You might recognize Jason DeRulo from your car stereo. If you've listened to a shred of pop radio in the last 4 years, youâ€™ve jammed along with the R&B star on hits like "Whatcha Say," "In My Head," and "Ridin' Solo."
Now, the 23-year-old is gearing up for a summer release of his new, still-untitled album -- "an all-around growth of Jason DeRulo the man," he says -- dropping the first single on April 16, and unveiling his best body ever. But just a year ago, his career -- and six-pack -- were temporarily derailed.
In January 2012, DeRulo fractured his neck while rehearsing acrobatics for an upcoming tour. He narrowly escaped paralysis. The tour was canceled and DeRulo suddenly went from dancing on stage to lying with a brace around his neck. "It was a hard time for me," he says. "I was going on the biggest tour of my life. All these 10,000 seat-arenas were sold out already. To have to cancel that was emotionally draining."
But DeRulo didnâ€™t wallow in his disappointment for long. After a few days, he started spinning his setback into something positive. Step one: Drafting melodies for a new album. "I spent a year working on this album, and itâ€™s become my best work thus far by far," he says. He enlisted the help of producers he idolized, including RedOne and Dr. Luke, to craft the sound he wanted. "I wanted to make a record that I wanted to listen to all the time," he says. "Not just this year, not just next year, but for a long time."
DeRulo also hit the gym -- neck brace and all -- and found that exercise was the best medicine for his body. It was hard at first: "I would get on the stairs for about 20 minutes, very low intensity, and that's pretty much all I could do," he says. "I would do a little bit with dumbbells, but not very much." It was nothing compared to the high-intensity workouts and dancing DeRulo was used to, but he slowly built his body back up over the next year.
After a year of gradually amping up his workouts, DeRulo decided it was time to go full throttle and work himself into the best shape of his life. "In the morning, I'd go to the beach and do sprints. In the afternoon, I'd go to the gym and do calisthenics with 1 minute or less rest in between. And at night I'd lift heavy," he says.
Now that he's prepping for the new album, DeRulo, a self-professed gym rat, is back to hitting the gym just once a day. But he works his body hard, starting with a warmup, 40 pullups, and 40 upside-down pushups, his favorite move. "Then I'll pick a workout: either chest and triceps, back and biceps, or legs," he says. "But every single day I work my abs. I might drop down and do 50 pushups, and then right after that go into a plank. The abs are the focal point, always."
As DeRulo recovered physically from his accident, he matured emotionally, too. "That one experience helped me to grow up in a second," he says. "I was on autopilot. I was going around the world. I was performing. I was just literally going through the motions." The glamorous life was his everyday. "When that kind of thing is taken away from you, you realize how much you appreciate what you love doing and who you love," he says. DeRulo cherished the time he spent with his family during the recovery -- more time than heâ€™d spent with them in at least 4 years.
Setbacks are part of life, but DeRulo found a way to make the best of his.
"It's really easy to slip into somewhat of a stupor after something traumatic happens," he says. But the best thing to do is to get back up. "Going to the gym -- that will get your mind off anything," he says. "You can put your stresses into a barbell and at the same time relieve stress and make your body better."