You can forgive Robin Thicke for eating on the run. The man has the number one R&B record and the top urban adult contemporary single in the country. He is booked from now to the end of 2007 for everything from radio shows, his own performances and playing last weekend for the NBA All-Star game. When SheKnows caught up with Thicke, he was in the middle of enjoying the best of Hartford, CT cuisine. “I’m sorry, I’m eating a chicken sandwich,” Thicke said. “I go on in a few.”
It is understandable. When success finds you, even if your father is “Growing Pains” actor Alan Thicke, anything fought hard for and won, you cherish every moment and combine things to further enjoy the run. Like, eating and interviewing.
SheKnows found the artist a compelling example of what happens when a person, regardless of their background, pursues their dreams without regard to the other option –failure. After writing hit songs for Jordan Knight, Christina Aguilera and Marc Anthony, Thicke grabbed the microphone and hasn’t looked back. His second album, 2006’s “The Evolution of Robin Thicke,” has rained success on this almost 30 year-old who is thriving in a world of first-time hit makers averaging in their teens. After hooking up with Pharrell Williams and his Star Trak Records, Thicke knows he is with a label that won’t treat him as some passing fancy.
This artist is the real deal. His music is hard to define and that’s just how he likes it.
SheKnows: How are things in Hartford?
Robin Thicke: We are surrounded by snow. For a southern California boy this is something original.
SK: I guess this touring is enlightening you on new things.
RT: Yes, it’s opened up a whole world. And snow.
SK: What was it that made you want to sing in the first place?
RT: I had no choice. Some kids love fire trucks, I wanted to sing. Music touched me all over my body. From six, seven years old I would do Michael Jackson impressions for friends. I never remember not wanting to sing or perform music.
SK: As you grew your sound has evolved with all the influences you had — your dad brought some and of course your mother, singer Gloria Loring. Is it rewarding to have a sound that is hard to define?
RT: I never wanted to be definable. I never wanted to be put into boxes or circles. I was the guy who was friends with everybody at the high school and nobody at the same time. (Laughs)
SK: What was it in that music growing up — I know you listened to Prince and as you mentioned Michael Jackson — but what else was it about those guys that allow you to transcend the R&B moniker to something different all together?
RT: I think that is what was so great about Prince, Jackson, Stevie Wonder and the Beatles. Yeah, they had a core sound, but in the end the only thing that connected all those songs was their voice. The reality was they were being influenced by all types of music — rock, reggae, blues, classical — so these guys mixed it up, put it together and made their own music. You see how great songs are great songs and they lend themselves to different translations depending on the artist.
SK: You have been writing songs for so long, there are many artists that have made your songs very famous. Is that a different process?
RT: When I write my songs, it’s me, my piano and God and no compromising. But when I’m writing a song for Usher, it has to be for what Usher likes to say and wants to feel. He’s the one who has to sing it and stand up to it for the rest of his life, so it better be in his comfort zone.
SK: Your collaboration with Pharrell Williams is fascinating. He is more than the leader of your record label.
RT: “Lost Without U” was the song that made Pharrell want to take me on his label. Although Pharrell only produced one song on the album, “I Want to Love You, Girl,” he had to be talked into that because he didn’t want to influence the purity of my music. The opportunity to release my own music took over a year and a half to come true. We are finally at the place that we all hoped we would get to, which is Robin and his own music out there in the marketplace.
SK: Everybody says an overnight success is never an overnight success…
RT: There is no such thing as an overnight success.
SK: You mentioned singing since an early age. How were your parents when you tackled the world of music?
RT: They weren’t too supportive when I was 14. My mom didn’t know I played the piano for six months and my dad wouldn’t pay for my first demo. Al Jarreau paid for my first demo, which was then heard by Brian McKnight, who then signed me to a record contract when I was 16 years old. Everybody called me Brian McWhite. (Laughs) And out of that came writing and producing for Brandy and Mya.
You know, years went by and I gave up on my solo career. I woke up when I was 22 and realized I’m missing out on what my real gift is, which is to sing. I always have been a singer first and foremost. My voice was my gift. Songwriting I have always had to work at, but singing has always been my gift.
SK: It wasn’t easy at that time for you after you put out your first record in 2002.
RT: It flopped. Nobody would return my phone calls. I wasn’t invited to Puffy’s parties anymore. (Laughs) A few years go by and I kept struggling. Even six months ago, I didn’t know if I would have another video or they would release my album. The record company had already pushed it back three or four times. I had given up all hope. But I kept writing, and here we are at number one.