24 Hours -- Part Nine

It turns out that Dana is new, I mean very new, like straight out of college this is her first assignment new.  If she'd been wearing a college sweatshirt she wouldn't have looked out of place at all.  She actually looked the part though.  She wore trendy looking jeans and shirt and looked MTV.

Part of me wants to scare the crap out of her because I know this is her first interview.  If I was with Chris or Joey or hell even JC we'd already have a plan to get her, but since I'm alone and this is basically a first impression I'm making on a new employee to the station I calm myself and tell myself to smile and be extra nice, especially since she hasn't blinked since I came into the room.

"Hi," she says as I walk in the door.  She gets up from her chair.  Her shoes look brand new.  They're perfectly white running shoes that look trendy, but somehow look uncomfortable on her.  She needs business suits and loafers.  I can tell by the way her hair and clothes are perfectly smooth and perfectly fitting to her body.  She nervously hugs a clipboard to her stomach as she reaches for my hand to shake it.

"Whoa," I say as she squeezes my hand.  "Dana, right?"

"Yes.  Mist-ter Timberlake."

"It's Justin," I say with a wink to her knowing that it will get her mind off of her nerves.  "Don't freak out ok?  I'm human and I swear I don't bite."

Her hand shakes a little.  I can hear her watch hitting on the clip part of the clipboard.  "Um--"

"I'll leave you guys alone," Kimber says and disappears.

For a moment I think that I might be stuck in this room with Dana.  I don't have a clue where Tiny is and I keep wondering if he knows where I am.  Soon though Vivian walks in.  She comes over to me and takes my bag away and holds out her hand for my phone before she points to the chairs that are set up in front of a camera.  "Go on.  We have three more of these to do today and if we want to get out of here on time we need to get this done."

"Ok.  Ok."  I hold up my hands and take the blame even though I know that Vivian's steely attitude is pointed towards Dana's inexperience and not my timing.

Dana clears her throat, "Did you want anything to drink or eat or--"

"Just ask the questions," Vivian says.

"Yeah--"  Dana sits down and I sit down too.  She reaches for a remote on the camera and turns it on.

"You ready?" I ask seeing her nerves.

"Yeah," she says.  She looks at the camera then at her clipboard then sighs, "Here we go.  What made you decide to do a solo record?"

Do people really know how much a sigh like that can stress out another person?  I try to keep my mind off my nerves when I get interviewed and I wish that the person on the other end of the interview would do the same.  I want to give her some advice on this, but I'm not sure that it's my place.  I mean when you think about it, I don't know what the circumstance is.  If her job is riding on this interview I want it to be the best one yet, and giving her pointers doesn't seem like it'd be a helpful thing.

I try my hardest not to roll my eyes, but when I see Vivian glaring at me I smile and play the good kid that I am.  "I think I did it because maybe I needed freedom to really express myself. Thatís really what Justified is about."

"Was it a challenge to leave your ĎN Sync support system behind and try something on your own?"

Same question with a different twist.  "Itís different in the sense where you're not as collaborative with the other people in the group, but at the same time Iím as collaborative with my producers."  I draw my eyes together and look at my hands for a moment before looking up.  I know from years of experience that this will make it look like I'm choosing my words, but really all I'm doing is doing a little acting.  "On the other hand, you donít have to think so much about what youíre writing. You can let it flow out because itís just you. I like new experiences. So it hasnít been hard at all. Itís been fun."

Dana smiles and seems pleased with my answer.  "What music were you listening to when you were making the record?"

"I grew up in Memphis, where blues was invented. A lot of country and gospel goes through the city, too, and that definitely inspired me. As a kid, I gravitated towards Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Al Green and Marvin Gaye. For me, Michael Jackson and Prince were bigger than lollipops!"

"How do you feel about the comparisons between yourself and Michael Jackson?"

The dreaded comment.  It's definitely not something I need to be dealing with right now.  I don't know whether to take the comments as praise or as an insult as if I can't find my own way in the business.  "Itís very flattering. At the same time, I donít think itís fair to him! This is my first record. Youíre talking about the man who put out Off the Wall and Thriller and Dangerous and Bad. As time goes by people will see who I am for who I am. I feel very fortunate to be compared to somebody so incredible. Heís an icon. But I donít think you can make a comparison to a certain phenomenon. It just happens how itís supposed to happen."

"I don't want to get too personal, but why was writing the album yourself so important to you?"

"As an artist you want to present an extension of yourself in your art. You have to write your material to really do that. I got the confidence writing ĎN Sync songs like ďGoneĒ and ďGirlfriend.Ē  The reception they got pointed me in the right direction. It gave me the confidence to do this album the way I wanted to do it."

"So were you drawing on life experiences?"

Please don't ask about Britney or Janet or Alyssa.  Please.  If there is a chance in hell that she's going to be a good reporter she'll not ask me about them.  I'll go off on her.  I know I will.

"I didnít have a particular life experience that I drew on. I followed wherever the music took me. ďLike I Love YouĒ had a sexy vibe and that influenced the way the vocals were stylized. I tried to come up with a funky melody and not worry about the content. If a beat came out and it was very aggressive, I felt the angst of it and started writing about something not as happy as ďLike I Love You.Ē "

"How did the songwriting process work with the Neptunes and Timbaland?"

"Weíd start working on the music and then the melody would take me to where the lyrics needed to go. Itís one thing to say something one way in a lyric, but you have to make sure the lyrics fit in with the melody the right way, so you can sing it and still get your message across."

"How have you grown personally and as an artist going through this whole process?"

"Just writing and being in the studio was like therapy for me. The first half of this year was pretty tough for me."  I pray to God that I don't get too emotional.  I haven't so far, but after seeing her on the street I think I might find myself with a few tears today.  "I think the timing was right. Every time you do a project, you learn something new. Thatís the beauty of it."

"What is important to you other than music?"

"My family, my friends."  I think of Mom and Paul and Lisa and Dad and the boys and a smile comes to my lips.  Dana notices this and makes an almost inaudible, awe sound.  "I like simple things. I like to sneak in the theatre and watch movies. Iím a movie buff."  Its true that I haven't done that in about a year, now that I have the home theater at home and have hook ups with studios, the one thing that came out of Britney that I've kept as a perk.

Her eyes go wide.  "You sneak in without paying?"

"No, no!"  I can see getting slammed for that one.  True I've done it before, like when we were high school aged we'd go and sneak in, but not now, that was a kids thing.  "Iím talking about sneaking in the back."  Vivian starts to move to get up as if I'm about to incriminate myself or something so I laugh.  "I like to play golf. I like to shoot hoops. Iím a 21-year-old dude. Iím pretty simple."

"As a generation, you, Christina Aguilera and Nick Carter are all growing up. What is that like?"

The mention of Nick Carter makes me cringe.  As a person I love Nick.  He and I have had a lot of similar experiences, but as an artist I'm not sure that he and I are on the same level.  It may seem egotistical to say this and it scares me a little to be paying attention, but Nick's album isn't doing well on the chars and I don't want to get grouped with him, even if it is because we're the same age.  "Itís cool. Itís an awesome feeling to have that kind of creative control, to really feel like you can blossom as an adult, as an artist, and as a person."

Dana pauses.  "Do you ever feel like you sacrificed your teenaged years to your career?

"No. My teenage years were exactly what they were supposed to be as far as Iím concerned."  There have been times when I've cried to Mom about it and asked Dad if he thinks I did the right thing by taking on my career at such a young age.  She told me that I need to know that the decisions I've made have made me who I am and I might not be me if it weren't for my career and my music.  "I think everybody has their own path and itís laid out for you. Itís just up to you to walk it. This is where I chose to go. Too many times I see people my age on TV who do what I do and theyíre like, ďOh, it was awful!Ē   Youíre not gonna catch that from me. Iím very thankful to be doing what Iím doing. I feel very blessed."

She looks at me now like she's someone's grandmother, using that very parental look.  "Has it been a difficult transition from teen pop star to adult?"

"I didnít put out this album because I wanted everybody to know I was grown up. Iím 21 and thatís not grown up. But it is a little more grown up than 19 or 20. Thatís the best part about what I do. I get to learn from the mistakes Iíve made and not do them the next time."

"So how do you cope with the media?"

"For the most part I ignore it."  That's really the truth.  "Iím not gonna change my life because of somebody elseís interpretation of it, because they donít really know me. If my friends come to me and they tell me something, Iím going to pay attention because, hey, they know me.  As far as the press is concerned, theyíre going to say what they want to say and I would say probably about 10-15 percent of the time itís accurate. The other percentage, itís completely wrong. I canít waste time worrying about it because itís just negativity."

How many times has mom told me that and how many times as Vivian tried to beat it into my head?

"What advice would you give someone starting out in the business at age 12 like you did?"

"If youíre going to do something, if you put out 150 percent then you can always expect 100 percent back. Thatís what I was always told as a kid, and itís worked for me so far!"

"Well thanks," Dana said.  "I'll make sure that your manager gets a copy of this.  I'm going to edit it tonight and it'll air tomorrow in clips during TRL."

"Thanks Dana," I say.

"You're welcome."  She sort of melts back into the room and seems still a little shocked by the whole experience.

"What's next?" I ask Vivian as I get up.

"Dave wants to meet with you real quick then we'll have a short meeting with the dancers."

"Dancers?" I ask.

"Yes," she says with a nod.  "You know, two weeks ago--Los Angeles--Millennium studios--You and Mickey and Gary and Pete and Wilson.  Haylee and Marissa?  Does any of this ring a bell?"

"Christ Vivian calm down," I say.  She's really losing it today.  I know that she's stressed out, that's apparent, but I don't understand why.  She wasn't acting like this a week ago in LA when she was out there helping me plan all this.  She wasn't like this last night when we were doing sound checks and planning today out, but now she's just this bundle of nerves that wouldn't know fun if it slapped her in the face.

"Why aren't you taking this more serious?" she asks huffing as if she's completely annoyed with me.

"I'm sorry."  I put my hands up as if I'm surrendering and pout trying to make a face that will help her be more sympathetic to me.  "I thought this was supposed to be fun."

"Fun?" she questions.

"Yes," I say.  I tug on her a little.  "You know," I say, "that whole smile and laugh kind of thing that happens when you're relaxed and loving what you do?"

She's about to say something when Tiny comes around the corner.  "There you are."

Vivian steps away from me and straightens my bag on her shoulder.  "Hey Tiny."

"Where to next?" I ask.

"To the roof."

"Davie's office?"

"Yep."

MTV interview from VH1:  http://www.vh1.com/artists/news/1458752/11192002/timberlake_justin.jhtml