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Music Interview

Jesse McCartney

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Jesse McCartney
The transition from teen idol to credible pop artiste is always a tough one - just ask Brian McFadden. But Jesse McCartney seems to be growing up with ease, chopping off his boyish blond locks, pursuing a fresh, R&B influenced sound on his new album and – gasp! – getting jiggy with a gorgeous actress in his latest video. We called the singer-songwriter - he co-wrote 'Bleeding Love', you know - to find out more.

The new video shows a much sexier side to you. What's the thinking behind it?
"Well, the biggest goal was to have the fans see growth - both musically and visually. I feel like I've grown up a lot in the last few years and I wanted to do something a little more R&B and a little more rhythmic, because that's what I love to listen to. I'd worked with the director of the video before so I trusted him to make it tasteful, even though it's a little edgier and there's certainly some shock value there."

Were you comfortable taking your top off?
"Yeah, I had to hit the gym before the shoot but it was fun. I made sure to get to know the actress in the video before we shot it, because otherwise it would have been a little uncomfortable and that would have come off in the video."

So how would you describe your new sound?
"It's pop but it's very fresh-sounding and has more of an R&B flavour to it. It has more of a soulful sound, because that's what I listened to growing up: Aretha, James Brown, Michael Jackson. The first record I ever listened to was Elvis Presley and I remember thinking, 'Man this guy is cool!' The swagger he had really helped my confidence, because he really made me think that a white boy could make music like this."

How do you feel about being compared to Justin Timberlake, another teen-pop star who pursued a more urban sound as he grew up?
"It's a very humbling comparison. I really admire Justin and think he's an incredibly talented musician and performer. But I was inspired more by the originals when making the album - people like Michael Jackson, Prince and Madonna, the people who really crystallised that sound in the eighties."

It's well-known that you co-wrote 'Bleeding Love' for Leona Lewis. When you finished the song did you think it was going to become a smash?
"I thought it was a great song and I was really proud of it but never in a million years did I think it would get to be where it is now. I've been very pleasantly surprised, and it couldn't have happened to a sweeter, more genuine person than Leona."

Did you write it for yourself, or was the plan always to give it to another artist?
"Well, at that time I really wasn't thinking about writing for other people. I was writing for my album with Ryan Tedder from OneRepublic, another soulful white boy, and 'Bleeding Love' was one of the songs we came up with. It was decided later that it didn't fit on my album, and it just so happened that Leona was looking for her first single."

Do you ever wish you'd kept it for yourself?
"No. Once I'd given it to her, that was that. I have recorded it though and it's a bonus track on my album."

Do you intend to continue writing for other artists?
"I already am. I've had a studio put in my house for writing and recording because 'Bleeding Love' has definitely opened a lot of doors for me. I'm hoping to write stuff for some of the divas actually. I'd love to write for Mariah, but we'll see how it goes."

How about Whitney Houston? She's been sniffing around for a comeback hit.
"Whitney? That would be huge, but it would be pretty tough to top 'Bleeding Love'. It's all been pretty humbling."

Would you write for Leona again?
"Absolutely! I'd love to. I've tried to get my people talking to her people because I'd love to do something with her as a duet. I think we could do something pretty fresh."

She needs an uptempo song this time.
"She definitely needs that. People have seen the ballad side of her and they know that she can sing, so I think she needs something a little more rhythmic and fun now."

A fun, rhythmic duet with Jesse McCartney then.
"That would be huge! I'd love to."

'Leavin' by Jesse McCartney is out on download now.

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