Nathan Sykes on How to Duet with an Ex

Of his duet with Ariana Grande, he says, "I think whatever's in the past is in the past, I think it shows real maturity for both of us to put music first."

By Brian Ives

“Let bygones be bygones” seems to be Nathan Sykes’s credo when it comes to his exes. The Wanted singer’s long-anticipated solo debut Unfinished Business will feature the song “Over and Over Again,” a duet with his ex, Ariana Grande.

He tells Radio.com that the he didn’t call on Grande because it made for a good narrative. “I never write songs with the intention of getting a story out there. I wouldn’t necessarily get an artist on the song that I didn’t think would bring anything to the record, just to get a bit more press or get a bit more radio play. I think that’s quite shallow, as an artist. We’ve obviously sung together before, on ‘Almost is Never Enough’ off her debut album.”

The fact that she’s a great singer and someone who he is comfortable around made her the perfect choice for the song. “For me, it was like, ‘Who would sound incredible on this?’ The one name that stuck out to me was Ariana. She’s an incredible vocalist, she’s extremely talented, and I could trust her with doing the song. When you’re doing  a duet with someone, with a song so personal, it would have been weird inviting someone on the song who I’d never met before.  ‘Hi, nice to meet you! And here’s a really personal song for you to sing!’ So I think having known her as well, makes it a bit easier. Also, I’ve got great trust in her as an artist and a vocalist to do a great vocal, and that’s exactly what she did.”

But was it awkward in the studio? “I think whatever’s in the past is in the past, I think it shows real maturity for both of us to put music first, and do what’s best for the music.”

“I’m one of those people who is always friends with someone before I date them, because I’m terrible at flirting. And if it doesn’t work out, you can go back to being friends. And you’ve still got a great friend. I’m not the type of person who would do anything to someone I’m in a relationship with, that’s going to make them hate me. And I wouldn’t date someone who is capable of doing something like that. That’s why, I think, it’s always worked out very well in terms of friendship.”

“She’s awesome,” he says of Grande. “She’s been a pleasure to work with on this track, and I’m very proud of how it turned out.”

The song has been out for a few months now, but the album has yet to be released.  He discussed the status of the record: “Well, it is pretty much finished. It’s been finished and then un-finished. And then finished and then unfinished, because I’m a perfectionist. I keep revisiting songs and making little tweaks. But the last time I was finished, I was like, ‘Yep! This is it!’ And then at the beginning of this year, I was like, ‘Eh, there’s a couple of songs I want to go back on on and do a bit of work on.’ And that’s worked out so well, I’m so happy with it. And then I did a tiny bit more writing, and that’s gone really well as well.”

He continues, “[I] expanded the variety on the album a tiny bit more. There was a lot of variety on the album anyway, but I just wanted to add in a couple of different elements, which is exciting and, I think, a bit unexpected for me.”

Related: Nathan Sykes on His Inability to Flirt: ‘This is Why I’m Forever Single!’

He claims not to have a lot of pressure from his record label: “I’ve had a very open timeframe on this. This isn’t, like, a quick moneymaker for anyone on the project. This is very much a long term thing, it’s a marathon and not a sprint. They said, ‘Go make the album you’ve always dreamed of making,’ and that’s exactly what I’ve done. They encouraged me to be creative, to take control of it, and if I’ve got something in my mind, I say, ‘This is what I’ve got in my mind, I’m going to go in and do this, this, this and this, I’ve got this idea for a song,’ I don’t think that they’re going to stop me because it can only benefit them, I suppose.”

Unfinished Business is available for pre-order now; Sykes kicks off a string of dates opening for Alessia Cara next month.

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