Interview: Robin Thicke
Mon, 24 Nov 2008 10:35:38
Pop phenom Robin Thicke not only looks like his famous father, actor Alan Thicke, the sitcom star who won America's heart for his portrayal of doctor and dad Jason Seaver on the hit 80s series,
Growing Pains. He also sounds a bit like dear old dad when he speaks, as well. But the younger Thicke didn't follow in dad's footsteps in regards to his career path. He chose music over TV and movies. It's a move he feels was dictated by his DNA, since his mother is singer (and sometime soap actress) Gloria Loring, his grandfather played the trumpet and his grandmother was a classical pianist!
We spoke to the good-natured Thicke, who proved to be a diehard fan of all types of music, ranging from classic R&B to the earliest era of hip-hop, over international phone lines after a few scheduling delays during the morning of our interview. The singer was on tour and admittedly having a blast in the UK promoting his recently released opus, Something Else. He was more than happy to offer up his views on blue-eyed soul, how politics now affect all Americans and what his music means to him and to you.
How come you didn't go into the TV business like your famous parents?
Oh, TV wasn't comfortable for me. My mom was actually a singer first and ended up on a soap opera for five years because of her music talent and acting ability. Music is in my blood. My grandfather was a jazz trumpet player, and my grandmother was a classical pianist. In my blood, there are three generations of music and only one generation of acting, so it makes sense that I went this route. The first television job that my dad has was Growing Pains. That was his first gig. He was a producer behind the scenes and then a host. Music was in my bloodstream and my heart. I was never comfortable in front of the camera. Now it's been shoved in front of my face for the past few years so I am over that fear. Acting doesn't seem to have a soul to it when you are 14-years-old, you know? I don't know how these little geniuses like Dakota Fanning do it, but I know when I was her age, I couldn't and didn't get it. I did episodes of Growing Pains and The Wonder Years in order to make Christmas money so I could have some cash when I wanted to ask a girl to go steady with me! I was standing on a set as a teen, while my brother was the one who was the "skull and crossbones" type, who locked the door and didn't do this type of stuff. I was the kid with imaginary friends and things like that, and the piano was the way to make myself feel connected to something. I liked Prince a lot when I was young. There he was, riding a motorcycle, playing guitar and being a loner in Purple Rain. I wanted to do that. Music gives people who are disconnected an outlet and something to connect to.
Where did you get your love of R&B music, because the influence is on display on Something Else?
To me, it was just popular music, like Michael Jackson and Prince. I loved Billy Idol and John Cougar Mellencamp, too. I did the Billy Idol thing one year for Christmas, performing for my family. The next year, I did the Michael Jackson-type thing. I was inspired by music and entertainers. Then what happened was that I found Kurtis Blow and Run-DMC and became entrenched in American culture, and hip-hop became the new rock 'n roll. White kids dressed like dancers. My brother was into Metallica and Guns N' Roses and here I was, all into Jodeci.We gravitate to what we gravitate towards, right?
“Music gives people who are disconnected an outlet and something to connect to.”
Absolutely. You're very much of the blue-eyed soul musical style. How do you feel about the Marvin Gaye comparisons?
I have blue eyes, and I am soulful. Even if I couldn't sing, though, I'd still be a soulful person since I'm compassionate and sensitive to things that come towards me or to other people. You have to be that way in order to be a soul singer. You have to have this sense of romance, impression and struggle.
Why do you think your fans will like Something Else? What would you say about if you had to go out and sell your records to fans yourself?
It is the kind of record to make your days and night sweeter, even if you just want to reflect and be by yourself. That is what I love, like how OK Computer is the record I want to listen to when I drive by myself and want to fall into a zone. My record is the kind you put on when you are having some wine before you go out for the night. My last album had me wondering if I would ever have a hit record, and that's what I was thinking while I was sitting at the piano and writing. With this album, it was more relief and celebration, with me thinking, "Everything is going to be OK." Not being completely in debt helped changed my attitude, too! [Laughs] I have been blessed as a songwriter and producer to worked on huge albums and to make money doing what I love, but as an artist, the Van Gogh in me needed a sense of approval and confirmation from society itself. I had to please my dad, too, and I wanted him to know I wasn't crazy when I said I was going to be a star to him in the past. You know how you do that over the years? You put your neck out and say to people, "I am going to do this" and then you have to do it, because you said you were going to do it. Having some success is like the quarterback that everybody says is never going to win the Super Bowl and he finally does it. I have hardcore fans that I made from first album, and the new fans will see that I trying to challenge myself and make best music I can.
Lastly, what song personifies you and your music on this record?
"Dreamworld," since it's a cross between John Lennon's Imagine and Marvin's What's Going On. The song deals with the energy crisis, poverty and how we all are attacked from the world at all angles. We have to change it, own it and make it out there on our way. It's semi-political, but nowadays, what isn't political? Politics is in everything we do, because it now affects us at the gas station, with the mortgage and with the kids. Politics is no longer just about abortion or taxes. It's no longer issues-driven. Now everyone's household and wallet is affected by politics so we have to play close attention, but I am not preaching on that song or on the album. I am just expressing what I am going through.
— Amy Sciarretto