July 14, 2023

Interviewing Jason DeRulo: An SPI High Note

By Larry Dupont, Olivia Feldman, and Christian Doyle

We jokingly called the last week of the NYU Summer Publishing Institute (SPI)  “Jason DeRulo week.” Not only did the wildly popular singer and TikTok star release his first book, Sing Your Name Out Loud: 15 Rules for Living Your Dream, but he attended a book launch at Manhattan West Plaza, to which the SPI students were invited. His publisher, Judith Curr, who oversees the Harper One Group at HarperCollins, graciously arranged for the SPI Class of 2023 to have their photos taken with the singer and hang out. Could it get any better? Well, yes! Two days later, two SPI students, Larry Dupont and Olivia Feldman, as well as their DeRulo chaperone Christian Doyle, an administrative aide in the NYU Center for Publishing and Applied Liberal Arts (PALA), were invited to a Zoom call for a brief interview with the star. DeRulo discussed his songwriting career, his life as an artist, and the process of writing his first book, which recounts his journey from an ambitious young singer to a worldwide superstar. Accompanying his 15 Rules for Living Your Dream, here are 10 important life lessons from DeRulo himself:

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SPI Students with Jason DeRulo and Judith Curr, his publisher at HarperCollins (fourth from right)

  • Don’t Replicate, Innovate: We asked Jason about his literary inspirations as he prepared to write his book. He said there was no particular style or format he was trying to emulate. “I really wanted this book in particular, to give all of my truths in my voice,” DeRulo said, “So it was not about taking any inspiration from anything else. It was about really digging deep within myself to figure out my life and to remember what happened and what made different things tick.”

  • Know Yourself: “I feel like [writing] is a great way to realize who you are by just looking at you[rself] and jotting things down,” DeRulo said. The nature of the book demanded retrospection, and it was in revisiting his past that Jason made important relaizations which impacted the book. Memories beget more memories. “I realized I was a crazy, delusional, young Jason.”

  • Mistakes Make You Stronger: The singer looked back with fondness on his childhood, growing up in Florida. Collecting all those far-off stories “kind of reinvigorated me, reinspired me in so many different ways." He found it helpful to look back at who he was, at everything that didn’t go as planned, at all the doors that were shut in his face, at all the mistakes he made. Taken together, all these experiences turned Jason DeRulo into the man he is today.

From left: Jason DeRulo on Zoom with Christian Doyle, Larry Dupont, and Olivia Feldman

  • More Shots Means More Misses: In his book, DeRulo talks about releasing his single “Cheyenne,” a song he was proud of, but one that didn’t translate commercially. In retrospect, he realized that was part of the process. “In releasing music and songs,” he said, “the majority are misses and not makes. If you look at the NBA's top 10, they have the most misses and the most makes so you have to take the shots…And people never remember the misses.”

  • Don't Give Up: For DeRulo, “Cheyenne” not landing commercially felt like a personal failure, but when he met Michael Jordan for the first time, Michael told him that "Cheyenne" was his favorite song. “I like to create things I really enjoy and are close to my heart, but that’s also something I feel is amazing. I want to be able to give it to as many people as possible.” 
  • Seek New Sounds: He notes in the book that for "Whatcha Say," DeRulo took inspiration from the music of Imogen Heap. When asked what he’s listening to now, he said, “That’s a really hard question because I’m always listening to something different. I’m always checking on what’s happening in Germany, what’s happening in India, you know, all over the world. If I’m listening to American music, I’ll pretty much put on the top playlists and listen to what’s going on. I’m all over the place.”
  • Inspiration Comes from Working Hard: “Some of my biggest songs were written when I was not feeling inspired,” he said, “So I never let that stop me. Sometimes the most magical things happen when you are not at your best.”

"Sometimes the most magical things happen when you are not at your best."

Jason DeRulo takes a selfie with SPI Students and Angie Kamath, Dean of the NYU School of Professional Studies
  • Take It One Step at a Time: “It was just a really eye-opening experience for me,” Derulo said, discussing the process of writing his book. At first, it seemed impossible to generate and honestly present all the stories from his life. But rather than being daunted by the size of the project, he took it one day at a time. "I was shocked at how much I was able to put on paper, but when it’s your own truths, it makes it that much easier, I guess.”

  • Share What You've Learned: Jason described how helpful a guidebook like this would have been for him when he was young. "Having a structure in a time where there is so much up in the air would’ve been helpful," he noted. It might have led to fewer mistakes on the road to achieving his dreams.

  • Never Give Up Hope: Concluding the interview, Larry asked DeRulo, “What is a symbol of hope in your life?” Jason thought briefly, then said, “Every time I look at my son and see how innocent he is and how much he has ahead of him and see how pure his heart is…there is always hope in the future of tomorrow.”

Larry Dupont and Olivia Feldman are recent graduates of the NYU Summer Publishing Institute class of 2023. Christian Doyle is an Administrative Aide at the Center for Publishing and Applied Liberal Arts (PALA).

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