Star Factory: It's Cruise with a missile
Singing a deal with a major US record label is the kind of thing children dream about while singing to their combs.
It's a goal that's proven more elusive for South African musicians than a presidential commitment to pay back the money.
Last year Johannesburg native Connell Cruise's handsome-faced pop croonery piqued the interest of Simon Cowell and LA Reid and shattered that glass ceiling.
They signed him to a four-album recording deal with Epic records, the same label that Sade, Ciara and André 3000 are signed to.
Having spent the last few months in and out of the US working on his latest album, Cruise has returned to the motherland to give local fans a taste of what he's been cooking.
"It's been a mind-blowing experience. The other day I was walking out of the studio and there was Carly Rae Jepsen coming in. I mean, that's something I would never have dreamed of a few years ago," he said.
Unlike many of his colleagues, a career in music is not something Cruise grew up wanting.
"I always wanted to be a journalist or an actor or something. My gran had taught us how to play instruments since the age of four but it was never something I wanted to do as a career," Cruise said.
This all changed when he entered Idols as a joke and did much better than he expected.
"It was really surprising how far I got, so afterward I started googling ways I could get noticed," he said.
Google clearly gave him some good advice and he was soon signed by local label Gresham Records. From that point his career snowballed. His debut album, Deluxe Edition, yielded a string of hits and a South African Music Awards nomination.
"We released a couple of singles from my first album and for the first time in my life I was trending on Twitter. It was a bucket list moment for me," the singer said.
Fast forward a few months and Cruise found himself sitting in a New York office across from star-maker LA Reid.
With the ink on his contract dry, the affable singer gives the impression that he's a winner on Reggie's Rush - a children's show in which contenders have a short amount of time to load a trolley full of toys in a toy store.
His amazement at his current situation is endearing and makes his growing fan base want to root for him. Who knows where his career will go from here? Lke the participants on Reggie's Rush, you can't help but hope that he gets all the good stuff.
- Cruise's nationwide tour, 'Into the Wild", begins this weekend at the Barnyard Theatre at Emperors Palace, Johannesburg. For more information visit www.barnyardtheatre.co.za