Soul­ful Pro­ducer

PHAR­RELL WIL­LIAMS, 43, talks about his ever ex­pand­ing port­fo­lio and the women who in­spire him..

True Love - - Man Oh Man - By SA­MAN­THA REYES & JANE TAY­LOR

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.

FATHER­HOOD

“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.”

MULTI-TAL­ENTED CRE­ATIVE

“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.”

MAK­ING MU­SIC

“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.”

HID­DEN FIG­URES

“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.”

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