2019-11-08 Adam Lambert interview with Schwulissimo Magazin | Germany
Perfect timing: Queen and Adam Lambert announce three German concerts for their “Bohemian Rhapsody” tour in 2020. And Lambert (37, over five million records sold) with “Velvet: Side A” the first part of his fourth studio album. The otherwise so powerful Queen singer then strikes new notes with falsetto singing. But it’s not only in music that the US-American seems to have arrived, but also in life: he has been happily associated with the Spanish model Javi Costa Polo for a year now. During an interview in Berlin, Lambert explained what influence love had on his new album, what identity crises he had to overcome and how Roger Taylor and Brian May from Queen helped him.
Mr. Lambert, in the Freddie Mercury biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” you had a cameo appearance in 2018. Did you enjoy playing a hustler?
Wait a minute! I played a trucker, not a hustler! I don’t think the guy was paid for sex, but to drive a truck. (laughs)
But that you of all people were flirting with Freddie Mercury in the movie, did you like?
I immediately said: “Sure, it’s going to be fun! I’m the first man Freddie ever keeps an eye on. That’s beautiful, sweet irony, isn’t it? But I have to say: It was an icy night when we shot the scene. The warm thoughts were hard.
The people who are still criticizing Queen for going on tour with another singer must have been a thorn in their side.
Sure! But the bigger finger on the Hater is the joint documentary that Queen and I released. It’s like this: Brian May and Roger Taylor wrote some of these songs. They have every right to go out there and perform them. But they need a singer. So I sing these damn great songs for the audience. Between the three of us it’s not very complicated. But it’s interesting that from time to time there are still people who think they have to tell me that Freddie is better.
Your reaction to that?
Freddie is the man for the job! It’s his stuff, too. I wouldn’t know how I would have to sing these pieces if Freddie hadn’t taught me. But it’s not a competition.
But now you’re stacking deep. You even used your voice to make Cher cry at the Kennedy Awards.
I was incredibly nervous during the performance! I was jetlagged and my adrenaline got out of control. Normally I am more hardened. But sometimes such a surge of adrenaline brings out a lot of vulnerability. Emotionally, my channels were wide open. But that’s what made the performance so special.
Do you feel safe with your voice?
On good days. I am my worst critic and a perfectionist. I go hard with myself into court. At concerts I sometimes have the intuition in the middle of a song: Oh, that’s not going well. Then I walk off the stage and yell: “That was terrible, that was shit.” When I’m seriously worried, I watch it on YouTube to see how bad it was. Most of the time I think: It sounds okay.
Is there anything that could vocally get you out of the comfort zone?
On my new album I clearly moved out of the comfort zone! I brought in more soul, melody and phrasing. That was a challenge. Because I’ve loved soul music for so long. I use more falsetto than usual what feels good and different to me. Prince was an inspiration in this respect. I used to think, “What can I do to attract attention? This time it was more important to me to find the right vibe than to indicate my vocal volume.
The sound sounds very sexy.
I like music that creates a mood. Whether it’s playful or danceable or sensual-sexy. Some of the songs take me to the bedroom, others to the dancefloor, one to the kitchen. I like the idea that music can change the feeling of the moment. It’s like medicine.
If I asked you about your career highlights, would that be Queen-related moments or solo activities?
Both. The fact that I can do both things very actively makes it so special for me. A highlight with Queen was definitely opening this year’s Oscars. That was crazy. The fact that my second solo album went to number 1 and I became the first openly gay artist in America to do so is a milestone! When it happened, I couldn’t believe it myself that I was the first. And a Grammy nomination also earned me the record.
Do you have the feeling that you still have something to fight for as an artist?
In the beginning it was the stigma of having been a participant in a casting show against which I had to fight. But nowadays it doesn’t matter anymore. I trust my work, my music and my creativity more than ever before. I invested a lot of time in the new songs, writing them together with great songwriters. But it’s very easy to get swallowed up by the music business. I experienced that myself.
In an Instagram post you described it as your identity crisis.
Yes, that’s how it was. I was just chasing after the hit. I tried to make music for other people instead of for myself. Furthermore, I put so much energy into my career that I totally neglected my private life. But I’ve had that well under control for a few years now. When I realized it, I paused, talked to friends. I had to remember why I do this, what I love about it, what my purpose is, and where my joy comes from. When I reconnected, everything cleared up. The music for the record came together. I didn’t care about trends on the radio. I just followed my intuition.
Brian May and Roger Taylor are said to have helped you out of the crisis.
Simply by setting a good example! They don’t get excited about small things. They have experience and gone through so much. Listening to their reflections and stories helped me. Brian is a great communicator anyway. Being surrounded by both of them is wonderfully instructive. They are true rock stars.
Are you in a good place today?
Oh yes. I met someone who changed my view of many things. I didn’t actively search for him, it was coincidence and it clicked. It revived everything in me. A new romance is so inspiring. The song “New Eyes” is to be understood as a statement in this respect. I only now know how beautiful it is to sing a song with a feeling that you really feel right now.
Have you seen the George Michael documentary “Freedom”? In it he talks about how great it is to have that particular person in the audience for whom you sing every night.
Yes, that’s interesting: if you are a performer and you go on stage, you get all the energy from the audience. Then the show is over, you’re back in your hotel room, the bus, the plane or whatever. And it feels like someone is pushing you off the cliff. It’s a blatant adrenaline rush and not the easiest thing to deal with or get used to. But now someone is with me and we admire each other. That’s what love does.
What about your self-love? British pop star Sam Smith has recently been talking about bodyshaming with men. You have clicked on Instagram.
That was so incredibly brave of him! Especially because there’s a kind of double standard. There is the body-positive movement in women. But it’s not often talked about when it comes to us men. Especially the gay scene has a very body-conscious community. There is this excessive standard in terms of physical beauty – I claim this is much more extreme than with heterosexual men. Much of it goes back to the fact that we gay men were raised not to come out. We have to deal with all the shame, we feel funny and different or just wrong. All these thoughts become part of your physicality and the way you think about your body. So there’s an extra layer of crap that we have to deal with.
So you can connect with the subject?
I always had my insecurities! Ironically, the place where I felt most comfortable is on stage. When it’s time to ruffle me up and do what I do, it’s also the moment I draw my energy from. I get acceptance and confirmation through appearances. On stage I meet my self-confident self. But in my private life? There I often doubt myself.
How do Brian May and Roger Taylor react when you come to sing warm in your extravagant wardrobe in the evening?
I wear the same thing every night. It only changes from tour to tour. But of course, I make a statement with my clothes in any case. They definitely existed, the moments when Roger and Brian’s jaw fell when I stood in front of them in full make-up. But when you look back at the clothes Freddie wore, they’re also very weird. For me this apparition is part of Queen.
In what way?
I loved Freddie’s outfits. There was always an element of comedy. He didn’t take himself too seriously; he knew that sparkling catsuits always have something ridiculous about them. But that’s what it was all about. That was the game he created. It had to be a bit moody and exaggerated. That’s what made Freddie and Queen so special. This “camp” factor has been lost in our generation. Someone is wearing something and people think they are taking themselves seriously. Most people no longer understand what camping means.
Roger Taylor called you Camp Elvis.
Yes, he’s got it! I’ve always loved playing with silliness about my outfit. That’s rock’n’roll for me.