Trespassing feels like a new era for you – tell me more!
The thing is I didn’t know what album I wanted to do after For Your Entertainment. It’s a guessing game when you come off of a show like American Idol. I was singing other people’s music. I had lots to try and discover.
I guess being on Idol was a crash course in lots of things. Especially working in the music business. I know a lot more now. I know the fans, the business and I knew who I was. I guess overall I worked out on this new record exactly who I wanted to be.
I take it you’re involved in every aspect of making a record?
I’m kinda a control freak. I wish I could pass the buck – but I can’t. I’ve got pretty much everything mapped out for this record. I’ve got a shit tonne of ideas, brainstorms and bubbles.
You wouldn’t want to be an artist that’s not involved in all aspects though, would you?
I think if you have an artist that doesn’t take the initiative or want to do it then you have to work with that. I needed some of that guidance and help on the last album. I wasn’t in control of everything like I am now. There were certain things I wouldn’t have done. I mean, I had ideas but on the first record there was only so much I could actually put out there.
Do you dance?
Yes, I love to dance. I mean, I can’t dance ridiculously. I’m not a full on out-out dancer but I can bust a move.
Tell me about working with some of the people on the album – Sam Sparro?
He’s the coolest guy. He’s so funny. He’s got great fashion sense. We cackle everytime we get together to write. He’s so damn funny. Shady is just us. It’s goofy and us being us. The lyrics are very out there. I think Shady will be the underground video hit on Trespassing. It’s a funny jam about ‘cruising’ basically. Or going out and getting into trouble and being nasty. No matter what background you’re in everybody likes getting shady now and again.
What about teaming up with N.E.R.D’s Pharrell Williams?
I learnt a lot from him. More than anything to trust my instincts more. He’s very out there. He never over thinks it and goes with his first instinct. I’m overly hard on myself so to work with him I’d do one take and then one more and he’d be like, “OK, we’ve got it.” And I’d generally be freaking out wanting to do more takes but he said it was done. And he was right.
His style of writing is so different too – it’s a stream of consciousness and real. It was perfect because it was exactly what I wanted to create. I’ve always been a huge fan of his work.
Queen influenced parts of the album too – what do they mean to you?
On trespassing there is a whole homage thing happening. Pharrell and I started talking and he said I was our generations Freddie Mercury. That was ridiculous. You’re never going to replace Freddie in any way. But I’m thrilled to have the chance to do stuff with them. I can’t wait to work with them again.
What are they like as mates?
So cool. They’re like my Poppas. So paternal and really great to talk to. Brian May is so cool actually. We sat down after the EMA performance and shot the shit and talked all night having a beer. It was super cool. They’re very normal. I went away from that thinking ‘wooooooah’. I flew with them on a private jet. That was friggin’ cool.
You’re all about a live vocal – what’s your take on artists that don’t sing live?
First of all you have to remember it’s not easy! At all. It depends on the TV shows or the shows. The sound is always shit and you need to look at factors like that. Singing live is a discipline and a skill and it’s hard. You have to work at it. I’m really hard on myself and I watch performances back and I hate them sometimes. I look at everything I do wrong and analyse it.
Do you Google yourself?
Well, yes. Depending on the circumstances. There are some times you just don’t want to know what people are saying about you. It can be shit. I don’t do it to get off on it. I do it to know what’s being said and what people are thinking. Twitter has changed everything. My fans are really into showing me what they think. And they show me. And I feel blessed because of that. It’s good to know they’re out there and you can rely on an honest opinion. They’re insane. If I didn’t have fans like that I probably wouldn’t be doing this now.
Idol. Are you consciously trying to shake off the experience these days?
Not consciously at all. I’m proud of it. I look back at what I did on idol and I think it was good. There is a stigma attached to being on a show like that. Amongst the industry there is prejudice. But I guess I wasn’t the token Idol contestant. I’m contrary in general. I wanted to mix it up throughout and I still do that today.
Would you want to judge on a show like Idol?
I think it would be fun to do. I’m constantly involved in the creation of a performance and I like helping and watching other people doing it too. I come from the theatre and from a performance background so I would be valid. I think being in the theatre helped me become who I am as a performer today. I’d love to be a judge – but I don’t think right now is a good time to do it. I’m pretty busy with Trespassing! I want to stage this tour, do lots of videos and do lots of my own shit.
Would you want to do film work?
Maybe. I mean I’d love to do a musical if the time was right and the role worked for me. It would be incredible. Trespassing was a year in the making and hopefully there’s at least another year from now of getting the music out there and promoting it. There will be a bunch of singles and if people want to hear it and if the label pay for more videos then we will be laughing. Hopefully I’ll be able to put a bad ass tour on for the fans too.
What artists are on your own iPod?
I listen to a lot of Top 40 stuff to be honest. I’ve learnt a lot about what radio friendly music is. I’d hate for people to think I was cashing in with this album. I mean, it is more radio friendly but that’s just the direction I wanted to do. I want my message to be heard, my fans to be represented and for people to know why I’m doing this. The point of this album is it doesn’t matter if you’re the theatre dork, the outcast, the goth or anything else – you can be valid in the world.
The album is deeply personal too – how did being in love help the album?
Being in a solid relationship pretty much for the first time in my life has provided a lot of security and grounding and kept me focused. I think when I was single I was looking for validation in other ways and not in the most emotionally healthy ways. I think when you’re single and looking for some sort of connection it was easy for me to feel lonely and insecure. All people seem to do things to fuck themselves up a little bit – and me included. There were elements of self sabotage on my part. It definitely goes there.
Do you manage to have a good private life?
Yes, when I’m at home. Being in a relationship has made me much more of a homebody. I’m home a lot more. I’ve worked hard for my house in LA and I love being there. I personally wish that privacy was private. Ideally I’m at work and I’m at home. But I guess it’s one of those things I have to except and get used to. I try not to get the privacy thing piss me off. People want to see the fucking paparazzi pictures at the end of the day.
The single Better Than I Know Myself is out in the UK on March 9.
The album Trespassing is out in April.