Starting off as part of the hip-hop group Goodie Mob, then joining up with Danger Mouse for Gnarls Barkley before setting off onto a wildly successful solo career; CeeLo Green refuses to be slowed down. Just in the past year, Green released his fifth studio album, Heart Blanche. The album saw the singer returning to his soul and southern music roots; a reboot of his discography. Prior to his show at Tipitina’s on Saturday night, CeeLo took the time to discuss his new album, his Kendrick collab and how he’s constantly reinventing himself.
WYAT: Your latest record Heart Blanche recruited a bunch of new producers you hadn’t used on previous records. How did you decide who to work with and how did it affect your musical style?
Green: It was really interesting, you know. Each project is its own new journey and experience. It was a pleasant one working with different people. The quality of the content is the evidence of what it was like to work with those talented people, it makes sense for it to be as good as it turned out.
WYAT: This album seems to also take an introspective turn. How are you translating that to your current tour, the Love Train tour?
Green: “Working Class Heroes” is a crowd-pleaser. “Robin Williams,” is one of those introspective but encouraging songs. And that’s a nice closer to a show. I don’t do the entire new album because this tour has been about going back into time and reconnecting with roots of different places I had gone before. It was a homecoming, if you will. So, I felt more inclined to go back and play a lot of the classics.
WYAT: Heart Blanche almost lives up to its carte blanche pun in how diverse it is stylistically. What artists were you looking to for inspiration?
Green: A lot of inspiration could be derived from David Bowie. What he did was kind of ambiguous and enigmatic. I like to adapt and use a lot of those qualities and incorporate those into my musical and artistic endeavors. I don’t mean to be uncatagorizeable or confusing to people, if I am, though I don’t think it’s what you’re saying. There is a common thread that connects all of the songs together even if they are very very different from each other.
WYAT: You talked about this a few years ago; that you were writing tracks for your next Gnarls Barkley record. Are you and Danger Mouse still working on this?
Green: We still have the same three or four ideas down that we did a couple of years ago. We talked about it recently and everyone’s excited about what we could possibly do this time around. A lot of the times, it’s just this involuntary thing and you don’t know where it’s going to come from. You just have to be at the right place at the right time. I don’t really know what it would be, but something special no doubt.
WYAT: Do you have any other upcoming collaborations that you’d like to share to talk about?
Green: A song that I did about two years ago with Kendrick Lamar was just released last night on his new album. I’ve worked with Philadelphia artist Tone Trump recently. I produced his single called, “Five.” I’ve been pretty productive at the moment.
WYAT: The Kendrick Lamar song was something I just caught this morning too. What was the process for that?
Green: Oh, the Kendrick song?
WYAT: Yeah, “untitled 06?”
Green: I hadn’t heard it since— because we didn’t do it together. It started as an idea of mine produced by Adrian Young and Ali Shaheed Muhammed. And we were talking about doing something full-length together, but he was also working with Kendrick at the same time. Legend has it that he played it for Kendrick and he seemed to like the direction it was going in. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, besides that it would be interesting to see where he would take it. And I got my answer last night.
WYAT: The past year has been pretty prolific for you because in addition to Heart Blanche you also released TV on the Radio, which was a mixtape covering TV theme songs. Can you tell me about that project?
Green: TV on the Radio was actually leaked prematurely. Quite a few people got a chance to hear it, but it’s not available any longer. But, in the very near future, next few months or so, we’re already in talks about rereleasing TV on the Radio. Which is probably my pet project. It was something I did it independent of the collective opinion or politics of recording for major record labels. They didn’t really see any immediate worth or point in it besides becoming an intellectual property. I don’t always do music with that in mind. I like to make things out of nothing. I don’t consider myself to be a commercial artist or a pop artist. I’m just an artist and a writer.
WYAT: Heart Blanche and this tour are ways to take back your music, affirm your own identity and connect with your fans. So, what do you want your fans to get out of this tour?
Green: Just for them to be reminded of me. To be impressed and fully assured. And encouraging me with love and support to continue. It’s all for people, it’s not just for the sake of ourselves. It’s about being together and the relationship, basically. You must be honest, but sometimes you have to be brave enough to be honest. I’d like them to know that I’m a brave individual and I’m feeling for the sake of them. It’s important to me.
Catch CeeLo Green and his Love Train Tour at Tipitina's on March 6th at 9:00 pm. Tickets are $34.50 advance and $37.00 day of.