Adam Lambert On New Music, Dating And Keeping Busy While Social Distancing

The singer and "American Idol" alum also opens up about being a queer artist in the music industry.
Adam Lambert's new album is called "Velvet."
Adam Lambert's new album is called "Velvet."
Joseph Sinclair

Like the rest of the country, Adam Lambert is stuck at home.

With social distancing measures in place, the singer has resorted to putting on wigs and posting photos of his new “look” on social media to fill the hours. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, he also had an album scheduled to come out.

We spoke a week before “Velvet” was released on March 20, and like I always do, I began our interview thanking him for his time.

“I have nothing but time here at home,” he said.

That’s certainly what many people are feeling right now. As for Lambert, his upcoming concerts have been canceled due to COVID-19, while the rest of his touring calendar remains up in the air. His main priority is that everyone stay safe and healthy, he said.

During this time of self-isolation, we caught up on the phone about his new album, dating and what’s next.

Do you feel like you’re at a point in your career where you’re more or less creative than you’ve been in the past?

Over the last 10 years, it’s easy to get caught up in the business side of things of music, and the commercial side of music and the competitive side of music. That’s just the business. It’s easy to get caught up in that mindset ― although it’s not necessarily a good idea to completely ignore it. But for me with this project, I finally was able to compartmentalize the creative side and not let it get tainted by this business. This is my fourth album, and it took me a little while to figure out how to do that and dig my feet in and be like this is what I want to make and this is what I’m making.

Can you talk about the song “Roses” and teaming up with producer Nile Rodgers on that?

Nile and I worked together before, so it was really exciting to do this again. He played guitar on a song called “Shady” that I did on my second album. And that’s where we met. And then, over the years, I’ve sung with him and [his band] Chic a couple times, and him and I and Avicii actually wrote a song together for Avicii’s album called “Lay Me Down.” So we’ve worked together now a handful of times and he’s wonderful. I mean, he’s got such great stories and he’s so positive and not only is he an incredible guitar player, I mean his style is his own.

His sensibility for songs and what to add to a song was key here. And we had written “Roses” and come up with a basic idea. Then I said, “It just needs a little more movement. It needs to dance a little bit. And [producer] Fred [Ball] was like, “Why don’t we call Nile?” And I went, “Oh, yeah, I know him, I got his number.”

That’s a handy thing to have in your phone. Was there anything, in particular, you were thinking about while writing “Roses”?

I was thinking there’s so many times where you’re trying to date somebody and they’re just sort of going through the motions. They’re not really even emotionally invested. You know what I mean? They’re doing the things that they think they’re supposed to do because society has told them to do these things. “Oh, now we’re in a relationship, so I will send you flowers.” And it’s like, “Well, OK, but that’s not enough if that’s all you’re doing.”

Lambert finished as runner-up in the eighth season of "American Idol."
Lambert finished as runner-up in the eighth season of "American Idol."
John Lamparski via Getty Images

Is there a track on this new album that speaks to where you’re at now and why?

“Superpower” is still very much sort of an anthem for me. The idea of taking control and taking back your power. I think on a personal level I’ve been heading that way and professionally, too. It really embodies this whole thing that I’m talking about in taking the reins.

But also “Velvet” is a really playful song. I feel like that’s my romantic side coming out. That’s me saying and wanting something that’s lovely and full of joy and being able to find it and putting that out there into the world. I mean I’m currently single right now, but I’m definitely in the right headspace, so that’s exciting.

Headspace to meet someone new or just in general in life?

Yes, to meet someone new and in general in life ― both. That’s the thing about the album is that I think overall it is an exploration of love. There’s self-love, which is reflected in “Superpower” and in “Stranger You Are” and “Ready to Run” ― having self-worth to make changes and to get out of things if it’s not right. And then some like “Roses” and “Love Don’t,” which are like, “OK, this is not working. This isn’t enough.” But being able to be self-assured enough to realize that. And then there’s songs that are fully fabulous and fun, and “Velvet” is one of them. It’s a celebration. But it’s all about love. It all comes down to this kind of search and experience of love in different forms.

I think that’s why this album resonates.

Yeah. I hope so. I mean that was the idea. And also I think more than ever, I’m the most comfortable I’ve ever been with being queer in the music industry. There were times where it was like an obstacle that I had to deal with ― not on my end, I’ve always been really comfortable about who I am ― but just the business around it has been tricky. We’re in a time now where it’s so open now and it’s proven not to be a handicap, which is what a lot of, I think, executives felt like it was 10 years ago.

And so, it’s a real exciting time to be in music and to be able to fully express everything about yourself without having to downplay anything or sidestep anything. Now I can just lean all the way in. And that’s exciting. And I feel like you can hear that in the album as well. I mean, it is queer. It is flamboyant.

Can you elaborate on your place as a queer man in the music industry?

Well yeah, I didn’t quite realize it as it was going on, but now in hindsight and also now having met younger people that ... I’ve met people that were in their adolescence or early teenage years when I was on “American Idol” and right after when I was doing my first big splash of press and my first album and all that. And it’s interesting to hear their perspective because I’ve actually met people that were like, “You were the first person on TV that was talking about being gay in my experience.” This is their words, and “Somebody that was coming out after ‘Idol’ and being really bold about exactly who you were ― that was the first time I’d seen that.”

So to know that it had that sort of impact on people’s lives, that’s really cool. And again, I didn’t realize it at the time. But now, 10 years later, it’s amazing to look back and see how far we’ve come.

And I think that there’s more to be done too. I mean, not just the music industry, just in general.

Exactly. We’re not done. That’s totally true. It’s not over, but the progress is really major.

Before I got on the phone with you, I Googled “Adam Lambert” and there were a lot of articles about your hair and whatever you did to it recently. Is it strange that fans watch your every move?

What did I do to my hair recently? I mean I did post a picture on Instagram yesterday in a wig because I was really bored at home and I just started playing dress-up in my closet, which is one of my favorite things to do since I was a kid and I took a picture of it. It’s very COVID-19, the look.

Is that weird?

I mean if it’s all in the name of ... It’s entertainment. I mean it’s all part of it, it’s all putting on a show. I mean that’s what we do. I do find it funny sometimes because I see certain things where it’s a bit of a double standard because I’m a man or a gay man even and it’s like women are changing their hair constantly and no one’s writing articles about it. You know what I mean?

Or I wear makeup, and I love eye makeup, and I was doing an interview somewhere and they said, “Oh, can we have you put makeup on the host?” And I was like, “Why? What? I’m not here selling makeup.” You know what I mean? If I had my own makeup line, yeah, that would make sense, but I’m here to talk about my album.

It’s like, would you ask a woman to put makeup on the host? No. They’re like innocent double standards, you know what I mean? I’m not offended, but I’m also like, “Uh ... OK.”

Queen and Adam Lambert perform at Fire Fight Australia, a concert for National Bushfire Relief in Sydney on Feb. 16, 2020.
Queen and Adam Lambert perform at Fire Fight Australia, a concert for National Bushfire Relief in Sydney on Feb. 16, 2020.
PETER PARKS via Getty Images

These days, it’s hard to stay home and keep yourself busy and everything.

I know, right? Well, I started putting wigs on and posting them on Instagram. That’s what happened to me.

Do you feel like there’s something that you’re itching to do that you haven’t done yet or something that’s on the horizon?

I would like to get more into the acting world. I think that would be really fun. And also, I’m starting to become interested in planting seeds in the creative space where it’s not necessarily for my own music, but to create other projects behind the scenes, to be a producer or a writer or a consultant. There’s definitely some stuff in the works. So I’m getting geared up for that.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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