MUSICIAN, STYLE ICON, AGELESS (BUT 41)
My mom was a teacher and my dad was a handyman and they taught me how to do and to give. I grew up in Virginia Beach: it’s a naval community, and it’s one of the reasons I saw no such thing as race. Different faces constantly surrounded me and it influenced my base as an artist. Music was always the first connection. Like with my writing partner I focused on characteristics; music says it all, it’s universal. I now see my education was the world and I will always try and connect people. The career that people have given me and supported has allowed me creative freedom and licence – and the encouragement to continue to just sort of mix things. People have allowed me to do that – they’ve respected my choice of wanting to be like, a little, you know, a baby alchemist, and just trying to mix different cultures together and things that I think are interesting. From the start,I chased my curiosities. I had a vision. I’d say, ‘It should be like this!’ Or ‘We have to do it like that.’ When I was young, I thought I knew everything. Now, I’m not sure if I know anything. I love visions. It sounds odd, but I’ve always considered myself to be one of the characters in a Wes Anderson movie. For a while, I would dress like one of his people: I would wear Wallabees and tan suits. And, like Jason Schwartzman in Rushmore, in my head I thought I was responsible for all the culture in my school in Virginia Beach. When Bill Murray takes off running for no reason in that film … I see myself in that run. I got a really lucky break but I worked hard. When I was in high school, producer Teddy Riley, who worked with Janet Jackson and Britney Spears, set up his studio five minutes away from my school, and as a young musician, it was kind of like telling
‘My goal is
always classic with a kick, a look or sound that you’ll
me that Jesus, ET and Elvis are going to walk in at any moment! It was that incredible – just the biggest, luckiest thing that could have happened in my life. I have the same philosophy in music as I do with everything else, including getting dressed. My goal is always classic with a kick, a look or sound that you’ll recall combined with something invented that you wouldn’t be able to forget. I love a good hat. I thought my Grammy [Awards] hat was special. I mean, Vivienne Westwood, one of the most dynamic creative minds, designed it. I bought it to add some fun and then I saw it in the media everywhere – it brought happiness and so I decided to stick with it [for a while]. I focused on the intersection of music and fashion. I feel good about the opportunities I have had. Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton, all these art worlds, are the same to me, and expression in fashion is the first language we choose to speak. You wake up and get dressed and it says something. It’s always about expressing what you feel. I know the idea is a cliché but there is method in the madness: try wearing what you really like for a few days and people will say, ‘Hey, what’s your name?’ Adversity and individuality are key to success. I learn from my wife and child. My wife, Helen, and I had a really difficult start. When I met her, I was all over the place, doing all the things a man in the music industry does (or says he does) but I made a decision and thought to myself, I am a man with two feet, two hands and a beautiful, creative wife who loves me and I should be grateful. She gave me one of the most beautiful gifts – our son, Rocket, who teaches me new things every day. Being a father can knock perspective right into your face. Music will always be my first love and even my own music is much bigger than me. But one thing I’ve learnt is that this life is a movie and I’m a co-creator. It’s a big movie, and there’s a lot of creativity going on.