Adam Lambert On His Two (!) New Songs, ‘Rocky Horror’ & His Friendship With Kesha: Interview
If you’ve not yet caught on to the fact that Adam Lambert is one of the hardest working guys in show business, consider this: The 34-year-old singer is currently traveling around the States on his Original High Tour, in support of the album of the same name he put out just nine months ago. Once he finishes up on his home turf, Adam heads to Europe for more dates and then summertime festival appearances with Queen. Sandwiched in between there, he’ll shoot his scenes for Fox’s upcoming reboot of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Oh, and by the way, he just released a new non-album single, “Welcome To The Show,” completely out of the blue a few days back, while somehow still finding empty space on his calendar to jet back to L.A. for a performance of the song on American Idol last week.
It was the day after Adam’s Idol gig when we hopped on the phone to discuss “Welcome To The Show.” It turns out he’s got another new collaborative song about to drop “any minute,” called “Can’t Go Home.” Lambert also gave insight into why he opted to not to take the lead Rocky Horror role of Frank-N-Furter, which he says he was originally approached for. (He’ll instead be playing Eddie.) And while the singer chose not to comment on anything regarding Dr. Luke, a producer he worked with on his albums For Your Entertainment and Trespassing, he did speak fondly of his peer and former labelmate Kesha.
Head below for our latest chat with one of the most original voices — and hardest workers — in this thing we call pop music.
Nice to speak with you again! Great job on American Idol. You looked, appropriately enough, very at home on stage there.
ADAM LAMBERT: It was great to be back. It was really fun.
For a lot of people, your new single “Welcome To The Show” came out of the blue last week. How did that song come together?
AL: You know, my personality, I’m very impulsive. I really like jumping into things and making them happen very quickly. Sometimes in the music business that’s not really easy. [Laughs] When you put together an album, you have all the plans you have to do with the label and everything’s being worked on. It’s a process. And so we were talking about what was next, and I’m on this tour — I said, “God, I just want to put something new out. Why not? Why do we have to follow any sort of rules?” It’s spring, and it feels like a new year. And I love the songs on my album — there’s still potentially singles off the album, as well — but I just wanted to put something out new to surprise people and to create excitement. So I talked to Max Martin and he’s like, “Yo, we just got this song that Laleh started. You should come listen to it.” So I came over there and she played it for me. Instantly I thought this is something that we can develop together. And she’s so sweet and she’s so open, her energy, and we had this idea and started singing together next to the piano. It just felt right.
It’s a very uplifting song.
AL: I said, “God, I just love this message,” because it can mean so many different things depending on who you are. That’s something that’s been a theme on this album, The Original High — songs that are very direct and honest but can be applied to different situations. I felt very strongly that this song would help people face what they’re dealing with, maybe empower them and [help them] take pride in who and what they are, what they’re going through, and find strength in it. It’s a very strong anthem. It’s sort of a mantra. The thing that I love about the chorus is that it’s simple. It feels like this thing that will maybe get in your head and, yeah — take pride in who you are and live your life.
As a music fan, I always like non-album singles. They feel like a nice surprise.
AL: Yeah. I feel like these days, there are just no rules. You don’t have to do anything one way. It also doesn’t necessarily signify that The Original High is over, by any means, either. It was just, hey — we wanted to put out a song.
So just to clarify, Max Martin called your attention to “Welcome To The Show,” but he didn’t produce the song.
AL: No, he didn’t produce it. Ali Payami — he did a lot of the programming on “Ghost Town” with me, and he worked with Max on that song — he did the production on this. He did all the instrumentation and some of the composing. Laleh actually produced my vocal. We got in together in New York, and she and I worked on the vocal. It was very quick and very straight ahead. It was very impulsive. I love that.
Have you been writing any other new music while you’re currently on your Original High Tour? And also — two part question — is this the only new track you recorded during that particular session?
AL: Yes, because I didn’t have much time. It was a day. It was a break in between my New York show and the New Jersey show. I have not actually written anything since I’ve been on the road, but I do have another song that I recorded that’s coming out any minute. It’s a feature with Steve Aoki and Felix Jaehn. They collaborated on this track and sent it to me. I went in and recorded it in L.A. a few weeks before I did the “Welcome To The Show” vocal. So that’s double-stacked! [Laughs] It’s a really exciting song. [Steve Aoki] has been playing it down in Florida and all of his other stops that he’s on all the time, and people really seem to like it. It’s called “Can’t Go Home.” It’s very much a summer jam.
When we spoke last June, you were hopeful that you would get to tour behind The Original High. And now you’re finally out there doing that.
AL: Yeah. It’s so good to be in front of my fans again. It’s been awhile. I didn’t realize it, but I was like, Oh my God — my last [solo] tour was five years ago. It’s a 90-minute show, or up to a 90-minute show — some venues want it to be shorter. It’s a lot of singing, but I love it. I worked with a friend who I’ve known for years — her name is Brooke Wendle — to help me direct the show. She brought in a great lighting designer and content people. It’s more production than I’ve ever had, solo. We really structured it to be a three-part show. The beginning of it is very moody and darker and kind of angsty. Then we go into a middle section of the show which is kind of heartfelt, much more vocally-driven — you know, the musical integrity section of the show. [Laughs] And then the third section is all the dance music that I love.
You’re such a busy guy. You also have more shows with Queen coming up, correct?
AL: Yeah, this summer. It goes one right into another. I finish here in the States at the beginning of April. We do our two back-to-back L.A. shows and then I literally leave the next day to go film Rocky Horror in Canada. And then right after that I jump over to Europe and we do the UK and European dates for the solo tour for about a month or so. And then I go right into Queen. We’re doing a bunch of big festivals all over Europe.
Are you currently learning your lines as Eddie for Rocky Horror?
AL: You know, he doesn’t really have a lot of dialogue! It’s a really fun part because it’s very much a cameo. They actually asked me early on — this is sometime last year — to look at the role of Frank-N-Furter. I was really flattered, and I thought, yeah, that could be quite fun. But [with my] schedule, [it was] just not looking likely. And on a side note, I kind of felt like in 2016, to be cis and playing the role of a trans character, it felt inappropriate to me. In the ’70s, it was different. But nowadays we have such an amazing conversation that’s started about trans and gender in this world. I think casting Laverne [Cox] was so brilliant. It’s so appropriate, you know what I mean? And to re-imagine [the character], as well, because she’s entirely different. So I said no, but when they started announcing the cast, I said, “Wait a minute — what about Eddie? I wanna play Eddie! I could do that — that’s like one song. Let me just come in and do a bit part!” Because I really, really wanted to be a part of it. I’m a big fan of the original movie, and [director] Kenny Ortega’s a lovely guy. And then I heard that Cisco Adler was producing the music and thought, oh, this is gonna be good. So, I went in and I recorded my songs already. I did my vocals, and they turned out really cool. Now I’m going in for a week in April, in Toronto, to film.
Will we actually see you on a motorcycle in your scene?
AL: You might! [Laughs]
To go back to Laverne and the reason you didn’t take the role of Frank-N-Furter, it is very cool that we’re living in a day and age where we can have the authenticity of watching an actual trans actor play a trans character, and viewers will accept that.
AL: You know, I thought to myself, my friends that are trans — how are they going to feel about casting a non-trans person saying, “I’m a sweet transvestite from transexual Transylvania”? It’s dicey. I think they made a really bold, refreshing choice on that. It’s very forward-thinking and it feels very right now, which is going to make this remake really interesting.
You posted a really sweet Instagram photo of you and Kesha together the other week while you were on a tour stop in Nashville.
AL: Yeah. I hadn’t talked to her for so long. It turned out that I was in Nashville for my show and she texted me and said, “Hey — I’m in Nashville.” I was like, no way! So it was really good to catch up. I hadn’t seen her in awhile, but back when we both got signed to RCA, we were at a handful of different promotional events together, and the launch for Vevo, we were there together. It was really nice to see her and catch up.
Wow — the Vevo launch. That would have been late 2009? Which would have been right around when your first album, For Your Entertainment, came out.
AL: Yeah! [Laughs]
I remember posting a photo on Idolator of you and Kesha together at the ASCAP Awards in 2011.
AL: Oh, you mean when I was dressed up as Captain Morgan? [Laughs] That literally is one of those… That look that night? Oh, God. It’s haunted me. And whenever I see that picture I’m like, “What the fuck was I thinking?” I don’t know what I was going through.
So you’ve got this other song, “Can’t Go Home,” coming up, and you’ve got the rest of this tour…
AL: And after all of that, I think I need a vacation! [Laughs] And then, I don’t know — I don’t have any solid plans yet, but I’d like to start working on some new music. Probably in the fall.