May 16, 2013 2:00pm PT by Andrew Hampp, Billboard
Will.i.am on New Britney Spears Album: 'We Start Next Week'
Will.i.am received an Honorary Clio Award Wednesday night for his work with brands like Coca-Cola, Intel and Beats by Dre. But he's also hard at work shaping another blockbuster brand -- Britney Spears, whose upcoming eighth studio album he's executive producing.
"We start next week," Will.i.am said of the recording sessions, speaking on the lawn before the Clios at the Museum of Natural History in New York. "Before we even start we've had these juicy sessions, where we've been bonding, building the trust and comfort. I've never worked like this before -- not even the Peas."
Spears has been spending the last few weeks in meetings with Will.i.am, opening up about her life before a single song has been recorded.
"I wanted to just go to lunch for two months, which is totally different from how you typically do it. I said, 'Let's talk about what you're excited about. Let's talk about things you've done in you career, what you're happy about. Let's talk about spending time with your kids, let's talk about your breakup. Let's talk about how now you're single, how independent you might feel.' We started talking about all that stuff. So I said, 'do you mind if I write this down? I don't mean to impose but I want to interview you. I need this to create a filter.'"
Taking the filter approach to Britney's personal life, Will.i.am added, means that "when people start bringing us stuff, I can say 'Actually we can't have this song. Yes, we want dance songs but that's a little too dark.' I want it to fit with the emotions. I'm really excited about that and honored that she trusts me. I don't want to let her down. I just want to do it the way a brand would do it. They wouldn't say, 'Take this. Put it out.' That's not what you would do. You'd come up with a mood board, the logos, the font, all the other stuff."
Will.i.am was honored to be recognized for his brand work, and hoped that the Honorary Clio "spawns other me's. Where it's not an anomaly, where the traditional, old concept of product endorsement inspires other artists to realize there's another way to not endorse but collaborate." Though his brand partnerships have helped change the rhetoric around endorsement deals for stars like Beyonce, Justin Timberlake and Alicia Keys, Will.i.am doesn't see too much else that's new in celebrity branding.
"To call it different when its the same, that's not cool either. That's like, 'No this isn't my girlfriend, this is my do-it buddy.' It's your girlfriend, dude."
Will.i.am next heads to Vegas to perform at Sunday's Billboard Music Awards with Justin Bieber, and hopes to do a proper tour for his #willpower album later this summer. "I can't wait to go on the road. I'll probably start going after July, in August," he says.