Adam Lambert Talks Chasing ‘The Original High’ & The Funky, Housey Sound Of His New Album: Idolator Interview

Robbie Daw | June 19, 2015 12:52 pm

How did you come to collaborate with Tove Lo on “Rumours”? AL: That was actually one of the first things I did when I got out there. Before I went to Stockholm, I sat with Max in that meeting, and then I had another meeting with them and they had some track ideas that they were gravitating towards. They played me the instrumental of what became “Rumours,” and it had a different beat on it at the time — more of like a pop beat, but it had the same feel. Shellback came up with a melody without the bridge. Tove and I sat in the studio together — we hit it off immediately, first of all. She’s cool! Maybe it’s something in the water in Sweden, but they’re very humble. They’re not trying to be big shots about stuff. Her song “Habits” hadn’t yet blown up or turned into what it was going to be. We started talking about having a personal life and having a public life, and how the two are at odds with each other. That’s where we started getting the ideas for the lyrics.

It seemed inevitable that you would record a song with Brian May from Queen. And “Lucy” sounds to me a bit like Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana.” AL: That is exactly what I’ve been feeling about it: It’s my “Dirty Diana” moment. It’s a tale of a girl going the wrong way in life. I love that it’s Brian May doing signature guitar on top of more of a hip hop swing. The beat’s a little heavier, a little more urban influence. To have him play on that, I think people are going to be like, “What?” I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback about that song.

It feels like a very “you” song. Although you’re a quote-unquote pop star, you’re one of the only real rock stars in pop at the moment, if that makes sense. AL: It was important to definitely touch on the things that people know and are comfortable with with me. I think “Evil In The Night” is another example of me giving the type of delivery that people are used to from me. I didn’t want to not go there. I just wanted to discover some new ground as well.

“Evil In The Night” is actually the next song I wanted to ask you about. AL: I love “Evil In The Night”! It’s one of those songs that is super fun live. That was actually one of the first songs, as well, that we developed in Stockholm, and Sterling [Fox], who is one of the writers on “Ghost Town,” had come up with this hook, this idea of [hums the melody of the chorus]. Shellback really came through and developed those funk verses. It was super fun to record and sing. What I love is that there are some really esoteric lyrics in there, like “bombs over Broadway.” You know how when you’re working on a demo, you call it something and then you maybe call it something else later? Early on, we were calling it “Bombs Over Broadway.” I thought, “I don’t know if I love that title” — especially because the phrase “evil in the night” kept getting repeated. I said, “That feels a little more like a title,” but we all kept calling it “Bombs Over Broadway.”

You worked with a lot of writers and producers on your two post-Idol albums, and then had Max and Shellback executive-produce The Original High, which plays like a very solid, cohesive effort. AL: Yeah. It feels like the most cohesive thing I’ve done. I realize that. I think that was one of the goals. In talking with them initially, I asked them, “What do you think works for me and what do you think didn’t?” And one of the things they said was, “Well, you were kind of all over the place in the last couple albums — you do a little bit of this, a little bit of that, a little bit of this. Let’s do something that feels like a body of work.” And I was really wanting that. I think the tricky thing is is that I have a very broad fan base. I have people that got to know me on Idol, and I have younger people as well, and there are gay fans and international fans. Everybody maybe has their own favorite thing that I do, so how do we melt it all together and make it feel current? It was a little tricky to crack the code, but I think they did it. I mean, “Ghost Town,” the reason why I pushed for that as the first single is because it’s this perfect blend of two different things in one — we have this really cool, edgy ’90s throwback house thing happening, but it starts with that spaghetti western, acoustic folk-pop thing. I felt like, you know what, if this is the first thing back from me, like a re-introduction, I love that it’s just my voice and a guitar to start with. Because it’s pure and it’s emotional and I love the story that it tells. It’s a bit dark and poetic.

It’s a fantastic video, too. AL: Thank you.

And you perfectly segued into my next question, which is about Hype Williams. AL: He’s rad. Great energy!

How was being on that set with him as a director different from all the other videos you’ve done? AL: You know, I had gotten in touch with him through Pharrell during the last album cycle, because I was going to maybe have him direct something that Pharrell wrote. Unfortunately, we never got to that point of making one of those songs a single. We had already talked, but didn’t get to work then. When it came time to make this video for “Ghost Town,” I was like, “I’m gonna call Hype.” He’s very upbeat and encouraging, and what I like about working with Hype is that he’s so relaxed.

What was the experience like while making that video? AL: We had a fucking house party, basically, when we shot it. We did it over two nights at a studio in Burbank and we talked about what the vibe was going to be. At first I was thinking maybe we should do something a little more literal — you know, actually shoot it in a ghost town somewhere in California. We started talking about it and Hype was like, “Why don’t we just go less literal and make it like a performance video? We should get some cool people in the video, dancing and feeling it.”  I was like, “Okay. I’ll handle that.” So I have a friend who used to be in the Pussycat Dolls, Carmit, and she knows dancers everywhere. She’s worked with Hype before in the past. I brought her in to help me bring people together and cast this video. She brought some dancers to the table and then I brought some people I knew in who are just models that are gorgeous and interesting-looking. I called a stylist that I really love, Brett Nelson, and this hairstylist I really love, and Sutan, the makeup artist who’s also Raja from Drag Race five seasons ago. So I kept joking that it was my House Of Glambert! I invited my friends to do this video, and we made some margaritas and we shot it.

Last question before you have to go: You wrapped the tour with Queen earlier this year. Can we assume your own tour is coming up? AL: I want to. I have commitments to the end of the year to promote this thing. I’m very fortunate that there’s international interest, so I get to go to all these different places around the world to promote the album. That takes a little while to get that all moving. But I’d love to tour this album. I already have a few ideas. I’m not sure what yet, but it’ll feel different from the stuff that I’ve done in the past. I want to do something innovative and interesting; something that matches the music and the sonic vibe of it. Probably wouldn’t be till next year if it happens.

Adam’s third album The Original High was released this week. Pick it up on iTunes.