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”I don’t have to show everything I can do”

Jan Gradvall interviews Adam Lambert for Di Weekend 2015-06-26

Adam Lambert’s jet engine voice has made him an American Idol star and the singer of Queen after Freddie Mercury. But it takes powerful hit songs to become an international mega star – and he has now gotten help from Swedish professionals with that part. Di Weekend’s Jan Gradvall met the American artist on one of his many visits to Stockholm.
Age: 33
Lives: Los Angeles
Background: Runner up on American Idol 2009. The show is canceled next year, after its 15th season. The biggest stars to emerge from the show are Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson and Adam Lambert.
Now: New solo album The Original High, recorded in Los Angeles and Stockholm. Tours with Queen as the replacement for Freddie Mercury.

What is the worth of a voice? That is an abstract question, but in the case of Adam Lambert there is an exact answer: 48 million dollars.
Before a tour four years ago, his voice was insured for an amount that shocked the music world. At the same time, there are many who argue that his vocal cords really hold the same value as Leo Messi’s feet.
Adam Lambert, born 1982 in San Diego, has a voice with a greater force and perhaps a wider range than any other person in popular music today.
Meat Loaf, himself known for his lung capacity, ranks him in the same league as Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin, based on “that jet pack quality to their voice that just takes off”.
Brian May in Queen has said that he realized the jet plane engine that was hidden in Adam Lambert’s lungs when he in 2009 was a participant on American Idol and sang the infamously demanding Queen classic Bohemian Rhapsody during his audition.
The eighth season of American Idol then ended with the two finalists, Adam Lambert and Kris Allen, singing We Are The Champions together with Queen.

The runner up became the winner.
It was Kris Allen who won the final of American Idol, but it was the runner up, Adam Lambert, who became the real winner.
When Freddie Mercury died in 1991, Queen replaced him with Paul Rodgers from Free and Bad Company during their reunion tours in the 00’s. But after Adam Lambert’s performance during American Idol it was thank you and goodbye to Paul after five years with Queen.
Since then Adam Lambert holds that job. After touring Europe during the spring, the band continues the tour in South America this fall.
Three weeks after the finale of American Idol 2009, Adam Lambert became the first, and is still the only one of the show’s participants, who has ended up on the cover of the prestigious rock magazine Rolling Stone. The cover headline was “Wild Idol”, with Adam in a provocative pose. In the same Rolling Stone interview he publicly talked about being gay for the first time.

Aiming for an international breakthrough.
As a solo artist Adam Lambert has become a big star in the US. His first album For Your Entertainment from 2009 reached number three on the Billboard chart, Trespassing from 2012 became number one.
But he has not had the really big hit songs to make him a star internationally. That is something which is supposed to change this summer.
On his new album, The Original High, which was released last week, Adam Lambert is backed by the, statistically seen, two most successful songwriters and producers in the world: the Swedes Martin “Max Martin” Sandberg and Johan “Shellback” Schuster.
“His voice capacity is unbelievable”, says Shellback.
The Original High was recorded in the two cities that at the moment lead the development when it comes to pop music: Los Angeles and Stockholm. Adam Lambert spent two months in the cramped Wolf Cousin-studio at Roslagsgatan in Stockholm.
In total 19 (!) Swedish songwriters have been involved in making the album. It creates the image of a formula one car that in the pit, met by a crowd of mechanics and experts who do everything to make the engine running perfectly.

Bittersweet and toned down.
‘The formula one car is on this day parked at the end of Kungsgatan, at the Oscar’s Theatre. The record company has played the new album to fans who were specially invited, so called Glamberts, who also get to take selfies with their idol and role model.
These are not teen fans but men and women of all ages. All of them with stories of what Adam Lambert has meant to them.
Afterwards Adam Lambert sinks down in a chair. He sips water from a two litre water bottle that he carries around the whole time.
“I get easily dehydrated when I fly”,
he says with a low key, deep talking voice that only hints of the jet plane engine hidden therein.
The new album feels a bit more bittersweet and toned down than your earlier albums.
“That is probably because I get to live out the more glam and theatrical sides of my personality with Queen. With them, I have been able to go all in. I wanted the album to reflect another side of my personality.”
What have you learned from Max Martin and Shellback?
“They reminded me about what it is not only to be a singer but also to be a listener. To think of what a song feels like to a listener the first time and also what it feels like the fiftieth time. Then you realize that ‘less is more’ is a good rule. I don’t have to show everything I can do all the time, I can hold back.”
There is a big difference between singing on stage and singing in a studio.
“Very true. On my earlier albums I have approached the recording process the same way as I do when I take the stage. I thought that I should do a live performance in the studio. I come from a background on the stage so that is what I know. But now I found myself far from home, in a safe and calm atmosphere, and I could be more grounded and let out my more melancholic side.”
In several of your lyrics you refer to Hollywood – the old Hollywood, a glamorous but at the same time dark world.
“I have lived in Los Angeles the last 14 years. The old and the new Hollywood, it’s the same illusion. People have a perception of what Hollywood is, but in reality there’s so much sadness. Now I’m feeling fine but I have been through dark times. I have friends who have come to the city with great hopes and momentum but then just crashed into a wall. There is a lot of that. Identity crises. People who dream of success but who don’t succeed.”
What is “the original high” that you sing about on the title track?
”There are many things that can make us feel high. What I think about is going back to what created the thirst. It can be life itself. It can be love or sex or the high from performing the first time.”
Bringing back the infatuation
Adam Lambert takes a big sip of water.
“Or as in my case, touring with Queen. My job is to bring out old memories in the audience. Remind them of why they fell in love with Queen in the first place. So that’s another aspect of the original high. To remind them of the fantastic music that Freddie created.”
You sing a duet with Freddie Mercury on the video screens?
“Not exactly a duet, but there are moments when we sing together.”
In the song Lucy you sing about a youth gang that is called The Diamond Dogs. That is a quite obvious reference to David Bowie.
“Bowie is amazing. I grew up with my parents’ record collection. I remember when my dad pulled out the cover to Diamond Dogs the first time. To me, Bowie has almost been a bigger style icon than a musical influence. What he created was the first and only of its sort. So many have borrowed from him.”
Bowie also blurred the lines in every way. Between rock and disco, between straight and gay.
“I love the entire glam rock era. All the lines were blurred. My mother’s records was also important to me. She had a lot Al Green and such. Bob Marley. The music I grew up with was my parents’ seventies music.”
What do your parents work with?
“My dad, (Eber Lambert, Norwegian origin) works in mobile communication. When I grew up he worked in a Swedish company, Ericsson. Mom (Leila Lambert) was a dental hygienist.”
You have worked with several charities and do among other things support public schools.
“It’s a project called Donors Choose which started 15 years ago. Through them you can donate money online to very specific projects and even to specific teachers. I went to a public school in San Diego and I know how much extra resources mean.”
What did you like best in school?
“I liked English and history, I had difficulties with maths and science. But what meant most to me was what in the US is called extracurricular activities, subjects that are outside the ordinary curriculum. It can be artistic subjects like theatre or choir. For me, that was crucial during my childhood. It is an alarming development that it is resources like that that are cut when schools have to save money.”
It’s the same development here in Sweden, unfortunately.
“That is so incredibly stupid.”
When did you begin to sing?
“I started doing different musical theatre productions when I was about nine. I loved it.”
Did you take vocal lessons?
“Yes, I started doing that when I was about 13 years old.”
In what way? Singing scales?
“Yes, all of that. But I had a fantastic vocal coach who taught me not only techniques but singing overall. She became like a mentor to me, and introduced me to all the classics: movies, musicals, recordings.
She taught me about the great singers, the great composers. In a way, it is like I got my education from a previous generation.”
Even without knowing that, that shows in your artistry.
“That is probably true. I carry things with me from the old golden era of entertainment that she taught me.”
So you sat and watched videos during your vocal lessons?
“Yes. She also taught me about gay history, all the iconic stuff.”
You mean like Judy Garland?
Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, Barbra Streisand. I got that entire education from her. I hadn’t even come out of the closet at that time. I told my parents first when I was 18. But my vocal teacher knew without even asking. She knew.”
“I have also continued sharing the knowledge she gave me. I have gay friends who think everything began with BeyoncĂ©. I mean, hello. So I teach them, ‘this is Bob Fosse, this you have to know’.”
There are actually details in the production that feel a little bit Bob Fosse. Finger snapping. Whistles.
“Definitely. The things that are a bit dramatized. Very Fosse.”
Do you go to see musicals nowadays?
“No, I grew a little tired of that. A lot of what is put up on Broadway now is mostly done for tourists. There is too little risk taking. I remember when I was a kid and saw Tommy by The Who on stage in San Diego. That was incredibly cool. It had nerve. Those are the kind of stage experiences I search for.”
Another charity project that you support is The Trevor Project which helps LGBT youth.
“Trevor Project is amazing. They work with suicide prevention. Anyone can anonymously call a free number at any time to get help and counseling.”
Are there many that seek you up and tell you personal stuff?
“I had no idea how it would affect people when I came out after American Idol. I get a lot of letters, fans that tell me that I made them see things in a new way.”
American Idol reaches all of the US, far out from the big cities. How did the broad America react to you coming out?
“There have been some bumps in the road, but it makes me happy to see how fast people’s attitudes are changing. The next generation doesn’t care any longer. For them it’s already the past, they’re just shrugging it off. And that’s exactly what I want to achieve.”


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