Cee Lo Green on music saving his life and his love for Pippa
Five minutes we’ve spent with Cee Lo Green. That’s all. Yet in that time his phone has only stopped ringing when he’s answered it. The second he hangs up, off it goes again.
“I put my phone number on Twitter yesterday for fun. I’ve spoken to a lot of people, man.”
We get the feeling that even without an ill-advised personal tweet, the 37-year-old would still be in high demand. He’s conquered the charts twice — first in 2006 with production wizard Danger Mouse as Gnarls Barkley, and last year by himself with the superbly hot-headed solo single F*ck You! — and he’s now working with Christina Aguilera on US talent show The Voice.
What kind of judge are you on The Voice? A nice guy, or a Simon Cowell-esque villain?
I’m more mentoring than judging. I really like Simon, though. He’s the reason that The X Factor is a hit.
How do you decide which version of F*ck You! to sing live — the sweary original or the clean re-edit Forget You?
I usually wait for the crowd to respond and then go with whichever version they’re singing. I prefer to do F*ck You! because Forget You seems very underwhelming to me. But it’s crazy: at one point, my two versions of the song and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Glee cover of Forget You were at one, two and three in the US charts.
Is there new Gnarls Barkley material in the works?
Definitely. But Danger Mouse and I are being patient at the moment because it would be tragic if we were ever to become something posed and pretentious. We want to wait until we’ve got something genuine and authentic to say.
Can you still be ‘authentic’ when you’ve become such a commercial success?
Of course. A song called F*ck You! still has a little attitude, right? [Laughs] That’s still authentic and anti-establishment, maybe more so because it was such a big hit, even with that title. But I’ll always be anti-establishment because I’ve never felt like I belong. You don’t wear a feathered suit to the Grammys to fit in.
Who are your style icons?
Billy Idol is a big one. He was a ladies’ man but he also looks like he could kick your ass [laughs]. I like that. I love hair-metal bands like Mötley Crüe too. They were rough, they were rogues. I miss that side to rock’n’roll.
Are your tours as wild as theirs used to be?
No, I’m not as crazy as those guys [laughs]. But I make it my business to have a good time because I feel I deserve it. This is like another childhood, man. Who would have thought I’d get to live out all these carnal wants and needs? [Laughs]
You were reportedly a tearaway as a kid…
Yeah, just a bit [laughs]. The stuff I did was so outlandish that it’s hard to articulate it without sounding like I’m glamourising it. I was angry about being an outcast. I would have liked to fit in and have tons of friends, but I didn’t. So I’d cut school, drink beer and end up making examples of people. After a while I became so comfortably numb with violence I felt that my only purpose in life was to be a rudeboy. So, really, music saved my life. I’ve always said that if I wasn’t famous, I’d be infamous.
How has being famous changed you?
This is going to be a strange comparison, but I think you’ll get it. As men, when we become famous, we become as particular as pretty women. So these days I’m more selective. You learn that you can’t go to every party you’re invited to if you expect to last. Plus, for me to f*ck up and do something stupid would be the greatest insult to all the art that I’ve accomplished, so I can’t be screwing around with just anyone now. I’ve got to go for a duchess or something. I’ve got to aim for… what’s her name? Pippa? Piper?
You mean Pippa Middleton?
Yeah! I’ve got to go for Pippa, man. She’s gorgeous. I like her.
Cee Lo Green is promoting the new Range Rover Evoque; helloevoque.com