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Here’s Adam Lambert’s Advice to Trey Anastasio on Filling in For Jerry Garcia

"You have to approach it with a certain amount of reverence."
By Brian Ives 
What, you may ask, would iconic and fashionable pop singer Adam Lambert have to offer in the way of advice to jam band legend Trey Anastasio?

Filling in for a beloved rock legend who has passed away is something that Lambert knows a little something about, having spent much of the last two years touring with Queen.

Lambert is a stone-cold entertainer, but even he was a bit intimidated to take on the late Freddie Mercury’s vocals. He says that you have to pay tribute, without coming off like you’re in a tribute band.

“It’s in how you approach it. I don’t think it should be looked at as, he’s ‘playing the role of…’ It’s not a film or a play. It’s a live piece of music. But, yeah, you’re taking the place of that person,” Lambert tells

Anastasio was clearly influenced by Garcia and the Dead; ditto for Lambert and Queen. But once you’ve attained your own artistic style, as both Lambert and Anastasio have, each in their own way, you have to honor that as well, and not just be an impersonator.

“I knew right away when I got this opportunity with Queen that that wasn’t how I wanted to approach it. I didn’t think it would go over well,” Lambert says. “I think it would have been kind of tacky if I got up there and imitated Freddie. I don’t know if I could do that anyway. Freddie was incredible! It’s like with Jerry Garcia, he’s an icon.

“The legacy of the Grateful Dead, I’m not necessarily a fan, but my father’s a fan, and I see how he appreciates the band,” Lambert continued. “You have to approach it with a certain amount of reverence, I think. And respect.”

Despite his stardom, Lambert realized that many of Queen’s fans might not be too familiar with him, particularly if they didn’t watch American Idol or listen to Top 40 radio.

“That was kind of the intimidation part of it, the die-hard Queen fans are going to be side-eyeing me anyway, ‘Who’s this guy?’ Moreso in the U.K,” Lambert explains. “But that was a good challenge for me, because I felt that I really had to prove myself. By the third or fourth song, the guys who were scowling would be like, ‘Yeah!’ I would see them warming up. It was good to have that challenge. ‘Stone Cold Crazy’ was usually early in the set, and that was kind of trial by fire. You’d get the more die-hard fans going, ‘Oh, all right!'”

Lambert’s collaboration has worked out well for him. Queen’s Brian May guests on his recently released new album, The Original High and Queen + Adam Lambert have a string of South American dates this fall.

Interview: Adam Lambert on ‘The Original High,’ ’80s Covers, Queen and Broadway

"I'm in a place right now where I'm rebuilding."
By Brian Ives 
Adam Lambert is back with his first new album in three years, The Original High and a lot has changed since 2012’s Trespassing; he’s changed management, labels and, oh yeah, filled in for his idol Freddie Mercury when he toured the world as the lead singer for Queen.
We spoke to him about his new music of course, and also about the ill-fated ’80s cover album that led to his split from his former record label, RCA. He also talks about why he hasn’t gone to Broadway yet, despite his background in musical theater. And we also explained “rockism” to him.
~ So the album opens with “Ghost Town,” which starts with just you singing and an acoustic guitar. 
Adam Lambert: I’ve always been comfortable singing big, high, wailing stuff, that’s kind of my signature thing. But with this album, I kind of wanted to go into more intimacy. Things that are a little more moody and explore the lower part of my voice. “Ghost Town” starts really “minimal,” just my voice and an acoustic guitar. It’s very vulnerable. That’s one of the reasons I loved it as a first single: to reintroduce me, after a couple of years away, and to have people really listen to the words and the voice.

The beginning of the song probably appeals to “rockists.” 

Have you heard of the term “rockism?” 
No, I’ve never heard that: rockism?

It’s the idea that music played on live instruments is more authentic that samples, computers, etc. 
The idea of rockism, it’s generational. I look back on the history of rock, and there’s all this amazing music and there are all these amazing bands… and it’s not something that’s as popular as it was maybe 20, 30 years ago. It’s interesting how things have changed and the sounds have kind of evolved. It’s always going to be a part of my love for music, and where I come from. My idea of an artistic identity was to be a “rock star.” That idea was something that I fell in love with, when I first wanted to be an artist. Getting to sing for Queen, and even my experience on American Idol was very rock-oriented. It’s definitely a part of me, and it’s part of the way I introduced myself to the world. But there’s more that I listen to, and more that I wanted to explore as a singer.

And obviously, you want your music produced and presented in a way that can get on radio in 2015. 
I want to be part of a trend, I want to be able to connect with everybody. But one nice thing about this album is that I didn’t compromise the vocal to do that. The voice is still coming from a real place, just the framework around the voice may have changed a bit.

You could probably play the album live, with your backing band.
Yeah. What was really exciting about being on tour with Queen was, it was very old-school. we didn’t use backing tracks, we didn’t use click tracks, it was all live. [Gutiarist] Brian [May] doesn’t even wear in-ear monitors. It was very traditional in that sense, and I really appreciated that. It was a living, breathing thing: the tempos would fluctuate… it was good for me to get back to that organic thing. But I also think there should be appreciation for all different approaches to music. It’s not about what you can or can’t do with technology, it’s about the mood it creates. With rock and roll in its purest form, it’s messy, it’s bombastic, it’s ballsy; a lot of the stuff on my album is more vibe-y and moody.

When I was listening to the title track, it occurred to me that you seemed to have gotten most of the “rock star” antics out of your system before you actually became a rock star.
It helped that I got into this a little late, I auditioned for Idol when I was 27, I’d done a lot of crazy stuff before that.

But you had a rock star vibe early on. Even before you finished your season of American Idol, there were rumors that Queen was interested in doing a tour with you on vocals. It was probably a good move to wait until you’d put out a few of your own records first.
I definitely needed to prove myself as a solo artist. If I hadn’t of done that, I don’t know if I would have had enough credibility to even be on stage with Queen. Coming right off of a reality show to go on a tour with them: that’s a stretch. I think I had to establish something first, before I was even worthy to be on stage with them.

A while back, I’d heard that you were considering doing an ’80s covers album…
I wasn’t considering it! My previous label was considering it. Pushing it, actually.

Did you ever record anything for that project?
No. I thought about it for a second, for like a week or two, I listened to some of the music. They wanted me to focus on new wave from the early ’80s . It was an interesting idea. But I went back to them and said that not a lot of that music was resonating with me. It wasn’t where my heart is. If we had to do a cover album, I’d be more comfortable doing a ’90s one or a ’70s one, but they weren’t into that either. And, anyway, I wanted to make an original album. I did covers on Idol, Singing with Queen is like doing covers — with the original members, of course. For me as an artist, it’s important to me to make statements through my own new music. That’s part of the identity I wanted to create, and it just wasn’t an option [at my previous label].

It’s one thing for Rod Stewart to do that, when he is four decades into his career.
Right: at a certain point in your career, it’s a cool project, but the timing wasn’t right.

I know you have more Queen dates later this year: when did you first feel comfortable in your role with them? 
The first time we did this, we played a huge show Eastern Europe, and then three shows we did in London, they went over well. but I don’t think I was totally comfortable with the idea, I was still intimidated by the concept. The second time around, something had shifted, and I had accepted the responsibility at that point. It was more of an “I can do this” attitude than I’d had before. But I’ve heard people say, “You’re the new singer of Queen!” And I say, “Well, essentially, yeah.” I don’t look at it as a permanent position. It was billed as “Queen + Adam Lambert,” so I feel like it’s a collaboration. It was something we did, and the people loved i,t and we sold out all the shows, it was great.

After they toured with Paul Rodgers, they recorded an album with him. Have you guys ever discussed recording something? 
I have to say, I can’t see the future. Something could come down the pipeline. I have so much respect for them. And it if was the right thing at the right time, you never know. But in my mind, that was never the idea, it was more about a live event.

You did musical theater before Idol; I’d have to think you’ve gotten some acting offers.  
Glee was really the first thing that came down. I auditioned for Glee before I was on Idol, and I didn’t get it. I was really nervous on the first day of shooting, because I hadn’t auditioned. They just offered me a part. I thought well, what if I suck at this? But it was a good experience, I felt like I learned a lot.

But have you gotten offers to do Broadway? 
I’ve definitely gotten a few offers from the Broadway world, that was what I was doing before Idol. I did a broadway national tour of Wicked, I was essentially working for a Broadway organization. It’s funny, I never moved to New York. I think I was scared of it. I was dealing with a lot of fear in my early 20s. But before I auditioned for Idol, I was at a crossroads where I thought, “Maybe I’m going to move to New York.” It felt like the logical next step. But I was frustrated: I’d been working for that company for four years, and I was an understudy, they wouldn’t hire me as the lead. It’s probably because I wasn’t right for the role. But I wanted to move up, I wanted to evolve. And I thought, “Well, maybe if I get on TV for a minute it will raise my profile and I’ll get more opportunities.” That was part of my reason for auditioning for Idol. I didn’t think I’d get far in the compeition, but I thought with that under my belt I could move to New York with a little notoriety and maybe it will help me.

So, if you could take your pick, what would you want to do on Broadway? 
If I were going to do a musical, I would want it to be something new. I’d want to originate something. I wouldn’t want to step into something that the last guy did. I was getting frustrated with that with theater to begin with: when you get into these shows that have become “brands” — and I have a lot of respect for those shows — but it sort of gets so “locked in” to how it was originally staged, and that didn’t feel like the most creative opportunity. I want to have some input into how my character moves and dresses and sounds. And with these shows that have been running for a long time, it becomes like a theme park. “This is where you stand, this is how you say the line, this is how you sing the note, and you can’t do it any other way.” I hate being told what to do. So it needs to be like a collaboration.

It feels like Broadway is in a more creative place than it was a few years ago; it seemed like for a while it was all remakes and shows around artist catalogs, and now you have much more original stories like Hand to God and Something Rotten and Wolf Hall and Fun Home.
I’ve heard that Broadway is in a good space right now: the shows are good and people are wanting to see them which is fantastic. So, if it were the right project that felt interesting I would be into it. For me personally it would have to feel different. As somebody who has been doing theater since I was a kid… I think that contemporary theater has a very specific sound and approach and a lot of people sound exactly the same in the way they sing the material, and do the scenes, and it’s become homogenized. And it’s hard for me to sit and watch some of it, because it doesn’t feel organic or that it has any vibe. It feels “trained.” And I can’t place the blame on the performers: everybody needs to get work. But it’s this style, so people say, “That’s what’s working, I’ve got to do it like this.”

There aren’t many tour dates on your website; are you planning to tour for the album? 
I’d like to tour, but there’s no plan yet. We have to see how this thing goes. When you’re an artist that has a history of touring, and they can project what your numbers are going to be, it’s different. I’m in a place right now where I’m rebuilding. I’m promoting the album through the end of the year, but as far as a tour, I think that decision is a ways off.



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