Finding quiet through the noise.
"Fuck" is the word I continually repeated to myself leading up to my phone call with Fergie. Almost like a mantra.
The pop star had agreed to an interview, but her team was made aware of a story I wrote on BreatheHeavy about her album Double Dutchess surfacing weeks before its official premiere date, and I was informed that it was not a good look. To say it's complicated, understatement of the year.
That all too familiar sinking feeling clung to my gut and a tiny voice in my head whispered that I had already blown it. Mere hours later when my iPhone lit up with an "UNKNOWN" caller ID, I knew who it was, and I knew how this had to begin.
Jordan Miller: A little birdie mentioned to me that I might have ruffled some feathers (Editor's note: yes, two bird analogies in one sentence) by writing about Double Dutchess hitting the Internet prior to its release date. I want to apologize and clear the air and tell you that I'm really sorry.
Fergie: "That's really big of you, and it's all good! You know what? Shit happens. It's life. Things happen, and you just have to take what it hands you and go, 'OK, welp. This is what's handed to me. I don't know why. There's a reason for it. I don't know what it is yet, but...' my whole life has taken turns for me to where I didn't know where it was going. It wasn't expected. I've learned to follow where my universe is taking me. And also I pray (this is not for me to tell people what to do, this is just my story). I meditate, I just try to do everything with love even though sometimes things are hard. Even devastating to me. I'm a firm believer in going, 'OK, pick yourself back up, let yourself grieve, then let it go, let it into the Earth, and figure it out.' Move forward."
JM: From everything that I've gathered over the years, the music industry seems very aggressive. To be a pop star of your magnitude, I imagine you'd need to be very mentally fit. You mentioned life throwing twists and turns at you. So... how are you?
Fergie: "I'm definitely... today I'm tired (laughs), because I was up filming last night."
Editor's note: Fergie asks to go off the record then reveals what secret project she had been up late filming. Sorry if this infuriates you, but all will reveal itself soon.
Fergie: "I woke up bright and early, and I have a four-year-old son. So sometimes as a mom and a career woman, you just have to realize that some days you're just going to be tired. It's a coffee day."
JM: How do you motivate yourself to work? Because I'm sure there are some days where you don't want to turn it on.
Fergie: "Absolutely. You asked me how am I, and that's a really big question. To be literal: today, I'm tired. As a pop singer, especially growing up in this business, sometimes you're just expected to say, 'I'm great!' I've learned through a lot of my lessons in life – I've traveled a lot of roads – it's OK to say, 'I'm doing OK. I'm OK today. I'm not my best. Not my favorite. You gotta let those emotions out somewhere. Work isn't always perfect all the time. Who loves to work all the time? As a working mom, I think a lot of working moms are tired (laughs). So today I'm tired, but I am going to get a good night's sleep and I'll be fresh tomorrow."
JM: What do you do to keep your sanity?
Fergie: "[There are] these meditations which is really interesting. I thought it was really cool. So I tried it, and it's really great. You can hear the whole 20-minutes... or you can do the full meditation where you're repeating the mantra and letting your mind have some space to play, and go in places and find those inner-whispers, those little magical messages you get when things are really quiet."
JM: Would you say you believe in the law of attraction?
Fergie: "Absolutely. Oh my gosh."
JM: So you've read The Secret?
Fergie: "I love that. There's another book called The Power of Your Subconscious Mind that I think is similar. I'm a true believer in manifestation. It's happened to me several times in life. But I'm also not one of those people who says things and doesn't do anything about it. You can't just say, 'Well I want to do this' and not do anything, or take the steps to make it move forward. I'm going to work for it, but I do try and manifest it in my mind first. You have to really center [yourself]."
JM: Because if you don't, then you're setting yourself up for failure.
Fergie: "Well, I don't know. I just know that this helps me for sure, and what I've learned now about myself is, at this time, might change. But I like to have a lot of quiet before [a performance]. I remember before there wasn't a lot of quiet before shows, but I would have a lot more quiet time for myself in the day, so maybe I didn't necessarily need it, but I really need it [now] to center myself before doing a long show or a long round of press. Just to re-center. It's a really powerful tool."
JM: Yeah, if you don't do that, then you're constantly "on," constantly thinking. In order for anyone to grow, at least for myself, I need those moments to get away and be alone. My favorite thing in life is to chill out at home, and it allows me come Monday to hit the ground running.
Fergie: "Exactly! Exactly. You're refueling. To do what you've done with BreatheHeavy. That's brilliant. I'm sure you had to have a lot of space to be able to make [the site] happen, especially in high school. Starting as a Britney site. That takes a lot of thought, a lot of work, a lot of tech knowledge. It's fascinating. I really commend you. It's very impressive, and I think it's really big of you for apologizing. That was super sweet. Hey, everyone's got their opinions, and it's cool. I don't have to agree with everyone all the time. They don't have to agree with me. From my music that I put out, a lot of times it's love it or hate it, but it's definitely me (laughs)!"
Editor's note: Fucking. Shook.
JM: That is SO sweet that you said that I REALLY appreciate it. I could talk to you about life all day, but I want to jump into the music. Double Dutchess! It's a huge, monumental achievement. The visual experience is so cohesive. You can tell a lot of attention and energy went into creating it. Now that you've had some time to digest things since it was released in September, where is your head space at now compared to when the record initially came out?
Fergie: "What I'm finding now is that a lot of the emotional stuff, the stuff that wasn't as obvious to put out as ~the first song,~ are the songs that are connecting. People are coming up to me and saying, 'This song is really hitting me' or 'really getting me through this situation right now.' You never know... putting out an album... it's hard to predict what people are going to love or what they are going to connect to. That's not really my area. I'm more like, 'let me do what I feel and if you like it, great, if you don't, great...I mean not GREAT, but if you don't... OK (laughs).' It's interesting how 'Save It Til Morning" and 'A Little Work' are now going to be singles. A lot of people are loving 'Enchanté' and 'Tension.' More of the dance stuff. It's so cool for me. It's all me. I find it fascinating. It's so much less pressure because it's out. I'm getting asked to do the things that people are wanting to hear. It's interesting how different songs can really strike a nerve, and at this point in my life and career, that to me is such a gift. It's a reward for me. It's a different type of success. I can't tell you how many times people come up to me for 'Big Girls Don't Cry' and how it got them through a situation or a break up. I've always had those songs in my life: Fiona Apple, Alanis Morissette, Lauryn Hill, Mary J. Blige, Sarah McLachlan, Britney 'Everytime.' Those songs that are just those special ones that when you're going through something you just put them on. You just want to hear that. You want to hear that emotion. If I can be that to somebody... that means the world to me. The fact that those songs are really hitting home with some people. That's like a deeper... I'm getting really deep (laughs). It's honestly the way that I feel."
JM: Yes! And there's a lyric in "A Little Work" that really struck a chord with me: "We're all just a little bit broken." I was attached to that line because I don't feel broken, but I'm 29-years-old, I'm approaching my thirties, I feel like this is the weirdest age ever. (Editor's note: Fergie chimed in with a sassy ~OH MY GODDD~ because I was legit being dramatic). Don't judge me! I just feel like going into my thirties I am thinking: 'Have I done anything? What the fuck am I doing? Am I on the right track?' So some times I think I feel a little broken. That's the beauty of music.
In the video for it, you mention writing in a journal to check in with yourself. What does one of those entries look like?
Fergie: *HESITATION* "Some things I don't care to share yet. Maybe they will come out in a song. I'm pretty open to my life, although I don't show every single detail of it. That's why a lot of the deeper stuff comes out in song, because when I go into a feeling, it's VERY personal. It's VERY intimate. I've been very open about my life, but it doesn't mean I have to share every detail. That's something you can choose when to share that. I don't know if I can share that with you right now. That's just me being honest.
JM: It's private.
JM: I imagine someone in the public eye - in order to protect your heart – even someone who is not famous – you can't possibly divulge everything because then what's left? There's such vulnerability in some of these new lyrics...
Fergie: "Absolutely. A lot of my journals are my vulnerability. Or my feelings at the time. If I get upset, it goes in there. I'm not a reactor. If I do have something I'm really pissed off about, it goes in the journal. If I want to call somebody a motherfucker, I can call him that in the journal, and then I don't have the repercussions of calling the person a motherfucker!"
JM: Do you ever feel like... 'fuck that?' And just calling a motherfucker a motherfucker?
Fergie: "Yeah! And it has happened (laughs)."
JM: So what is that like having this platform where your feelings, your words, your vulnerability is seen and heard by hundreds of thousands of people?
Fergie: "It's kind of freeing when you get to put it out in a way that... when you get to turn it into art... it's a really nice way to let it out into the universe."
JM: There are so few people that are under this magnifying glass in the way that you are. At the end of the day you're human. A lot of people don't remember that, so to hear your take on all of this is just so interesting.
Fergie: "I love hearing your take on this. You're an interesting character to me, too. You're pretty fascinating. Having done this since high school and then expanding, you're very evolved."
Editor's note: *Bawls internally*
Fergie: "It's interesting because you're a thinker, and I can hear that. It takes one to know one."
JM: Over thinker*!
Fergie: "Exactly! You can tell you analyze. I analyze. It's just what we do. I find things fascinating in that way. I like to learn, and I think these are really great questions."
JM: Thank you(!!!). My biggest fear in interviews is asking the same questions. I don't want you to answer the same things you've said over and over.
Fergie: "Right! What I try to do, and sometimes it's hard when you have press, and they're asking the same questions – they don't know what the reporter before them had asked – I try to answer the questions in a fresh way... I feel like I could talk to you for a long time."
JM: Yes! Same. But I don't want to take up too much of your time.
Editor's note: Obviously, a huge lie. I want to talk to Fergie as long as possible, but I round up my final few questions.
JM: I want to talk about your label, Dutchess Music. In a press release when it was first announced, you mention plans to help develop and nurture new artists. Are there any updates on that?
Fergie: "That was really exciting, because when I first released that news I automatically had a few friends that I hadn't spoken to contact me who had these artists that are pretty amazing. When I'm ready and have the time to be able to give to that, it will be really exciting to see. I'll start with one [act] and give that one artist or group or band that focus, but right now is not that day because my plate is too full. I would't be able to nourish or give the attention that an artist deserves. That will happen when my plate is less full."
JM: What's some advice you're going to give one of these artists from the get-go?
Fergie: "It depends on the personality of the artist of what I think they could utilize. One of the things is sometimes you've got to protect [yourself]. If you've got to say 'no,' to protect your sanity, then you say no. Just be up front, because there's only so many hours in the day and sometimes the press schedules can be crazy. First of all, I remember being in [girl group] Wild Orchid and we'd travel across the country, the world doing shows, going to radio stations and I met a lot of amazing people that I became amazing friends with still to this day, through everything, which is super rad, but doing a lot of the work and not getting the play or the numbers or being heard by enough people but still doing just as much work. I paid my dues for sure. I totally get that."
JM: So you need to know when to say no, and you need to be strong.
Fergie: "I would definitely give them some meditations (laughs). Give them the entire set and say, 'if you're having a moment where you're feeling crazy, take a break, go in a room and lay down with some headphones and zone out to this'" (still laughing, but not kidding).
JM: In the digital age, we're inundated with new artists and music in general. Everything is streaming now (minus Taylor Swift). You've been in the game where streaming did not exist and you had to sell physical albums. You're a veteran! What do you think about how music is distributed now versus way back when?
Fergie: "Industries will always evolve and find new ways to distribute their material. For me, music has been a savior in my life. When I was feeling sad, mad, lit up, whatever, music is a way for me to connect and to really get in touch with whatever it is I'm feeling. It's always been a friend of mine. One of the loves of my life. Whatever way people can get to music, because music is feeling."
JM: You mentioned success earlier. What do you consider being successful in music means?
Fergie: "For me, it definitely has changed. I've been blessed to hit so many milestones as an artist and I feel like I've gotten so many blessings in that area as far No. 1s or weeks on charts and things like that. Everything else is icing on the cake. I feel grateful for my life. Whatever success is supposed to mean for me right now, I ask for that from God - to find joy in things. To be happy doing what I'm doing. Connection, for sure. Of course, being played more... that helps with connection. Whatever way the music can get to everybody... even if they download it for free... you know what? If that is what they need to do – if they can't afford it and they need to download it for free, then download it for freakin' free! If that song makes a difference in your life, then get it for free. Then, come to [my] show and let's have a life experience together. Make new memories. For me, the connection is getting to have people hear the songs and have a song or two mean something in somebody's life."
JM: You can hear such experience in your voice.
Fergie: "At this point it's about the whole career. When I'm at the end of my ropes. When I'm looking back at my life later. Way later. I want to look back and be proud of this body of work that I've done. I want to be proud of what I do...
And I am."