You've already referred to this album as your favorite and your best work yet -- what makes you feel that way?
I think I definitely unlocked some magic with this album as a songwriter. Before, as a songwriter, I knew I had great songs but there would be parts in the songs that I would cringe, like, “Why did I write that pre-chorus?” Or “Why didn’t I make the bridge crazier?” And finally on this album I loved, loved every song and I’m so proud of every section of every song. I’ve never had that because of insecurities and my projects as an artist. This is also the first project that every song is related to each other -- one will wink at the other with a lyrical splash. My family is [also] singing on the background of every song -- so I’m taking them around the world to promote it with me, because I feel like it’s their album too. I’m never gonna write a song without them singing on it again, they’re the best choir!
Going into the studio, people around me told me, “You’ve never sounded like this before, you sound so good.” I felt in pain because I was still sore from recovering, so I’m singing this album and I’m belting it, giving it my all and I’m just exhausted after recording these songs. And when I sent [them] to [my team], their first response on every single song was, “Your voice, dude.” You get a type of insecurity when you’ve been going through surgeries, like, “Do I sound good as a singer? Am I a good singer?” I know I’ve got songwriting in the bag, but vocally I was very scared, so that was the best compliment to get on this album.
When you went into the studio, did you have a goal in mind for what you wanted this next album to sound like or a message you wanted to send?
I missed a lot of pop songs, big anthems. Like Britney Spears in the early days, [sings] “'cause I’m stronger than yesterday,” those big songs where you’re like, “Oh my goodness!” And for chords, it’s not just like four chords, it’s magical four chords -- it sounds really musical, but it’s simple for the ear and everyone can learn the words right away. I went in listening to a lot of ABBA too, and their big, big songs like “Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)” -- that sounds like a big pop song, but it’s actually kind of vulnerable. I love the vulnerability of it, I thought there was something really special about that -- you can have this big anthem, but you can also be like, “Here’s my heart on the inside!”
Did winning the Grammy for best new artist in 2016 have any impact on the kind of music you were making for this next record?
I guess I didn’t really think about it. I thought more about that stuff when I was promoting Thank You -- I was really in my head about it on that album, but I learned how to let it go and remind myself that it’s about the fans and writing music for them and what makes them happy and what makes me happy at the same time. I think I found that beautiful world of, “Every age will love this, all my fans will be obsessed with this, and I will love performing this every single day -- I’ll never get sick of this.”