CL Feature: South Florida R&B pop star Jason Derülo, who brings his first-ever headlining tour to the Ritz Ybor on Thursday (with video)

Derülo’s chance came after a meeting with producer/label exec J.R. Rotem, who signed Derülo to Beluga Heights/Warner Bros. in 2009.

His first single dropped shortly after. “Whatcha Say” – a cheating man’s plea for forgiveness – uses robo-stylized samples from Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek” for the refrain, Derülo’s vocals alternating between his naturally velvety-smooth timbre and that autotuned voxbox effect that’s all-the-rage in pop music these days. The song peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts and went 3X platinum with more than five million digital downloads sold.

“Whatcha Say” also got him an invite to open some dates for Lady Gaga on her 2009-2010 “Monster Ball Tour,” a seemingly intense, intimidating first-time tour environment for a green young star. But Derülo says Lady Gaga “was an absolute sweetheart. She was very helpful in the process – it was my first tour, and getting acclimated to being on tour can be difficult, but she and her staff made it really easy for me. The support and kind words coming from Gaga, all the time, were amazing.”

Derülo has learned a lot about what it is to be a on the road since then, especially on his current tour as a first-time headliner promoting his debut LP. “You have to learn how to balance life,” Derülo explained. “You can’t do too many interviews, you can’t party too much, you can’t even talk too much because you have to preserve your voice for every evening’s show. You’re performing for hours, singing for hours every single night, and it really takes a toll on your voice. Sometimes I stop myself from laughing because I don’t want to damage my ‘instrument’ for the next show. I went to the fair yesterday, and I was on these rides, and you know, I can’t yell on the rides.”

He said the hardest part of touring is being away from his family. At the same time, he’s spreading his music far and wide. “I like the sharing and I like the giving – this is what I do it for. I want to inspire, I want to give myself, I want to give my music, and just do that every single night.” And so far, he has. “I’m in that wonderful place where I wake up every morning with a smile on my face because I get to do what I love.”

Jason Derülo

with Auburn, Thurs., Oct. 28, 6 p.m. doors, 8 p.m. show, The Ritz Ybor, Ybor City, $33.75 general/$45.05 VIP (all ages).

Check out the video for his third single, "Ridin' Solo" below.

Only a little more than a year into his career as a professional recording artist and Jason Derülo has already proven himself a promising young talent with three Top 10 Billboard hits, one of those a triple-platinum seller, and an eponymous 2010 LP that’s put the barely 21-year-old South Florida R&B pop artist on the map. [Photo credit: Phill Knott]

Derülo has all the fundamentals to sustain a career as a pop star – deep brown eyes and a smile that flashes sincere and bright like a ray of sunshine, a modest soft-spoken confidence and mature sense of self, tried-and-true songwriting skills, well-honed dance and choreography abilities, a legitimate set of pipes that find him jumping from high note wails to lower register croons and doing some gymnastics in between, extreme dedication to his art and an impressive work ethic… And while his age may indicate inexperience and his rise-to-fame may seem sudden, he’s spent most of his short life working to get where he is today. “I’ve been doing it so long, I already feel like a veteran,” he said when we spoke by phone last week.

Born Jason Desrouleaux into a middle-class Haitian-American family, the artist caught the bug early and was fortunate to have parents who recognized his talents and not only encouraged him but did everything in their power to help him follow his dreams. He started dance classes at age 5, was enrolled in his first performing arts school and wrote his first song at 8, spent his youth studying opera, theater and dance (tap, ballet, jazz, hip-hop), graduated from NYC’s esteemed American Musical and Dramatic Academy, picked up tricks of the entertaining trade in theater productions like Ragtime and Smokey Joe’s Café, snagged the grand prize on the 2006 season finale of Showtime at the Apollo.

All throughout, he honed his skills as a songwriter, made contacts in the industry via his basketball coach-turned-manager, and was writing for big name artists like Diddy, Sean Kingston and Lil Mama by 16. “But, you know, it wasn’t what I really wanted to do and I wasn’t fulfilled. I’ve always wanted to perform and be ‘The Voice.’”

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