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American Idol Winner Ruben Studdard Stops By ESSENCE

"The Velvet Teddy Bear" stops by ESSENCE to talk about his new album, The Return.

ESEENCE: There are a lot of love songs on your new album. What was the inspiration for this record?
Ruben Studdard:
I just wanted to make good music and all of the best songs seemed to be love songs, so those are the ones that stayed on the album.

ESSENCE: How was the process different from your first album to your last two albums?
It was a lot different, because I made a lot more decisions. Clive (Davis) really gave me the opportunity to work with basically anybody I wanted to. With this album I got a chance to do two songs with (singer) Ne-Yo and just who ever I felt was hot at the time. (Producer) Scott Storch did two records and the majority of the songs on my album were written by one of my close friends, Harold Lilly. He wrote “Unpredictable” for Jamie Foxx and “You Don’t Know My Name,” his credits go on and on.

ESSENCE: Does he come with a structure of a song and then do you just kind of add on?
Nah, we go to the studio and I just tell him what I want to talk about and I come back in an hour and it’s exactly what I said I wanted to say. We wrote one song together called “Not Happy.”

ESSENCE: What’s that about?
I was in the studio in Miami and as soon as the track came on I went directly back in my mind to the prior summer in Miami where I had one of my little girlfriends there with me. And I remember how fun that experience was that week with her there, and how much fun we had with my brother and all my friends. So the song is basically just saying because she’s not in the situation anymore, I’m not happy, like you know the chorus says, “the sun is out, the block is hot, the club is jumping but I’m not happy.”

ESSENCE: How much of the album is based on your own experience or how much do you pull from your friends or family or stuff you experience on the road?
The first single is called Change Me, and I call it the married man’s record because everybody I know that’s married always tends to say that their wives try to change them a lot. And so on my first album we have a lot of songs that basically talk about the guy being wrong in most of the situations. So we tried to write a song that would kind of show the differences in a relationship without trying to make girls upset.

ESSENCE: Do you like the direction that some music has taken where it’s gotten really too sexual and you’ve got young girls basically learning how to do strip dancing and stuff like that?
Which music?

ESSENCE: R & B music, music on the radio.
I don’t think R&B music has ever not been sexual. They just didn’t have videos in the `70s. One of the nastiest albums I have is a Marvin Gaye record. But you know, we won’t have those conversations about him because we can’t see it.

ESSENCE: Some videos are a little bit different now from what we’re use to seeing.
I love old school music and I just can’t believe sometimes some of the arguments our parents have about the music that we listen to when their music was almost equally as sexually driven as ours. So, I don’t know. I think sometimes videos do cross a certain line, but as far as the music is concerned, I think everybody has the right to do what ever they want to.

ESSENCE: Has this industry put any demands on you or asked anything of you that you take exception to?
As far as?

ESSENCE: Business, your image?
Not really. They just let me be me.

Ruben Studdard’s latest release, The Return, is in stores now.