It’s said that you can’t keep a good man down, but in the case of Adam Lambert, he was down barely 24 hours.
The American Idol season-eight runner-up and current frontman for Queen tells Billboard that he has found a new home at Warner Bros. Records, and that the label got in touch right after news broke that he had split from RCA Records.
“The next day, Warner Bros. contacted us, which I thought was pretty amazing and it was a kind of relief,” says Lambert. “It was just a scary thing to make that announcement to the world.”
Ever the go-getter, Lambert and his management team at Direct Management Group regrouped and brainstormed, deciding to reach out to Swedish songwriter-producers Max Martin and Shellback. The two first worked with Lambert months after his Idol near-win and the collaboration yielded two hits, “Whataya Want From Me,” which reached No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, and “If I Had You,” which spent 20 weeks on the chart, peaking at No. 30.
“So I scheduled a meeting with Max Martin and Shellback. We started talking about life, politics, fashion, everything under the sun,” Lambert recalls. “They said, ‘You seem different, Adam,’ and I said, ‘I feel a little different.’ And I just asked them for their help.”
Four years after their first sit-down, the trio picked up where they left off, with Martin and Shellback offering to executive-produce the 32-year-old singer’s next release, his first under his new multiple-album deal with Warner Bros., due out in early summer.
As Martin tells Billboard exclusively: “Shellback and I first realized in 2009 that a voice and talent like Adam Lambert’s doesn’t come around very often. We loved the experience and hoped our paths would cross again. So, when Adam came to us with a new opportunity to work together, we leapt at it and even suggested a deeper relationship where we would get the chance to really help define Adam’s music over a whole album. We teamed up with the perfect partner in Warner Brothers and can’t wait for everyone to hear the dynamic album. We are really proud of it and hope you like it as much as we do!”
The hitmaker describes the experience as “a great journey.” Lambert would certainly agree. See a photo of Lambert and Martin in the recording studio above and read more about how his deal came together below:
What was important to you in a new deal?
Adam Lambert: Finding a home that was the right fit. As you know, leaving RCA was really due to creative differences. They are great people over there. I have a really nice relationship, but it didn’t feel like we wanted the same things with this next chapter, and so I chose to part ways with them.
How did you, Max and Shellback reconnect?
Lambert: I was working on demos and scheduled a meeting with them. They’re two of my favorite producers and at the very top of their game. I love everything they do, and was really excited to sit back down with them after having worked on For Your Entertainment. It was great to reminisce and laugh. It was an easy, humble, casual vibe, and when you’re in the studio, that’s what you want. I played them a song and we got very excited. They heard my personal growth, and lyrically, the things that I was trying to say. Long story short, they offered me a deal to be executive producers of this album, and that felt like a big moment.
What is it about how they craft such undeniable songs?
Lambert: The two of them are just geniuses at what they do. And the vibe they create is so free of ego, it’s about, “Let’s make a great song.” And that’s what it should be. And they let me be me.
There have been rumors of Tove Lo guesting, among others. Can you reveal any collaborators?
Lambert: I cannot, but I can say the first single will be out in April. I think people are going to be really surprised. The album feels like a new era for me — emotionally, lyrically, sonically. It feels fresh, it feels new. It’s still me. It’s still stuff that fans know and love but it’s a new chapter 100 percent.
And it was recorded in Sweden?
Lambert: Yes, I spent two months in Stockholm at the beginning of 2014 writing with all of their guys. It was a very focused time. I don’t have a social life out there, I don’t have any professional commitments so I was in the studio almost every day. It was nice; it allowed me to really reflect on where I was in my life and where I had been, what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it, and I got to work with some incredible people.
What can you tell us about the record sonically? Can you clue us in to what you were listening to?
Lambert: I wanted something more internal and more grounded. A little less with the theatrical and the camp and the presentation. I wanted to bring it in a bit more. Being on the road with a British rock band, and being in London a lot this year, rehearsing with them and doing TV gigs, I think that has affected my sound and where we are headed with it. [Europe] is very ahead of the curve, or right on, and I was definitely influenced by that. Vocally, it’s very intimate compared to what I’ve done in the past. There is a little bit of a daring, deeper internal conflict and poetry about it.
You went to the No. 1 songwriter in the world, how important are hits to you?
Lambert: I think it’s pretty clear what we’re after with these two guys. They are the masters. They are geniuses at melody. It seems so simple and it is so complex. And I love that. It’s effortless and it’s graceful. They know what the people want to hear and the best way to reach the most people is radio. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to work with them — because of their expertise in that field.
It’s been six years since America first saw you on Idol, what have you learned about the music business in that time?
Lambert: When you come into this quickly with the trajectory out of American Idol, it’s really easy to see the business like a fan would: you don’t see the ins and outs of it. And you learn once you are in it. With Trespassing, I learned a lot about radio. I learned a lot about my fans through the years — the big picture of it and how you have to listen to them. Being on stage with Queen and remembering the most important things about music and performance are the most timeless things: it transcends trend and popularity contests. It is more about truth, emotion, honesty and the connection with the audience, the music and the moment. [The Queen tour] has been good for me on a confidence level. It’s made me feel like I’m on the right path, and humbled at the same time. I am stepping into a position that used to be occupied by the greatest frontman of all time. Trying to live to that legacy has been challenging and rewarding.
A version of this article appears in the Jan. 24 issue of Billboard.