“I kinda got goosebumps from everything,” CeeLo Green says when speaking to HollywoodLife about recording his new album, CeeLo Green Is…Thomas Callaway, and its lead single, the inspirational and devotional “Lead Me.” The project — recorded in Nashville and overseen by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys – marks the first time that the “Forget You” singer recorded with a live band. “There were no demos, there was no pre-recorded tracks or anything. The way we wrote these songs is to either be [on] acoustic guitar, or there was a mixture of acoustic [guitar], ukulele on some days, and then Wurlitzer, keys on the Wurlitzer [keyboard].” The results are, as CeeLo says, a more “stripped-down, soulful, sweet-hearted kind of project,” but it’s one that almost didn’t happen.
“The first two days I was there, I had to get some bed rest because I’m really susceptible to pollen,” he says during a ZOOM interview. “My allergies are just terrible, and Nashville is apparently famous [for its pollen]. So, I got sick as a dog for the first two days. And I didn’t realize that that Dan had this surprise session for me full of all these great guys all waiting to play these records. And so, I pulled myself together and I rose to the occasion like the champion that I am and we made it all happen. So, yeah, I got goosebumps from the entire experience because I was hearing it for the first time as I was singing to it.”
By the nature of the album’s title, CeeLo Green Is…Thomas Callaway aims to showcase Tomas Callaway, the man behind CeeLo Green, Gnarly Davidson, Gnarles Barkley, and more. “I will say this and, giving myself a little bit of credit, almost everything I’ve done has been as organic as of an art form as it could possibly be. Hardly anything has been contrived,” he says. “I’ve just been able to kind of be expressive in an involuntary action, and it just is reciprocated in a very genuine way.
Check out the full interview here:
“But, I will say that some things are more in caricature, and I’m saying this project, at this point in my life — I had almost contemplated changing my professional name,” said CeeLo. “And this is where the notion came from. I almost considered not being referred to as ‘CeeLo Green’ again. Just going by my given name, Thomas Callaway, or Callaway.” Instead, fortune arrived in the form of the record’s producer, creative director, and co-writer, Dan Auerbach. “When I partnered up [him] to do the album, I didn’t really know that we were going to do an album. We were just kind of writing songs randomly here and there, you know, for placement sake or what have you, and just kind of bonded with each other as creatives.”
“But then [the album] ultimately was comprised and became a project and, you know, recorded in Nashville … I’m from Atlanta, Georgia, which is just right up the street. And we’re both principals at heart, and that’s where you get that kind of that that Southern, down-home kind of feel about it.”
CeeLo shared an intimate side of himself in a different way when he and longtime partner Shani James appeared on the recent season of Marriage Boot Camp: Hip Hop Edition. “It was really interesting to me to do it with her because, for one, it was a way to make ourselves vulnerable, where we obligated ourselves to have to confront certain things that we knew we needed to address,” he tells HollywoodLife. “What better way to not only really actually obligate ourselves to get the benefits, but to then also, be transparent enough where people can witness the work, and we can be a living testimony?”
During the full interview, CeeLo talks further about the creation of Thomas Callaway, about how Wendy O. Williams and the Plasmatics kicked off his life-long love of punk music (and the band he’s starting up with his son.) The “Crazy” singer also gives an update to Gnarles Barkley fans eager for the band’s third album.
“Lead Me” is out now, and CeeLo Green Is…Thomas Callaway will arrive in Summer 2020.