Justin talks *NSYNC, Britney, Gaga… and himself: The Playboy Interview
Check out a (long) snippet here and the entire interview at JT4Breakfast.
PLAYBOY: You’ve had a pretty surreal music career. It’s been five years since you recorded an album. Do you ever miss making music?
TIMBERLAKE: You go through these spurts when you miss it. In a perfect world I’d love to be able to involve myself in music and films as they come and go. But I’m always writing music, always thinking about ideas for songs.
PLAYBOY: Do you have an album’s worth of music hidden away somewhere?
TIMBERLAKE: No. I don’t have a single song ready to go. People keep asking me when a new song or album is coming out, and I don’t know what to say. Music is not my focus right now. It may be someday. It could happen next month or next year, but right now it’s not where it’s at for me.
PLAYBOY: Do you ever worry the audience may not be there if you wait too long? We certainly saw that happen with your old friend Christina Aguilera last year.
TIMBERLAKE: Maybe it’s blissful ignorance, but I don’t relate a time frame with what I do. If it’s time to make another album, it’s time to make another album. It may never be time—who knows? You should watch the documentary Still Bill.
PLAYBOY: That’s the Bill Withers documentary, right?
TIMBERLAKE: Yeah, and I’ve never watched anything else that made me feel someone was speaking not just to me but for me. He puts into words exactly how I feel about music. People asked Bill Withers all the time, “Why did you stop doing music?” Which is what I get asked all the time too. He said, “I don’t know what to say, because I didn’t stop doing music. I just started doing something else.” He also quoted Thoreau: “The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.” Only Bill added, “I want to know what it feels like for my desperation to get louder.”
PLAYBOY: What does that mean to you?
TIMBERLAKE: Well, I relate to that because it means you need inspiration, you need to hear something loud inside yourself before you can create anything. Unfortunately, the business of music is what taints an artist’s desire to make music. I don’t want to paint a picture of being jaded, because I love making music. I honestly love it. But there is a level where making music becomes a total life-sucking commitment. For instance, to do an album and a tour, you have to be absolutely certain that whatever you have to say is from the heart, because you’re going to say it a thousand times—and on nights when you don’t feel like performing. You need to feel inspiration to get to a level where you’re performing like that. But I haven’t felt that level of conviction the past few years. And without that conviction it’s crazy to put yourself out there.
PLAYBOY: Is there a scenario in which you would ever sing an ’N Sync song again in public?
TIMBERLAKE: I don’t think so. It would have to be a really special scenario. I still talk to the guys occasionally. I probably talk to Joey [Fatone] and Chris [Kirkpatrick] more than J.C. [Chasez] and Lance [Bass]. I’d say I text back and forth with Joey once a month.
PLAYBOY: Off the top of your head, what’s the wildest moment you recall from ’N Sync’s heyday?
TIMBERLAKE: Man, I could tell you a thousand stories. I remember girls running after the buses in the hundreds. We’d do an open-air festival in Germany and there’d be 60,000 people there. We’d finish playing, the band would be putting the gear up, and we would be trying to do a quick out, which is what they call it when you leave the stage before the band stops playing. We’d get on the bus and there would be 250 to 400 girls waiting to run after us. I distinctly remember Joey Fatone singing the theme song from The Goonies while this particular pack of girls was running. It was just crazy.
PLAYBOY: What was it like being 17, 18 and having 400 girls chasing you?
TIMBERLAKE: I hate to disappoint you, but I was the youngest one in the group, so the other guys were getting more of that action, and they were protective of me. I think I was the one who cared about what we were doing onstage. My role was, we’d come offstage every night and get a DVD of the show, just like an athlete watching tape from a game. We’d get on the bus, and I’d go, “Okay, here’s what we did right; here’s what we did wrong,” and we’d fix it for the next day. But yeah, the girl stuff definitely was a heavy part of it, and it would play with your mind. I remember looking down once—we were playing Madison Square Garden for an HBO special—and this girl put her arm out. She had a mural of me tattooed along her whole arm. I just remember looking at it and thinking, Holy shit, that’s never going to come off.
It was a time: the concerts, the fans, the music. Plus, it wasn’t just us. It was that whole factory we came out of—us, the Backstreet Boys and Britney—we were all together. It was bigger than any one of us and bigger than any of the groups. Everybody was selling a gazillion records at the same time. You couldn’t keep what we were doing on the shelves. It was bigger than bubblegum. Sometimes I think back on the time we did five nights at Giants Stadium. That was the moment I just looked around and thought, There’s nowhere for this to go but down. It’s never going to get bigger than this.
PLAYBOY: What’s the secret to commanding a very large crowd?
TIMBERLAKE: It’s not about commanding them. It’s about bringing them toward you. It’s your job to make everyone in the audience feel as though he or she is in your living room. When I’m onstage it’s my mission to make people feel comfortable, not feel in awe. I want them to feel as though they’re singing and performing with me. Even if I’m on a stage, the audience should feel as if they’re on the same level with me.
PLAYBOY: Your first two solo albums sold more than 8 million copies each and basically made you the biggest pop sensation on Earth. What was driving you?
TIMBERLAKE: The first half of my 20s I felt I had to achieve, achieve, achieve. I think a lot of men do this. I’m not saying just because I turned 30 I don’t battle with this. I still battle with it. But in my 20s I had to do everything. I needed everybody to understand me and respect what I was doing. I remember putting out my second album [2006’s FutureSex/LoveSounds]. When I put out the first song, “SexyBack,” radio thought I was a joke. I couldn’t let that go, so I started calling radio program directors. I’m pretty tenacious like that. I was like, “This is my record. Give it a chance.” There wasn’t any of my signature falsetto or anything. I’d say, “I know it doesn’t sound like me, but just please give the record a two-week period or even a one-week period. Just let the music get out there. If the callback is good, keep playing it.” I was that relentless. During the second half of my 20s I started to ask myself, What am I doing? What have I built, and how do I continue that for the next 10 years? For some reason, in the past year I’ve done so much work I feel as though it’s backfired. I’m looking around now and I’m like, Where am I running? I’ve been running so hard for so long. I’ve seen the inside of more arenas than your average basketball player. Like I said, I’ve had that experience on tour sometimes when I think, I don’t feel like going onstage. I have no energy right now. I’m sick, I barely have a voice. But you do it anyway. You feel obligated to go out because all those people showed up. You end up performing. But at some point in my life I wish I had learned to say no. From the beginning of my career, I was a guy who said yes all the time to everything.