Sure, he's got three movies on the way. But it feels like forever since we last saw Justin Timberlake serenading the señoritas as he Justified his existence in a post-'NYSNC world. And with his second solo album slated for a 2006 release, JT is on the verge of — dare we say it — a comeback. So how does he plan to return, and where exactly is he at with the album?
MTV: It's been a while.
Justin Timberlake: Yeah, it's been a minute. I mean, with the exception of the song I did with Snoop, I really haven't done much, but I kinda needed it. And I've always wanted to get into film, but I wanted to do it the right way. The opportunities came up and I didn't want to crap on them, so I took the movie roles that I thought were some cool ones to do, and decided to work with directors that I thought were cool, and it's been a lot of fun. Hopefully I'll find a way to manage the two successfully, schedulewise, 'cause it does become a stretch.
MTV: Was music on your mind at all?
Timberlake: I'm always thinking of ideas and writing and creating music and I always had a guitar or a keyboard around in the trailer when I was sitting around. I just needed a little bit of time away from touring and promoting and I just needed a little time to live.
MTV: So where are you at now with the next record?
Timberlake: I've written and produced at least 11, 12 songs already and I'm just gonna keep working with myself and other producers. I think this one altogether is ... a little more fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants as far as the writing that I'm doing. I have trouble writing things down anyways, because I feel like it slows me down, so this helps the vibe. I just go into the studio and start coming up with an idea and then bounce it off of whoever I'm working with, or, if I'm by myself, sit down at the piano and start just banging it out.
MTV: In the past, you've performed some shows with a live band that really brought a different feel to the music. Have you experimented more with live instrumentation on the new material?
Timberlake: Yeah, I have. I play a lot of the stuff on this record ... and I'm getting more into the production. In the last year or two I've produced stuff for other people, but it's so much easier to produce stuff for other people because you're not looking in the mirror. When you're outside of a situation, it's like being outside of your friend's relationship and you can tell him, "That's kind of messed up" or "That's cool." It's easier to influence them to do something new or different or fun. But producing music for yourself, it really becomes a struggle because all your insecurities come out, your demons come out, and you're like, "Do I sound good trying this? Is this even believable?" I think at some point you have to say screw it and just let it do what it do and let it be what it's gonna be.
MTV: You're also working with Timbaland and Rick Rubin, though, right?
Timberlake: I'm definitely looking forward to [working with Rick] 'cause I think it will be something that I've never heard myself do. And that's the cool thing about Rick, too, is when we first met he said to me, "I won't influence you one way or the other. You do whatever it is that you do, and I'll just come in and tell you what I think and move stuff in a direction that seems conducive to what you do." And for any artist/writer/producer, that's such a comforting thing because you know you're in good hands and you know you won't be influenced in a direction that you don't want to go, so you won't be wasting time and you know it's gonna be completely creative and fun.
MTV: Timbaland was obviously a big part of your first record. In going back to him again for the new album and its new sounds, does that mean he's trying to evolve in his career as well?
Timberlake: He's obviously one of the best beatmakers, as far as I'm concerned, in hip-hop, period. I'd put Dre on a certain plateau, and I'd put Tim on a certain plateau, and I'd put the Neptunes on a certain plateau, and I'd put Hi-Tek on a different type of plateau. They all have their own unique thing, but the thing I love about Tim is he's not afraid to move outside of his box, and I feel like that's what we've done with this stuff. It will remind you of the stuff he's done, but you'll also feel like [it's different]. I think once Tim and I get together it's like I'll push him to push himself, and he'll push me to push myself. It's a great creative environment, and he comes in and he makes a beat and it's obviously ridiculous and then we're off to the races making melodies and lyrics, so I don't have to worry too much about that part of it. I find that when I work by myself I'll come up with a melody and then I'll craft everything around that. Working with Tim, it's like the complete opposite. We'll come up with the groove first, and I'll say, "Oh, that'll be cool. Switch that snare up, switch this up." Then we'll both just start tinkering on the keys at different sounds and the next thing you know we have a groove and then I can just make a song out of it.
MTV: Finally, you're also working again with Will.I.Am. Is that a similar chemistry?
Timberlake: When we worked on "Where Is the Love?" I got a call from Taboo from the Peas and they were like, "We have this song and we know we want it to be called 'Where Is the Love?' but we don't really have a hook, we just have a tagline, and we have our verses that we rapped." So he sent me the instrumental on my voicemail and then I ended up coming up with the melody and the lyrics there, and then I came back to L.A. and I sat down with Will and laid my vocals down and stacked them up. We had so much fun working on that record, it was like, "We should do it again." So we did it again for their record, and then I was sitting around with Will and I was like, "You like making beats, I like coming up with melodies, and we both like all different styles of music, we both like a lot of the same music. Why don't we start doing stuff together?" It was just a partnership that made a lot of sense, because I think that we see music the same way a lot. And there are other places where we see it very differently, and that is complementary too, because I think that we both respect each other. So it's cool to see our different views on how a song should go, the format of it, the melodies and everything.