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Warner Bros. CEO Cameron Strang on Why He Signed Adam Lambert

"The potential is 'worldwide superstar,'" says the veteran executive of signing the 'American Idol' star.

When Direct Management Group first started talking to Warner Bros. Records CEO Cameron Strang about possibly signing American Idol alum Adam Lambert, a new album seemed a far-off dream. The singer had just parted ways with RCA Records — according to sources, the Sony label was encouraging him to record an all-covers record — and the split left him looking for direction.

Enter: hitmakers Max Martin and Shellback, with whom Lambert first worked in 2009. The three reconnected, vibed and decided to work together again, with the Swedish songwriter-producers offering to executive produce his next album, due out in summer. By that point, signing the singer, who also fronts Queen on their current tour, was a no-brainer for Strang. Here, the executive explains how the deal came about.

You reacted quickly when Adam became a free agent. What was going through your head at the time he and RCA split?

Cameron Strang: We’ve all been big fans of Adam’s, and we’re also big fans of DMG’s Steve Jensen, Martin Kirkup and Bradford Cobb. We reached out to them and then this interesting partnership started to form with Max Martin and Shellback, who we do quite a lot of business with. So we all got together and discussed it and thought this would be such an incredible team creatively. It has all the ingredients to succeed if we aligned.

What did you see in Adam as an artist?

First of all, his voice. We all feel that there’s a great career there as an artist and as a singer. Maybe things hadn’t lined up right for him historically, there’s a lot of trial and error in our business, but we felt like he’s really ready. He’s already on a career path that has its bumps and ups and downs but we felt it was an opportunity for somebody who’s really poised to have a great career.

What’s the potential here?

I think the potential is worldwide superstar. He has fans all over the world. He’s he’s got one of the great voices and he’s coming into his own as a person and as a man. He more comfortable with himself and his artistic vision of himself and I think there’s a confidence and a freedom that comes with having made more than one record.

How much of the album was done when you first met and where is it at now?

He came in with no music. We’ve made the record together and it’s 90 percent finished now. The plan is to launch singles in the spring and the album in early summer.

By teaming up with Max Martin, you clearly have hits on the brain.

It was more of an organic idea that came to fruition, but yes, Max is incredibly talented as a songwriter and as a record producer. And when I say record producer I mean record producer in the broadest sense of the word. He has incredible vision. Also, Adam’s had a real role with writing all the songs and bringing a certain artistic vision and confidence to the project. It’s been really, truly a collaboration between the two of them.

How do you view the Idol connection, is it a stigma? An asset?

I think it’s a part of Adam’s story. It’s where he began and a big touchstone in his career. Everybody comes in in different ways, starts in different places, has different people on their team, but at the end of the day, and it’s been proven to me over and over and over again, it’s the music and the talent that determines the career.