The term “blue-eyed soul” is often used when speaking of Robin Thicke. But if you do use that term to categorize the California native you take away from him as an artist and the genre. After two albums released to critical acclaim, and hits like “Lost Without You,” one would think he’s earned the right to be mentioned without the “blue-eyed” prefix. But just incase there are any doubters left to question if he’s worthy, Robin Thicke is preparing to release his third album entitled Something Else. Soul music is heartfelt. Soul music evokes emotion. And that’s just what Mr. Thicke does.
Singersroom: Your last album, The Evolution of Robin Thicke, was art imitating life in that you went from the bohemian look from the first album, A Beautiful World, to the clean cut, ladies man on Evolution. Can fans expect a new evolution with the release of this next album?
Robin Thicke: Besides the outfits and the haircut, we always go through phases where we’re wearing different jackets and trying on new sneakers. The long hair was just me expressing myself in my bohemian way. After that you get a little older, you got bills to pay and you have to take care of your responsibilities. I don’t plan things out really. I make decisions and do what I need to do so that I can be happy. This new album is kind of a mix of both of those. It’s got the freedom of the first album and the soul of the second album.
Singersroom: You had a pretty impressive resume as a songwriter and producer before coming out as a solo artist. What made you want to become an artist?
Robin Thicke: It kind of went in reverse. When I was young, from when I was like twelve or thirteen playing the piano, I wanted to be a singer first. Then when I was like sixteen I got the deal at Interscope records. I took a couple years to record the album but I was changing so much that by the time they were ready to release it I didn’t really love it; I thought it wasn’t that great. Then I started getting worried that maybe I wasn’t that great. Like a lot of us do at different times, I gave up on myself in that respect. I gave up on myself as a singer and just started writing and producing for others. Then one day I woke up and I started noticing that all these people I wrote songs for are on TV. So I’m like “wait a second, is it just that I’m not taking a chance, am I just not willing to risk a fall?” so I decided to take that chance.
Singersroom: Going back to being an artist was probably tough. What kept you going?
Robin Thicke: Andre’ Harrell became my mentor and he inspired me. He had so much information from working at Uptown with Mary and Puffy. He really helped whip my talent into something that could really connect with people. Before that it was just kind of raw talent. He helped me connect my music to people. I had like three deals before things finally started to work. There’s something inside of you that keeps telling you “you can do it” even though there’s a lot of things and a lot of people that are trying to beat that out of you. Like Barack Obama says, “Yes we can!” there’s just something inside of you that tells you keep going. Also I have amazing people around me like my wife and my friends that keep telling me “it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen.” That helps.
Singersroom: Being a married man in the entertainment industry must present challenges in your relationship. How do you maintain the balance?
Robin Thicke: You just go home early. [Laughs] You go home at night. Nah, the reality is when you have respect for your woman and your woman respects you, it makes things a lot easier. When we’re together she just makes me forget about all the bullshit and everything.
Singersroom: Do you address any of the issues that come with being married and being a popular artist?
Robin Thicke: Not really because I see my relationship with her as being so much past just being married. She’s my road dog. I never have to address us in a song because it’s never an issue in my life. It’s greatness in my life. It’s never a problem. Now love, love’s a problem. Love will f**k you up. Marriage isn’t really an issue. But I’ll always talk about the ups and downs of love. You’ll really only hear me talking about the love part.
Singersroom: What are some of the songs you’re feeling the most on the album?
Robin Thicke: There’s this one song called “Sidestep.” It’s got that kind of dirty, low down, Bill Whithers feel. Another is “Dream World,” which is basically about my ideal world. It’s kind of like a blues version of when Nas and Lauryn Hill did “If I Ruled the World.” People really love that one.
Singersroom: You’re style encompasses so many different genre’s of music and you’re one of a few who can pull it off seamlessly. Why is that?
Robin Thicke: I think that people are so afraid to just reach out to something different. They’re all so stuck on that “no, I don’t do that. I don’t rep that.” That’s why people like Prince, Stevie Wonder, or Curtis Mayfield came in and opened things up in a new way. They weren’t afraid to take a chance. Sometimes people take a chance and come out sounding crazy. I might sound crazy every once in a while but I got to try to not repeat myself. I’ve got to take chances as an artist.
Singersroom: What were some of your inspirations while working on this project?
Robin Thicke: You never really know, sometimes you just kind of hear something, a Ray Charles song or something and it’ll just be in your head. Then when you go in the studio and start working and the next thing you know you have a song with a Ray Charles feel. Or you hear an old Curtis Mayfield song then you’re calling your man like “yo, we need to get a groove like this.” You never know how it’s going to happen. You just have to listen to everything around you and do what your feelings tell you to do. I was talking with my man Ne-Yo, we ran into each other in the studio one day and I was talking about how Marvin Gaye went and did a whole album in Paris. Sometimes if a songwriter just changes his surroundings he can get all types of different inspiration. I’ve lived in L.A. almost my whole life so I went to New York a lot trying to soak up that NY energy. I also went to Paris a few times to try and soak up that romance. You can’t say “oh, I got to be in the studio at nine o’clock because I got to write a hit.” It doesn’t work like that. When Al Green wrote “Love and Happiness” he was going through love and happiness. You write what you’re going through. Those are always the biggest and best songs; the one’s written about what people are going through. There’s no reason to not try to excel. I don’t worry about the radio hit’s because I’m going to make so many songs that connect with people that it’ll overcome radio shit.
Singersroom: You don’t chase the radio record or the ringtone records so what goes through your mind as you’re working?
Robin Thicke: Whatever you’re doing, you’ve got to try and do it good. People got jobs, they’ve got bills, gas is high, women got to get their hair done, with them having all that going on and you want them to spend their money on your shit, you got to make something hot. They got real shit to worry about. They don’t have time for no garbage. You want them to spend money, make something hot. That’s why Lil’ Wayne is changing the whole game. He was like f**k all the bullshit about retiring. He even said it on the album “you’ll never hear Wayne quit.” He’s not trying to milk you for extra dollars. He’s giving you free shit then coming out with a hot album and doing shows, the whole time getting paid more than anybody. That’s real.
Singersroom: Speaking of Lil Wayne, what is it like when you and Wayne get together?
Robin Thicke: You got to be Muhammad Ali. You got to have your gloves up and ready to go toe to toe with Wayne. He’s like a lion ready to roar at anytime. Like he’s constantly thinking up lyrics. I mean all the time. He comes in, hears the beat and immediately has a first verse; to be around that is inspiring. When I come up with my verse and I tell him my verse he’s like “Word? Well, this is what I got.” Then you got two guys going at it like “okay, since you did that here’s my hot verse, what you got?” So that competitive spirit that comes with being around someone with that much talent is amazing. Even with Pharrell when he and I are working together I give him total space to do what he does. I’m not trying to get in his way. That’s f**king Pharrell! He’s great. He respects my get down so he’ll say “I want you to just go in and do your thing, Rob.” That’s just how it is when you’re working with the best.
Singersroom: Is there any R&B artist that you can say gave you the same experience as working with Wayne?
Robin Thicke: When I got to work with Mary J. Blige. That’s like the truth of truths right there. There’s nothing she don’t do that’s not completely from the gut. She doesn’t waste a second. She gets in that booth and just starts rocking. Watching her is like hearing “Real Love” for the first time all over again. That’s that girl right there. She jumps in there and just starts bouncing. You know the bounce she does in the videos and shit. She has you feeling like your track is some Dr. Dre shit.
Singersroom: In today’s industry, careers are made and broken by first week numbers. What would you do if this next project doesn’t meet label first week expectations and the label cut you off?
Robin Thicke: I wouldn’t let that happen. If it did I’d go right back to making music that people had to hear and see. It’s your job as an artist to make something that’s bigger than the label. If your music is that good, the label can’t tell you no to anything because they want that money. It’s my job to make music so powerful they can’t turn it down. Other people just get wrapped up in themselves. They think everything they say and everything they do is hot. Then one day you realize it ain’t homie. Then they get dropped. If I did get dropped, that means I wasn’t doing my job. Then I’m going to go back to work, make better music, and get another deal. Shit, my whole life has been like that. I have been signed three times. [Laughs]
Singersroom: What was one of the most important moments you had between the last album and this one?
Robin Thicke: I think it was after the Beyonce tour. I did a European tour and then I came back home and was about to go on another tour when I realized I hadn’t really been with my lady in over a year. So I cancelled the whole tour and I just spent the next few months with my lady traveling. That’s one of the reasons Andre’ Harrell calls me the king of bitch-ass. He’s like “you’re the king of bitch-ass. It’s sincere the way you do it.” But you have to take care of home man. Ain’t no amount of money going to make you happy if your home ain’t right.