with Michael Cretu differ to working with Eric Foster White? (Question sent by Sean Spence)

ANDRU: They are both very good producers but Michael is a bit more emotional as a person and not afraid to show his sould which is better for a producer - he has taught me a lot.

What is Andru thinking about Ibiza? (Question sent by Sven Distel Radio Antenne Germany)

ANDRU: Very relaxing - and great for creativity.

Are you a party-animal? (Question sent by Sven Distel Radio Antenne Germany)

ANDRU: I love to party with my friends - then I'm an animal :-)

What does Andru hate most? (Question sent by Sven Distel Radio Antenne Germany)

ANDRU: Racism, ignorance stupid music on the radio!

And what does Andru love most? (Question sent by Sven Distel Radio Antenne Germany)

ANDRU: Music, gorgeous women, God, my Mother and Father, my fans. Shorts and travelling. Lydia!!!

What is left for Andru Donalds, what goals and aspirations do you still have?

ANDRU: To continue to grow as a human being, get better at my craft, produce classic songs for the world, tour the world. And take my Mother and Father around the world before they leave me.

In a perfect world, considering all musicians from the 1950's until now who would be in your perfect line up be for a live concert?

ANDRU: John Bonham on drums from Led Zepplin, Sly from Sly and the Family Stone on keys, Jimi Hendrix on guitars, and Familyman Barret from Bob Marley and the Wailers on bass.

When can we expect the new album release? And what style and feeling will this album have compared to the previous ones?

ANDRU: Maybe in October for the release. The album will be more groovy, with stronger melodies, and more reggae.

What was your biggest proffessional achievement over the last 10 years?
ANDRU: Doing the creative music I want to do without comprimising.

Can we expect any tours In the coming future? If so when and where and who will work with you in the band?

ANDRU: We hope to tour in Europe about October 2000 - my band resides in New York.

©EnigmaMusic.com and Martyn Woolley 2000


Andru Donalds: a J'can overseas success (from The Sunday Gleaner)

published: Sunday | January 12, 2003

Chaos, Freelance Writer


ANDRU DONALDS is probably one of the most famous Jamaicans you have never heard of.

You probably have heard him, but never heard of him. Not quite making sense?

Put it this way - here is an individual who has had numerous top ten singles across Europe and South America, has sold millions of albums on a worldwide basis and has been sought after by some of the world's top music producers.

However, most Jamaicans will probably only know him on the basis of his international hit Mishale - Mishale, what am I supposed to do/Mishale, I'll never get over you/Mishale (Mishale), loving you is heaven/Missing you is hell and I need forever to be strong - a fact Donalds contributes to the influence of the North American music market on the collective Jamaican consciousness.

"In some ways I wish that, O.K., there was more of an avenue for people to see and hear the music that is going on otherwise than in America, but when you don't have the management and so on here -- I have not done that much promotion here, just a jam session or two-- nothing like Reggae Sumfest-- it's partly my fault as well. If you can't succeed at what you are doing, you take the high road and do it elsewhere, but then you have to remember where you are coming from."

This is exactly what Andru Donalds did. While he was 'discovered' as it were at age seven while at Mona Prepatory in St. Andrew, he has always known he can sing.

"I was taught by Noel Dexter, Paula Bellamy, Mrs. Vidal Smith - the best in classical music (in Jamaica) at that time. Mrs. Vidal Smith heard my voice out of a group of 60 people and told me to stay behind. I was seven years old and soon I was doing solos in choirs, I was doing Festival and winning gold medals, I started performing all over the island."

The Sunday Gleaner and Andru Donalds are conducting this interview at his childhood home in Mona Heights, St. Andrew.

His dreadlocks are a something of a mess, frizzy, as they stretch their way towards his waist and he does not seem to have shaved recently, which would help to explain his refusal to have his picture taken.

"My manager would kill me if I took a picture while I look like this," he demurs.

Donalds is tall, talkative and, for someone who has sold millions of albums worldwide, he does not seem in the least bit vain.

However, he does have his quirks, such as refusing to divulge his age. The question is, how did a born Jamaican get 'into' pop and rock music?

"When I was growing up my father had a lot of Beatles records, I was always into them, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole... as I grew up there was a difference in terms of who I was listening to, there was Led Zeppelin, James Brown..."

A self-proclaimed 'uptown youth' Donalds was not really exposed to the island's indigenous music until he started high school - in his case, Jamaica College.

"I was more into reggae then, I was exposed to more aspects of life... I was a very rebellious kid."

Asked to explain, he said "How you carried yourself, how you dress, in those days wearing earrings to school was... (smiles). Staying away from class, going into record shops - we were into music. There was this record shop - Cooya - which was owned by David Minott and we used to hang out there and 'skull' school.

"In school, we used to hang out in particular 'bad boy' gangs, I was an uptown kid but I used to hang with the Downtown guys and these were the guys that exposed me to reggae, the old style and the new style, it was through these guys that I realized what I was missing out on in my own culture.

"Rock was always about rebellion, just like rap is nowadays, it's funny how you see the times change and how the youths carry themselves," he explained.

Donalds left Jamaica College when he was '15 going on 16' and that was pretty much it when it comes to formal education for the singer.

"I hooked up with Andrew Simpson and we made a band on the UWI (University of The West Indies) campus," he says.

The two would go on to be part of various bands, none of which really got of the ground, but did provide the chance for Donalds to further hone his singing and for Simpson his guitar playing.

When asked how he supported himself during this period, he said "At that time I was doing a lot of voice-overs, writing them, I made a lot of money and saved it. I got into it through Peter Couch and Perry Tole of Native (the band).

"I met a lot of influential people, but in those days, what we were doing... it was much more difficult, that's when I just pushed out..."

He took the money he had saved and with the support of his parents, left for England.

"There was no time no way anybody was going to give you the push with the type of music I was doing. I was hard-headed and I wanted to get into the rock field."

So he left.

"It was rough. I was taking my tape around, trying to meet the right people... I think it was the luck of the draw, I had a number for Mykal Rose at his management firm, Park Music. I was ready to go to the airport when I got him. I immediately got on a train to Campden Town, that how I got linked up to Park."

Park Music at the time managed one of the biggest acts in the world then, Terrence Trent D'Arby (Sign Your Name).

Unfortunately, the move was not all it cracked up to be.

"There were lots of drugs. I never touched it... there were lots of everything. We were trying to record demos, see if we could get a record deal, but lots of money that was supposed to be used for demos went up people's noses - even money for everyday food was a struggle, we had to be frying dumplings..." he recalls with a smile.

"You have to fight your way through, I learnt a lot from the way I was living abroad, in London, New York, without family and friends, it was hard. It gave me tenacity, the struggle gives you savvy," Donalds said.

By this time his friend Simpson had joined him in England and they hooked up with Dennis Wright.

The three snuck off too New York to meet Bruce Garfield (who managed Grace Jones) and Alan Jacoby.

"It was a situation where you had to sneak off without letting anyone know. We hooked up with Eric Foster White (a producer who has done work with Hi-Five, Whitney Houston and Britney Spears) but nothing came out of it. It was the kinda situation where you felt like giving up, we were living hand-to-mouth.

"We came back to Jamaica for a little while. Simpson went his own way, I called Eric Foster White, sent off my tape with my ideas to him and he liked the ideas - he always liked the voice. He spent his own money and flew me to Florida, we recorded some demos (again using Foster White's money), people liked it, we did a showcase in New York and after some nail biting, we were offered deals by three companies. We went with Capitol (Records)."

When asked why Donalds said; "They offered less money but more commitment."

Out of this came his first album, the self-titled Andru Donalds and the megahit Mishale. Ironically, the very success of the single helped to contribute to the album's downfall. Actually, downfall may be a bit harsh, but it did not reach the heights it possibly could have.

Andru Donalds - 'Big abroad, unknown a yard'

published: Monday | January 13, 2003

By Chaos, Freelance Writer


Andru Donalds, 'one of the most famous Jamaicans you have never heard of although that may be about to change'. - Contributed

Today The Gleaner completes a two-part interview with Andru Donalds, a Jamaican who has experienced considerable success as a performer abroad, yet is practically unknown here in Jamaica. Part I was carried yesterday in The Sunday Gleaner.

WHEN THE Sunday Gleaner left off yesterday, Andru Donald's biggest international hit to date, Mishale, had just been introduced. Mishale was a contradiction in terms for the singer. Here, he had just released his first album after a long period of struggle and his lead-off single is making waves worldwide, hitting number one in countries all over and reaching as high as number four in the United States. Yet the song's success would also serve against the self-titled album's growth.

Why did you not release a second single from Andru Donalds? The Gleaner asked.

"Why no second single? We were going around to the radio stations but people were still playing Mishale, it was still on their playlists and it got more requests than Trying To Tell You (the second single). Playlists are funny things..." he replied.

"The next album was done live in the studio. Just me and some musicians and we did everything there." The album, Damned If I Don't "... never got to see the light of day. EMI (the owner of Capitol Records) shut down and the album was never released. Some of the singles were released elsewhere, Loving You went to number one in Brazil, Beautiful Friday went top 10 there as well... Matt Damon heard Somebody's Baby (a cover of the Rick Springfield pop classic) and liked it, he asked if he could use it in Good Will Hunting (it was)," Donalds told The Gleaner.

This was around 1998. "I got discouraged, I had a great record, then shappens."

Then lightning struck in the same place. "I got lucky again. I got a call from my manager, saying that Michael Cretu was looking for me." Michael Cretu is better known as Enigma, the producer/performer who has sold tens of millions of albums, with hits such as Sadeness Part I, Return To Innocence and Modern Crusaders to his credit. He had heard Mishale and immediately went about tracking Donalds down. "I got the call from him, he sent a ticket, soon I was on a private jet to Ibiza (a small island of the coast of Spain, known as the party capital of the world), I auditioned and he said O.K., I want you to sing with Enigma. Cretu actually stopped the Enigma record, called Virgin and asked them to switch me over to his label with Virgin (Germany). I ended up with two contracts, one solo and one with Enigma," Donalds explained. The Enigma Four project, The Screen Behind The Mirror, was put on hold while the two, with Cretu's co-producer Jens Gad, walked on Donalds' next album, Snow Under My Skin, which spawned another hit in the form of a cover of Air Supply's All Out Of Love, which went top 10 in Europe, Scandinavia and South America. The evidence of the same are on the walls of his childhood home, where this interview is taking place. There are two plaques marking the attainment of gold status for the single in two different countries. The others are for the most part in Germany, where Donalds now spends most of his time.

When asked why the album and single were not marketed in the United States and Great Britain, Donalds replied, "Once something is coming out of Germany it is difficult... Michael does his own thing. He believes that once a record is good it will sell... he's a testament to his own success. You can have success all over the world without being a star in America or Britain..."

Work on 2000's The Screen Behind The Mirror followed, with Donalds contributing to two and a half (one was a duet) songs on the five-million selling album, including lead vocals on the fascinating Modern Crusaders. Another work with Cretu and Gads, Let's Talk About It was next in 2001. The album has a hauntingly beautiful and lushly produced cover of Gino Vanelli's Hurts To Be In Love as one of its 12 tracks.

Andru Donalds is now here in Jamaica working on his next album with legendary Grammy-winning producers Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare. "He (Michael Cretu) wanted me to do a ballad record, I wanted to go back to my roots, me, personally, I don't like to stay in one area, if I was in it for the money maybe... but I'm not in it for the money, I'm in it for the creativity... of course, I can say that because I've had a few hits... (smiles again).

"When you look at what Sly and Robbie have done with No Doubt, I love the way Sly approaches the groove, it's heavy... hopefully the album will be finished before Spring and released by Summer (after being asked about collaborations) I did a track with Calibe, I did one with General Degree (he then put a demo version of the song on the CD player and to say that the grooves are heavy is an understatement)."

Moving away from his music, The Gleaner asked Andru Donalds about his waist-length dreadlocks, which at the time were largely unkempt. "...from mi a yute, mi used to just love long hair in general, as a black man the only way you can have long hair is if you 'locked', it was something that went with rock and roll, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin... the kind of look I grew up seeing," he explained.

During a performance at Carlos' Café in December, called 'Coming In From The Cold', Donalds shocked a few members of the audience and had others smiling behind their hands with some graphic descriptions of what he would like to be done to him sexually, acts which are decidedly out of the 'accepted' Jamaican norm. "I like to touch buttons, I like to see how people react. Jamaicans have something of a double standard, they are afraid to express their sexuality. Me, I'm not, I don't give a damn...

"It's like that song by that girl (Khia, who has the very suggestive song My Neck, My Back). It is played and everybody dances but...

"I can't be conservative, I lived most of my life abroad, Madrid, Amsterdam, New York, London, I'm too free-spirited.

"I do understand the Jamaican mentality, people are worried about their peers... once you get to Jamaica you're conservative again... It happens to me too. If, say, I'm watching porn I keep it turned down because you don't want the neighbours to hear, but if I was in New York, I wouldn't give a damn," he grins.

Over the past year or two there have been pitched battles between famous recording artistes such as Courtney Love and the Dixie Chicks and record companies about contracts which have been likened to legalised slavery and the payment of royalties. The Gleaner asked Andru Donalds if he has been affected by the same. "Royalties? Everyone has those problems, no artiste is going to go through and not have problems. It's the people with power, they give you opportunities and then they say 'We ah tek this' and yuh jus' haffi chill. Certain people will give you chances so yuh jus' leave it alone," he explained with a shrug.

"I've been doing well, I can't complain. It's how you invest, how you manage your money, whether you smoke it off, drink it off, girl it out... I have not done that, I've been smart enough to invest."

When asked about his views on the local music scene, Donalds said "The problem with reggae is the emphasis on singles, no one is pumping money into albums ­Shaggy is an exception."

About his love life? "(Laughing) Mi love woman yuh know, so it's difficult, especially if you're never really in one place, so it's really difficult to be in a serious relationship and I'm pretty selfish when it comes to what I'm doing and it's difficult for any woman to play second fiddle... besides I'm pretty irresponsible I like to travel, mi nuh like to be in one place too long, I like to travel, it's funny, but it seems that this 'settling down' thing is a thing of the past..."

The Gleaner closed the interview by asking Andru Donalds if anything had been left out. He said; "Well, my (only) sister died in 1991 - a mishap at the hospital. It affects me but as time goes on it gets a little easier. Andrew McIntyre and I wrote a song called Sister (on the unreleased Damned If I Don't)," on which Donalds plaintively asks Oh sister/Why did you have to go? and Didn't want to say goodbye/Didn't know you're next in line. One of the things said in the liner notes for 2001's Let's Talk About It is Lydia my darling, save some of the cotton candy in the sky for me, so when I join you, we can party!!

Andru Donalds. One of the most famous Jamaicans you have never heard of although that may be about to change.

Andru Donalds ... The Voice Behind the Mirror - Interview August 2005  (from www.enigmamusic.com)

You can choose English or Spanish version

Andru Donalds fan page