PHARRELL WILLIAMS, 43, talks about his ever expanding portfolio and the women who inspire him..
Pharrell Williams has the quiet confidence of a man who knows what he wants and how to go about doing it. The megaselling singer, producer, and fashion designer is comfortably extending his artist reach to new territory. Not only did he serve as producer on the Oscarnominated film Hidden Figures, but also composed its Golden Globe nominated soundtrack with Hans Zimmer. But that’s only a fragment of Pharrell’s artistic inspiration. The man famous for the forest ranger hat and designer behind his personal G-STar label, is a noted fashionista and was once named by Esquire as the best dressed man on the planet.
Pharrell recently created a sensation at Paris Fashion Week for wearing a variety of eclectic outfits; including a striped knee-length Chanel cardigan coat combined with a washed-out sweatshirt and track pants. Currently he’s working on a new N.E.R.D album for a projected summer release, he’s also collaborating with Justin Timberlake on the 20/20 pop star’s forthcoming LP, his first in four years.
“If you’re able to really screenshot your own vulnerability, and frame it properly, and colour-correct it, then it becomes something that every human can relate to. And I think Justin is in the place where he’s mastering that,” says Pharrell.
Meanwhile, the multi-talented artist has also been productive on the personal front. His wife Helen Lasichanh, a former model, gave birth to triplets in January. Their eldest son, Rocket, is eight years old. The Happy (for which he was Oscarnominated in 2014) singer speaks in relaxed, pleasant tones, is steadfastly self-effacing, and looks a good ten years younger than his 43 years.
“We named our son Rocket after a manmade machine that’s meant to soar. But it was also a way of paying tribute to Elton John’s Rocket Man and Herbie Hancock’s Rocket, who are two of my favourites. I’m tender and strict. Helen and I try to explain to him because he’s very curious and understands everything. I want him to be able to see the world as it is and discover for himself what he’d like to do in life.”
“A lot of it is a gift, but without discipline you’re never going to get anywhere. I’m lucky in that I’ve always felt free to do what I wanted and the few times I’ve been in situations where I’ve been obliged to work within constraints imposed by others I’ve decided to quit those projects. I’m very precise when it comes to knowing what I want to do creatively. I can’t work according to parameters laid down by other people. I need to follow my own instincts and I’ve learnt that that is always going to take me where I want to go as an artist.”
“MUSIC IS AN INCREDIBLE FORCE AND I’M GRATEFUL THAT IT REACHES AROUND THE WORLD.”
“I draw inspiration from just about everything. Usually it starts with a feeling or impression that puts me in a good frame of mind or mood. It can be just a word, or a few notes, or an image that makes me think of something and then it takes off from there. When I’m working the music always comes before the lyrics. Then little by little, one by one, comes the drums, the melody, the guitar, and everything else. The best songs I’ve ever written have started with an idea or impression that has come to me while I’m travelling, on an airplane, or while I’m running. I’ve even come up with songs while taking a shower! Music is an incredible force and I’m grateful that it reaches around the world.”
LOVE FOR FASHION
“Music is my main interest and passion. It’s meant so much to me and it’s still very important to me. I love exploring fashion and other things but music will always be my primary focus. Fashion is great. It’s great when I see people come up with their own looks and I especially love it when I see someone wearing something I’ve designed and matched it with other designer’s creations. Being Chanel’s first male model is amazing. Although there’s mostly the perception that it’s for women, I just started to see, ‘okay, as a man, I can wear some of this’. That’s where the real power and excitement of fashion comes into play – people create their own distinctive style and identity.”
“I had a connection to that story that I didn’t know about until after I read the script. When I spoke to my mother about the story she told me that I had actually met Katherine Johnson (one of the three women whose story is dramatised in Hidden Figures) when I was a kid. I was very proud to help get the film made and tell her story and that of the two others – Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, also pioneers in an era of segregation where blacks had to struggle for their place in society. “I try to be a politically engaged citizen and do my best to fight social injustice. I hope through my music I can also offer support to those who need it and do whatever I can to fight for causes which are important. I also like to encourage my fellow artists to get involved. Our people need to work harder to make the world a better place. We should all condemn hatred and prejudice. I want to create a place where we can all support each other and love each other.”