Adam Lam­bert

Adam Lam­bert is liv­ing the dream fronting the iconic band Queen, but he still has one more leg­end on his wish list whom he’d like to work with.

Esquire (Singapore) - - Contents -

Repris­ing Queen’s 1985 Live Aid set dur­ing a Fire Fight Aus­tralia con­cert in Syd­ney in Fe­bru­ary is a mo­ment that Adam Lam­bert will never for­get. What’s more, he was only three years old when the late Fred­die Mer­cury took to the stage with Queen at Lon­don’s Wem­b­ley Sta­dium in a con­cert ini­ti­ated by Bob Geldof to end world famine.

Lam­bert, who has been tour­ing with Queen since 2012, upon the re­quest of Brian May and Roger Tay­lor, says he still can’t be­lieve his luck in scor­ing the tour­ing role.

“It was around New Year’s that we knew we’d do the fundraiser in Aus­tralia and thought it would be a cool idea to re­vive that song list. It was a cre­ative process that was right for that mo­ment,” says 38-year-old Lam­bert. “It also ap­pealed to me be­cause I had a chance to recre­ate that iconic mo­ment.”

If tour­ing with Queen is a sign of the mod­ern times, then Lam­bert has also found his voice within that iconic group and it’s rub­bing off on his solo work too.

His lat­est al­bum Vel­vet shim­mies to all the clas­sic ’70s and ’80s in­nu­en­dos— he’s fi­nally ditched the pop gloss for some­thing far deeper and more in­tro­spec­tive. It’s a grown-up sound­track if you like for a guy who has dug a lit­tle deeper—from his fa­ther’s record col­lec­tion to stream­ing acts from the past via his smart­phone.

“I felt that some of the mu­sic I made in the past was so di­vided from where I am at in the world of Queen,” says Lam­bert of his pre­vi­ous al­bum re­leases. “I started feel­ing like I had a split per­son­al­ity—jug­gling be­tween my pop world and that of Queen. I guess be­ing on the road with them so much this past few years, I wanted to bridge the gap son­i­cally this time around. I thought to my­self, I love so many dif­fer­ent types of mu­sic and wanted to do some­thing that brings those worlds to­gether and re­flects the clas­sics.”

Vel­vet comes with all the clas­sic hooks—there’s disco and retro soul too— and there’s plenty of dis­cus­sion around love, loss, self-love and try­ing to keep love when you do find it. “There’s no deny­ing this al­bum wears my heart on the sleeve in so many ways but I haven’t had a bro­ken heart in a while,” he smiles.

“The last time I did feel I had a bro­ken heart was when I felt my ca­reer had hit a dead end point. I felt let down and dis­il­lu­sioned and had to repri­ori­tise what mat­tered to me. Once I recog­nised that and re­fused to get sucked into the mu­sic busi­ness num­bers and com­pet­i­tive na­ture of the game, I started to feel more fo­cused,” he says, re­fer­ring to a pe­riod in 2018.

Lam­bert, who has re­leased three stu­dio al­bums and one live record­ing, says mak­ing his 2012 num­ber one hit al­bum (and sec­ond al­bum) Tres­pass­ing, forced him to re­think the way he was chas­ing fame and mak­ing records. He has sold more than three mil­lion al­bums and five mil­lion sin­gles world­wide.

“I had to re­assess what it would take to make me happy,” he re­calls. “I changed la­bels, busi­ness man­age­ment and ap­proached this new al­bum dif­fer­ently and the song writ­ing process too. I didn’t fo­cus on a hit or a cool look or find a trend. I just did what I wanted to do.”

Lam­bert was born in In­di­anapo­lis, In­di­ana and spent his for­ma­tive first months liv­ing in New Jersey with his mother Leila and his grand­mother Annette, who had re­cently be­come a widow. Lam­bert says grow­ing up around strong women and stronger love made him into the man he is to­day.

“My grand­mother ended up mov­ing to San Diego with us even­tu­ally af­ter my dad got a job trans­fer there,” he says. “She was a piv­otal force in me and my younger brother Neil’s life; al­ways around and able to help us when we needed it. In her younger years Mom worked as a den­tal hy­gien­ist and then opted out of work be­cause dad got a pro­mo­tion and she didn’t need to any­more. She’s a clas­sic Jewish mother—al­ways wor­ry­ing and want­ing what’s best for her fam­ily.”

It was Lam­bert’s mother who outed him at the age of 18; much to his shock. “I’ve al­ways been close to mom and I think she al­ways knew I was gay but knew I was too scared to say it out loud. One day she was driv­ing with me in the car and asked me if I had a girl­friend. I replied ‘No’. She then asked if I’d like one? And I said ‘No’. Then she asked if I had a boyfriend. I replied ‘No’. And then asked would I like one? And I said, ‘Well heck yeah’.

Lam­bert re­veals how his mother went to a sup­port ser­vice to seek ad­vice on how to get her son to open up about his gen­der iden­tity.

“I thought that was so sweet she went to those lengths. It shows just how lov­ing she is and why it mat­tered I ac­cept who I am,” he adds. “I re­mem­ber be­ing in high school and grow­ing into who I was but not say­ing any­thing. As a teenager I was into fash­ion mag­a­zines, make-up and styling. I was al­ways drawn to that. I was be­com­ing a fan of fash­ion

de­sign­ers and started styling mom—and try­ing to be con­struc­tive. We’d shop to­gether and I’d pres­sure her to buy the sexy top and not the mom top [laughs]. We had this fun re­la­tion­ship; I was sup­port­ing her to have more fun with the way she looked.”

As a child, Lam­bert says he al­ways loved to dress up; drag­ging a box of Hal­loween cos­tumes down from stor­age to wear ev­ery week­end around the house. He started theatre at the age of 10 and dis­cov­ered his love of per­for­mance.

“I ac­tu­ally can thank mom’s side of the fam­ily for en­cour­ag­ing the show­biz bug in me. Ev­ery Thanks­giv­ing hol­i­day, we would get to­gether and take home videos. That re­ally made an im­pres­sion on me. Mom’s brother was all en­cour­ag­ing and funny too.”

If as the say­ing goes, the win­ner takes it all, then Lam­bert is here to dis­pel that very myth. In 2009, he was the run­ner-up in Amer­i­can Idol but it didn’t stop his me­te­oric rise in the US charts af­ter that. But with that Amer­i­can tick of ap­proval came the pres­sure to con­form to the tightly air­brushed pack­age the record com­pany wanted of their new poster boy. That meant lots of glossy pop hits, slicker out­fits and a rock ‘n’ roll im­age that didn’t ex­actly scream main­stream Amer­ica.

“The mu­sic in­dus­try is so male­dom­i­nated; it’s an up­hill climb in some cases even for the strong­est of women in the game,” says Lam­bert, who is man­aged by a fe­male agent based in the UK. “It’s fully misog­y­nis­tic. Be­ing a queer man in a straight male-dom­i­nated in­dus­try and deal­ing with dis­com­fort and fear is some­thing I came to know and it’s what women feel too. I get that it’s not bal­anced the way the in­dus­try should be and I do call my­self a fem­i­nist. This game isn’t about gen­der, it’s about who can do it bet­ter as an in­di­vid­ual, but there’s plenty of men liv­ing in the dark ages that’s for sure.”

Lam­bert’s col­lab­o­ra­tion with Queen as a front man was not to re­place Mer­cury, but to reignite the power that was the ’70s and ’80s rock out­fit. And where Mer­cury’s sex­u­al­ity was taboo in the me­dia in his hey­day, Lam­bert has grown up in an era where sham­ing won’t be tol­er­ated and he’s re­claim­ing the stage with a pow­er­ful new mes­sage.

“Com­ing out and be­ing a man was a big deal 20 years ago. I was so green and didn’t have life ex­pe­ri­ence and was sort of afraid of speak­ing up,” he says. “Over the years I’ve grown up and prob­a­bly once I moved to LA I ac­quired a harder ex­te­rior—I wouldn’t say I be­came jaded—but it did toughen me up. But I am cer­tainly more com­fort­able than ever in my own skin.”

Vel­vet is as tac­tile as it gets for those who want an in­ner glimpse into the world of Lam­bert. He teams with Nile Rodgers on the first sin­gle from the al­bum Roses— the pair hav­ing worked to­gether on a song ‘Shady’ taken from Lam­bert’s Tres­pass­ing al­bum.

“Nile has stayed in touch ever since,” he says. “I met him in New York when he did that for me and we’ve stayed friends. He asked me to sing with his band Chic as well. I have picked his brain over lunch many times. He is a gen­er­ous man with wis­dom who shares with you. We also did a track ‘Lay Me Down’ with Avicii.”

Lam­bert, who will re­main on tour for most of 2020 with Queen, says he’s been lucky to meet many of his idols and work with them; but there’s one yet to hap­pen. “It would have to be Madonna,” he says. “I’ve met her briefly and it was pretty awe-inspiring. I have run into her a few times now and she knows who I am, which is an ab­so­lute hon­our.”

“I had to re­assess what it would take to make me happy.”

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