Vin Diesel on New Song 'Days Are Gone' and Why He Thanks Late Paul Walker for His Singing Career
"He was the one who said, 'Don't ever stop singing,'" Vin Diesel says of late Fast & Furious costar Paul Walker
2020 keeps bringing the surprises: Vin Diesel is officially a recording artist.
On Friday, the Fast & Furious actor, 53, released his new tropical house song "Days Are Gone," the follow-up to his debut single "Feel Like I Do," which he premiered on The Kelly Clarkson Show last month.
"Something about 2020 led me to this tropical house, feel good-style of music," Diesel tells PEOPLE. "'Feel Like I Do,' at its core, is a positive message, and 'Days Are Gone' is a song that I think everybody can identify with in some way. It reminisces about life when it was a little bit more carefree than it is today."
While Diesel's musical talent might come as a shock to some, the star has actually been sharing karaoke videos for a decade (see his cover of Rihanna and Mikky Ekko's "Stay"), and he even sang Wiz Khalifa's "See You Again" in memory of late Fast & Furious costar Paul Walker at the MTV Movie Awards in 2015.
"I did musical theater as a kid, and I started rapping back in the early '80s," Diesel says. "But the real singing happened with social media. When I sang 'Stay,' I remember Mikky saying something like, 'Vin's cover is the best.' I was feeling all kinds of encouragement there. People say, 'We've been watching you make these karaoke videos for 10 years for all your social media fans, and we see that you're serious and that you love it and we support it.' That's beautiful."
Over the years, Diesel's singing has garnered a slew of celebrity fans, including Kygo (who recorded Diesel's "Days are Gone" and "Feel Like I Do" under his label), Martin Garrix, Steve Aoki, Marc Anthony and Queen Latifah.
"Right before my daughter Pauline was born [in 2015], we were at a party in Los Angeles — an Oscar party or something of that nature — and I was freestyling," he says. "Then Queen Latifah was freestyling with me. She let out this big laugh and she said, 'I would buy a whole album of yours.' I thought that was the coolest thing in the world. I was like, 'Really?'"
Though the response to his karaoke videos has been largely positive, Diesel says that when he first started sharing them there were "a lot of people in Hollywood that called and said, 'This is very dangerous for you to be singing.'"
"I mean, it's not something that I was known for, and I was a character in these franchises," he says. "That sometimes doesn't allow you to pick a Super Bowl team. There's the argument that maybe you shouldn't be singing because it doesn't make sense for your character."
RELATED VIDEO: Vin Diesel Sings With Kids Hania & Vincent In Mini ‘Carpool Karaoke’
Thanks to some encouragement from Walker, whom Diesel affectionately nicknamed "Pablo" before his death in 2013, he continued on with his singing despite the criticism.
"Bless my brother's soul," he says. "I remember in London when I told Pablo that all these people were concerned that I was singing, he was the one who said, 'Don't ever stop singing, you know you have something special.'"
After putting his singing career on the back-burner for years as he shot movies, Diesel finally got the opportunity to explore his talents when film production shut down amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"When all productions were shut down, I was supported to go and explore my musical passion," he says. "That's a testament to the fans and their understanding of me and my art. I can't say enough how grateful I am. I really feel like I've got the best fans in the world."
"It sounds weird but had this year not been the way that it's been, I might never have been able to do this," he adds. "I would have been right on another set and touring around the world. I'm myopic that way. When I'm making a movie, I can't think about anything but that movie. So I really might not have ever had the opportunity had I not been like everyone else quarantined."
Learning the ins and outs of a whole new industry, Diesel says, has "been a lot harder than one would imagine."
"You have to put in a lot of hours and really commit," he says. "It's so different [from the film industry] in so many ways, yet there's this similarity because when you act you abandon reality and go to this other place, and in some ways when I sing I jump into this other place too."
As Diesel spends time social distancing with his three kids Hania "Similce," 12, Vincent, 10, and Pauline, 5, with longtime partner Paloma Jiménez, he says there's been nothing better than watching his family "singing the songs that I've recorded."
"It was my mom's birthday on Friday, and I played her a song that she always loved, that I recorded a cover of," he says. "She cried at the end of it. That was a very tender, beautiful moment."
"Like anything in life, you can count all the negatives or you can take time to reflect on the positives," he continues. "Homeschooling is tricky, clearly, but the fact that I've been able to be with my kids and my family and not have to leave for months at a time has been a Godsend. It's a beautiful perk."
"Days Are Gone" is out now.
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