By Brian Ives
A decade after releasing her solo debut, The Duchess, Fergie is getting ready to unleash the follow-up, Double Duchess. Earlier this year, she released “M.I.L.F.$” and now she’s promoting the next song, “Life Goes On.” She came to Radio.com to discuss it, the upcoming album, and what her solo work means for her future with the Black Eyed Peas.\
Tell me about “Life Goes On.”
I co-wrote it with Toby Gad, who I did “Big Girls Don’t Cry” with, and also “Save It ’Til Morning” and “Love is Pain.”
He’s one of those guys that he’s very soft-spoken. He’s like, “Fergie, what’s going on in your life? Tell me what’s going on.” I just feel safe with him to kinda just dump everything that I’m going through. He’s just one of those people in my life for me.
And it’s like a therapy session when I go to him. I’m not going to him and going, “Let’s write ‘M.I.L.F.$’ or ‘Fergalicious’” or something like that. He’s one I feel totally safe with just going to that deeper level of vulnerability and emotion and just kind of letting my guard down and letting my journals just create a song, follow through and create a song.
He gets on piano, or he’ll get on guitar, and it’s just really organic. He’ll say, “I like the melody,” and he’ll keep going, and we’ll pick, and I’ll just kind of go and vamp, and we’ll listen back and pick the pieces that we like, kind of put something together, and the subject kind of just reveals itself.
I imagine that you wouldn’t feel comfortable bringing a lot of these songs to a Black Eyed Peas session.
Well, I would just feel way too… [it would be] kind of like taking up all the space in the room with all of these female emotions. I wouldn’t feel right taking up that much space. It is a group, and I love that magic of the group. It’s an amazing thing, and we have experienced some of the most unexplainable moments with each other that you can’t even really get unless you were there, us four. And so they’re just family to me.
But yeah, I feel funny when we’re doing these albums to just kind of branch out and have this moment of just personal solace, and it just feels weird. So my solo album is the place to do that. There’s a time and a place for that, and this is it. I’ve done four albums with Peas, and I did one album 10 years ago solo, and this is the ten year reunion coming back around, checking in with myself and all my life experiences, and… “Life Goes On.” So whatever, man.
“Life Goes On” is really different from “M.I.L.F.$.”
The universe really works in weird ways. There was a time when I didn’t even know if I was gonna keep this on my album. And the same thing happened with “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” It’s really strange. But it was kind of more acoustic, and then it got a revamp, because I just said, “You know what? I feel like if I’m gonna put this song on my album, I need this to have some sort of”—I don’t know, the music just wasn’t doing it for me.
And Keith Harris and George Pajon took it and added the kind of tropical, open feeling that it has now with then going into the live instrumentation tastefully throughout the song, but then in the bridge as well, adding that percussion and that kind of just vibey jam sort of thing.
I was taking so damn long to finish this album, and I felt so bad about it, because everyone’s just coming at me from all directions, like “When is it finished?” Oh, my gosh. I’m just like, I cannot move fast enough for anybody.
So it’s just a little bit of my frustration about a little inner conversation, a little subconscious versus conscious voice. It’s that battle with yourself and pushing through negativity and all that noise and just kind of getting past the fear and all that darkness. It’s all, who cares about that anyway, man? It just doesn’t even matter. Really, it’s just, you know what? Be the change you wanna see.
When you put out an album, you have to talk about it, perform it, promote it for a year or two, I guess you want to make sure you like the album.
So that’s why it took so dang long, because I didn’t wanna put an album out there and not be proud of it and have regrets. So now I’m proud of things, and it’s just, I’m sorry it took so long, but at least I won’t regret it. And it just felt like the right time for the song, absolutely, to get back to what you’re saying. It definitely felt like the world needs a bit of a pep talk. This song is like a pep talk to myself in the mirror. We all need some healing right now. I’m happy the holidays are here. Let’s just have some cheer.
“Life Goes On” is a decent mantra for people not happy with the results of the election.
Oh, my gosh. Well, you know what? I just feel right now I’m in a place where I just wanna move forward, be positive, and go towards the light, man. Let’s just get all that negativity off, let’s just move forward. Like I said, be the change you wanna see. Let’s figure out how you can… what can you do? What can you donate to? How can you be active?
I love our country for allowing us to have peaceful protests — I think that’s important — and just to react in a positive manner that you’re gonna wake up the next day and not regret it and feel good about yourself and be able to stand behind.
I just have to say, it was really amazing that Hillary Clinton, when I did a Gay Pride event — now it’s just called “Pride” — last year in New York, Hillary Clinton introduced me, and it was just to such an open and loving speech and moment. I hope for the best for the Trump [administration]. Please, just have that same open feeling and that same love and equality and respect for equality that she had that night.
In “Life Goes On” you say “Don’t underestimate my underdog mentality.”
I’ve worked really hard my entire life. Both my parents were teachers — I think teachers should be paid more, by the way. But needless to say, I’ve worked really hard on my life studying, and as a child I worked summers. It was my choice; my parents talked to me about it very clearly, that this was my choice, so I wouldn’t regret giving up summers to go film a children’s TV show.
So I knew what I was doing, but at the same time, I was constantly working as a child. I was working in school, and then I would go to summers, and it was fun work. It was what I wanted to be doing, but I was constantly always on a schedule, always being professional, all of that. I rebelled a little bit in later life and acted like a child, but that’s okay. I figure I’m about ten years immature.
Then I wanted a year off from show business, just to be normal. That’s when I was fourteen. And then at fifteen years old, my friend calls me and says, “Hey, this manager wants to start this girls’ singing group.” So I started at fifteen, after school, driving out to the Valley with my mom and going to these rehearsals with these girls and was in this girl group for 11 years called Wild Orchid.
We did a lot of rehearsing, a lot of vocal rehearsing. We would emulate En Vogue and the Supremes and listen to all the harmony groups of the time, Boyz II Men, and practice. I would dance practice, all of that. And we never really hit that success for all the work and all the hours that we clocked in. And I still love the girls to this day; they’re like my sisters. We’ve been through a lot of experiences, just like I have with the [Black Eyed Peas] boys.
But yeah, so getting back to the underdog mentality, I’ve always just constantly worked hard for everything that I’ve gotten in life. And even the Peas, they worked so hard even before I was in the group. I was in another group; they were their own group, and I joined.
And even when “Where is the Love?” came out. [People think,] These hip hop heads that now have this girl that’s coming in and changing everything and making it be something that it’s not, and it’s not purist anymore. And I’m sitting there going, “I’m the biggest hip hop fan that you even know, probably the only girl in this room who could recite the same lyrics that you can.”
But that’s cool. But you know what, I could see people’s judgment on their faces, and that’s fine. I just took that and I used it as my fire to get out there. Every time, and even with the girl group it was like, every time you have to prove yourself to every audience; you give that show everything you’ve got.
And I still have that. I don’t know if that ever goes away. I don’t know if it’s the way I was raised from my family and just how that work ethic goes or that ambition. I don’t know, but it’s just there. And I’m just gonna bring it, and that’s okay.
I just really had to fight my way through every show, and you know what? I think that what happened was the people who just didn’t like me, just didn’t like me, and that’s okay. But then there were more people who kind of got interested, and I built kind of a relationship with them on the stage, because we were just out there every night, all the time.
That’s why I’ve been doing shows, just getting back out there, getting in touch with my audience, feeling it, smelling it, just feeling that vibe, because for the tour I just wanna be ready. And I’m not afraid to do the work. That’s why the song says, “Ambition on Ferrari.” Let’s do this. But I just had to get the album right to where I wasn’t gonna regret anything; I was gonna be proud of it and stand behind it.
Tell me more about the album.
Well, there’s definitely a lot of different styles on the album. There are other songs, different ballads, different kinds of ballads. There’s like a rock anthem called “Love is Pain,” like a ballad anthem type of a thing. It’s kinda ’80s. There’s like a throwback hip hop, kind of New York throwback hip hop song called “Nuttin’” that I did with will.i.am, which is super dope. I shot the video in London at this underground club, and it was just really super dope.
It’s cool that will.i.am works on your solo stuff with you.
Yeah, of course. That’s family. And he’s just good, you know what I mean? And I want that chemistry that we have.
There’s so much love and support. Will, with all his solo projects, he’s got, gosh, that watch right now, he’s into everything.
And then Taboo just came out with “The Fight,” which is all about his journey fighting cancer, and it’s just so beautiful to see him coming into fruition as a survivor. My dad was a survivor of stage four cancer twice. My mom is a survivor as well, stage two. I’ve known for a while, and it was his journey and his time to tell it, and I’m just so proud of him. He’s such a warrior, he really is. He’s got that warrior blood in him.
And Apl’s doing so much for his country and tourism in the Philippines and all of that. And it’s just everyone’s doing their thing, and we’re all making music. I know that everyone’s just like, “Fergie, when is this damn album gonna come?” I’m like, “I know, I’m sorry it’s taking so long.” It’s like I never do anything fast enough. So finally I’m ready to just let it go to the world so I can free up some more time for whatever can come in. But it’s definitely a passion project.
I thought it was cool that you tweeted about their song “Yesterday,” that you weren’t on, and just said, “Dope.”
Oh, yeah. Well, absolutely. The thing is this: I know the guys; they need to make music, and they are creative souls, and we all are. They were doing their 20th anniversary thing, and it’s like, they know I put everything into being a mom and being a wife and doing this album. I know they’re in the studio making music, and you know what? I am so happy for anybody who needs to make music in their life, they need to do that, and we just need to be happy for each other.
And you know what? It might be a little weird sometimes to see it, and you kind of have FOMO — fear of missing out — and you wish you were there. Like I really like that hip hop throwback medley for their 20th anniversary, and I wish I could’ve been a part of it, but I’m so happy that they did it. It was so good, and I was so damn proud of them. It’s awesome.
So yeah, of course, there’s natural human feelings, but you’ve gotta get over it and just be happy for, if you’re making music, you’re living your truth, you’re doing it all with love. What more can you ask for?
As a hip-hop fan, you must have wished you were a part of that song and video.
Yeah, I wanna do that Eazy-E part, man. It was amazing, yeah, and just the throwback to all the different videos, it was super cool. And yes, I wanted to be a part of it, but it’s okay. It’s all good.
They won’t do a full album without you though…
You never know. You never know, and if I’ve taken too long and they do, then I’ve gotta be okay with that and just send love and blessings and prayers, and I hope we can get on that stage back again someday and rock it again just like we used to. So all in time. You can do it all, you just can’t do it all at once, if you wanna live.
Tell me about covering Heart’s “Barracuda.”
I still bust that out at the shows, because that’s a fun one to do. I’ve just always been a Heart fan. I sang Heart songs on Kids Incorporated when I was a little girl; alone I remember singing that. Ann and Nancy Wilson just broke through barriers and boundaries being these bad-ass females in the rock market. And we performed it together on American Idol. That was amazing. That was one of those pinch-me moments, absolutely.
What about performing “Gimme Shelter” with U2 and Mick Jagger at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame anniversary concert?
That was crazy. We were at rehearsal, and I remember both Bono and Mick were having this discussion about how I was to enter for “Gimme Shelter.” Bono’s like, “Don’t you think, you know, she should come out and walk out onstage?” And Jagger’s like, “No! Should be dramatic. She comes back, shadows,” and they’re both like going back and forth.
I was just kind of watching in the moment going, “They’re really talking about my entrance. This is a serious conversation that’s happening.” I’m just like, “Boys, you tell me how you want me to come on, and I will do it. You let me know.” But it was just fun to watch them bouncing back and forth talking about my entrance. It was amazing.
Back to your upcoming project: when you tour, are you headlining? Are you opening?
I wanna see what my options are. I don’t care. For me, whatever. Whatever’s the best venue. I don’t mind opening; I would love to headline; I wanna do festivals; I’ll do clubs. I like to go out to the after-parties once in a while still, we’ll get a babysitter. Not every night like I used to, but once in a while.
When is the album coming out?
It’s beginning of the year, so right now it’s all of the management and agent and the label and all that, linking up with all of the forces that be that need to get their spots right. This is stuff that, you know what? The people who do that can do that. I don’t need to be involved. Just let me know [what the date is]. Because I’m gonna go have holidays with my family and come back and go right at it, my underdog mentality, ambition on Ferrari.