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Justin Timberlake Interview

interview title: Work in Progress

Interview Date: November 18 2002 4:38 PM EST
Interview source: VH1 by Meredith Lerner

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Will 'N Sync ever make another album? Maybe not. Perhaps the next time we see Justin, Joey, Lance, Chris and J.C. onstage, it will be 2022 and they'll be performing "It's Gonna Be Me" sitting on stools like a Gen-X CSN&Y. Right now, however, all eyes are on Justin Timberlake - the group's youngest heart throb and biggest star - and how he performs as both solo artist and grown-up.

justin timberlake picture image nsync picTimberlake's Justified debut makes a forceful case for the strength of his musicianship. Yes, as the debut single "Like I Love You" hints, he's got a case of the Michael Jacksons, right down to the distinctive "Smooth Criminal" chapeau. But he's smart like the young Jackson, too. And his voice is more authoritative these days. The nasal whine, which drove plenty of 'N Sync's hits, has given way to seductive cooing and crooning, and the beats backing him up are courtesy of platinum tunesmiths Timbaland and the Neptunes.

Can Timberlake, like Jackson, unite young and old, black and white, urban and suburban with a single chorus? The signs look good. Last week Justified was only a few thousand copies short of toppling Eminem's 8-Mile juggernaut on the Billboard charts. When Timberlake spoke to VH1, however, he explained how all he wants out of life is to express himself as an artist, and enjoy a few rounds of golf.

VH1: What made you decide to do a solo record?

Justin Timberlake: I think I did it because maybe I needed freedom to really express myself. That's really what Justified is about.

VH1: Was it a challenge to leave your 'N Sync support system behind and try something on your own?

Timberlake: It's different in the sense where you're not as collaborative with the other people in the group, but at the same time I'm as collaborative with my producers. On the other hand, you don't have to think so much about what you're writing. You can let it flow out because it's just you. I like new experiences. So it hasn't been hard at all. It's been fun.

VH1: What music were you listening to when you were making the record?

Timberlake: I grew up in Memphis, where blues was invented. A lot of country and gospel goes through the city, too, and that definitely inspired me. As a kid, I gravitated towards Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Al Green and Marvin Gaye. For me, Michael Jackson and Prince were bigger than lollipops!

VH1: How do you feel about the comparisons between yourself and Michael Jackson?

Timberlake: It's very flattering. At the same time, I don't think it's fair to him! This is my first record. You're talking about the man who put out Off the Wall and Thriller and Dangerous and Bad. As time goes by people will see who I am for who I am. I feel very fortunate to be compared to somebody so incredible. He's an icon. But I don't think you can make a comparison to a certain phenomenon. It just happens how it's supposed to happen.

VH1: Why was writing the album yourself so important to you?

Timberlake: As an artist you want to [present] an extension of [yourself in your art]. You have to write your material to really do that. I got the confidence writing ['N Sync] songs like "Gone" and "Girlfriend." The reception they got [pointed me] in the right direction. It gave me the confidence to do this album the way I wanted to do it.

VH1: So were you drawing on life experiences?

Timberlake: I didn't have a particular life experience that I drew on. I followed wherever the music took me. "Like I Love You" had a sexy vibe and that influenced the way the vocals were stylized. I tried to come up with a funky melody and not worry about the content. If a beat came out and it was very aggressive, I felt the angst of it and started writing about something not as happy as "Like I Love You."

VH1: How did the songwriting process work with the Neptunes and Timbaland?

Timberlake: We'd start working on the music and then the melody would take me to where the lyrics needed to go. It's one thing to say something one way [in a lyric], but you have to make sure the lyrics fit in with the melody the right way, so you can sing it and still get your message across.

VH1: How have you grown personally and as an artist going through this whole process?

Timberlake: Just writing and being in the studio was like therapy for me. The first half of this year was pretty tough for me. I think the timing was right. Every time you do a project, you learn something new. That's the beauty of it.

VH1: What is important to you other than music?

Timberlake: My family, my friends. I like simple things. I like to sneak in the theatre and watch movies. I'm a movie buff.

VH1: You sneak in without paying?

Timberlake: No, no! I'm talking about sneaking in the back. I like to play golf. I like to shoot hoops. I'm a 21-year-old dude. I'm pretty simple.

VH1: As a generation, you, Christina Aguilera and Nick Carter are all growing up. What is that like?

Timberlake: It's cool. It's an awesome feeling to have that kind of creative control, to really feel like you can blossom as an adult, as an artist, and as a person.

VH1: Do you ever feel like you sacrificed your teenaged years to your career?

Timberlake: No. My teenage years were exactly what they were supposed to be as far as I'm concerned. I think everybody has their own path and it's laid out for you. It's just up to you to walk it. This is where I chose to go. Too many times I see people my age on TV who do what I do and they're like, "Oh, it was awful!" You're not gonna catch that from me. I'm very thankful to be doing what I'm doing. I feel very blessed.

VH1: Has it been a difficult transition from teen pop star to adult?

Timberlake: I didn't put out this album because I wanted everybody to know I was grown up. I'm 21 and that's not grown up. But it is a little more grown up than 19 or 20. That's the best part about what I do. I get to learn from the mistakes I've made and not do them the next time.

VH1: So how do you cope with the media?

Timberlake: For the most part I ignore it. I'm not gonna change my life because of somebody else's interpretation of it, because they don't really know me. If my friends come to me and they tell me something, I'm going to pay attention because, hey, they know me. As far as the press is concerned, they're going to say what they want to say and I would say probably about 10-15 percent of the time it's accurate. The other percentage, it's completely wrong. I can't waste time worrying about it because it's just negativity.

VH1: What advice would you give someone starting out in the business at age 12 like you did?

Timberlake: If you're going to do something, if you put out 150 percent then you can always expect 100 percent back. That's what I was always told as a kid, and it's worked for me so far!



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