It’s been eight years since Fergie‘s last solo album, The Dutchess. As much as the pop landscape has changed in that time, the now-wife of actor Josh Duhamel and mother of 14-month-old Axl is back on the Hot 100 with “L.A. Love (La La),” the first single off her upcoming sophomore solo album, due out in early 2015. The singer recently talked to Billboard about returning to the charts, the many different influences on the new album and how working with Will.i.Am on her solo stuff differs from collaborating in the Black Eyed Peas.
How was your Halloween?
Oh, it was great. First year as a mom trick or treating, it was awesome.
So what did you go as and what did Axl go as?
I just went as a skeleton and Axl went as a skunk. He had four costumes this year: Buzz Lightyear, a monkey that I had ordered for him last year but didn’t fit, a skunk he used trick or treating, and then a dragon just so I could say I was the mother of dragons.
Is being a parent now influencing your songwriting?
I have a couple of song ideas for Axl, but as far as when songs aren’t about Axl it doesn’t really change much. I’m pretty much the same crazy girl who has listened to NWA all her life. So I don’t have any real new boundaries in that way, except the ones I’ve always had because I’m sassy, but not a slut. I never slept around, but I do like to play with my sexuality. And I like to have a good time, and a lot of it is with a wink.
You mention NWA. There’s an old-school hip-hop feel to “L.A. Love (La La).” Did you go back and revisit that music as a fan for this track?
Definitely. I think indirectly things just have their influence in you, they’re in your system if you’ve listened to them a lot. This song references that, but every song is different for me and they’re each their own characters in the storybook of their world. So I approach for what it needs and its special character that it is. But this definitely goes back to that girl, for sure.
How far along are you on the album?
Gosh, I’m far in. But you have to at a certain point just let go and say, “This song is done.”
Are there other influences that have emerged that are surprising you?
Nothing surprises me anymore that comes out of my mouth (cracks up). Yeah, there’ll be points where I go, “Okay, this is giving me an Amy Winehouse feel.” And it’s just by accident probably because I listen to that album so much. Or Jhene Aiko, I’m giving you two that weren’t out before my other album was out. But I was a fan of both of their albums, and sometimes those new influences come up. And Ed Sheeran, who wasn’t out before my last album, but now I’ll go, “I’m kind of giving myself a little Ed Sheeran at this moment.” So yeah, those are a few things that weren’t out before that might come into little moments for me just because I’m a music fan and that naturally happens. But then always there are gonna be my references that I’ve had forever, whether it be Robert Plant or Guns N’ Roses or any of the old-school rap artists that I’ve referenced for years. It just comes out randomly and sporadically, depending on the feeling of the music when I hear the music.
The Dutchess jumped around all over the place, from a ballad to a club-hopper. Is this album similar?
Is there a timeline for when people will hear it?
I’m aiming for album beginning of year, so I’m just continuing working.
Who are you working with on the record so far and how are those influences emerging?
What I’ve divulged so far is that I’ve been working with Mike Will [Made-It], he’s great, he’s got a really fresh new urban sound. Then I have Will.i.am, which we do all around the board. He and I can finish each other’s sentences. So we’ve got like seven songs and they are completely all different. Then working with some musicians, which I can’t disclose yet, and a few new people — there’s a guy, Hard Work, who’s amazing, there’s a guy, Rocc Starr, who’s great. It’s so funny, everyone has their nicknames, their showbiz names.
I feel like you need an updated show biz name, one to reflect the times. What would your new show biz name be?
I have it, Fergie was the showbiz name. Fergalicious would be one, and Fergie Ferg, I’d be Viva Loca.
Obviously working with Will you know each other, but you also both have new experiences individually you can bring to the table. How are those changing your working process for the better?
What’s great is Will doesn’t have the pressure of feeling like he’s got to be the captain of the ship, like he does with the Peas. So it’s more about my ideas and making those come into fruition as opposed to trying to fit my ideas into this box of the group. So it’s a bit more of a freeing experience. Because it’s my album it’s about him helping me to bring my ideas to life. There’s no pressure to make sure it’s not too Fergie-based, it’s more about developing this second album and developing that passion and that love I had all my life for music and performing and recording things that move me.
Have you started delving into touring plans?
I was just on a phone call right before about scheduling for next year’s touring. I am so excited for it because I’ve had a good break from it. And you’ll see from this video I just did I had this huge art car/party bus made and it’s just unbelievable and you can see how my brain has kind of exploded and how I’ve really gotten to expand on all these ideas. I’m so passionate about my visuals and how the songs are presented and to make sure people get what I’m seeing in my head, because automatically when I’m writing a song and singing a song I see the video, I see how I want to perform it. I’m really thrilled for people to see the video and for them to see how that transitions into the live show because I’m thinking about it all when I’m making the songs.
Are there any live shows you’ve seen recently that really inspire you visually?
Yeah, but I’m not gonna say because I don’t want anyone to take it (laughs). I saw a few things at Coachella that inspired me completely. But you’ll just have to see.
You are coming back at the same time as Gwen Stefani, who’s done a great job of blending career and parenting. Are there people you look up to as examples of how to do both?
I always look up to Gwen and the way she handles stuff because it seems that she’s really got it all together.
Where were you when you heard “L.A. Love (La La)” was on the charts?
I was on the phone as I am normally and it was exciting. But at the same time I almost don’t want to know because I’m just so focused on moving forward. It gave me chills and butterflies because that’s just so special.
It must have been gratifying to know people were waiting for new music from you.
It makes me feel really, really good and excited to do what I’m doing and just keep working.
An edited version of this article first appeared in the Nov. 15 issue of Billboard.