Lionel Richie, Commodores Reunite At Essence Fest
Lionel Richie, Commodores Reunite At Essence Fest

After two albums of letting others forge his creative direction, Lionel Richie plans to take control again on his next album.

For both 2006's "Going Home" and the new "Just Go," which comes out Tuesday, Richie worked with contemporary producers and writers such as StarGate, The-Dream, Christopher "Tricky" Stewart, Ne-Yo and Akon. But Richie tells Billboard.com that he's "already started" on another album, which he intends to personally helm although he expects to bring in some collaborators as well.

"I've mastered the art of co-producing," Richie explains. "No matter what, I have to have somebody else that sits across the room and looks at the big picture while I'm going in to get the second verse of the third song. I always need somebody in that room to back me up. James Carmichael did a great job all those years of just keeping me in focus, 'cause that's the key."

Richie says he's been "sketching up some songs" for the project, drawing inspiration from his travels -- which have been largely international to promote his last few albums. "I go to every great club in the middle of Paris and sit in the corner and watch what people move to," he says. "Then I go to Berlin and check 'em out. I go to London and check 'em out, New Delhi...And then I go back to the hotel room and, while I'm in that same mood, I start to write.

"I've plugged into a world beat somewhere, so right now this album coming up is gonna be pretty interesting. I can always tell when I'm going in the right direction -- I scare the record company to death! They're like, 'Now, Lionel, where are you going now?' But I have to keep it interesting for me and my listeners, 'cause it has to be something they're not quite expecting."

Richie plans to record a couple of songs soon with the Dead Executives -- the Good Charlotte duo of Joel Madden, his daughter Nicole's boyfriend and father of Richie's granddaughter, and his twin brother Benji. He also mentions European DJ Bob Sinclair as a possible collaborator for club-styled tracks.

Richie is still deeply into promoting "Just Go" as well. He just wrapped up a European tour, and while he only has two more shows on the books at the moment -- June 7 in London, England, and July 5 at the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans -- he promises there will be dates in North America during before the "Just Go" cycle is complete.

"We're trying to finalize whether it's going to be in the fall or the first of the new year," he says. "I've spent most of my time outside of America for the last three or four years, but the interest is there, so I said, 'Let's go back across America again." Richie expects to announce tour dates during the summer or early fall.

And, he adds, the long-promised Commodores reunion is also in the works. "It's the No. 1 question we get," Richie says. "I can honestly tell you before the end of the year, for sure, you'll hear a rumble. I think now might be the proper time."