Jack of all trades

Pharrell Williams is performing at the Formula One Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix on Sept 18.
PHOTO: Sony Music

Pharrell Williams - singer, songwriter, producer and fashion designer - is a man of many talents.

But the 10-time Grammy-winning artist's biggest impact on pop culture today is probably his uncanny ability to sniff out winning collaborations, whether in his music or fashion projects.

Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines, which he co-produced and sang on, topped the charts around the world (never mind its copyright-infringement controversy).

Recently, in a collaboration with sportswear giant Adidas, he released a line of sneakers designed by talents such as Japanese artist Mr., Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid and American photographer Cass Bird.

"They are really interesting people we know who we think are super talented," says the owner of multimedia creative collective i am OTHER. "Their creativity speaks for themselves and being able to bring the brand and them together is like a cool thing because I feel like the luckiest guy. When it happens, it's just something that I really wanted to happen, so it's kind of like a gift."

Apart from being talented, the 42-year-old, who goes by only his first name, is also exceedingly well-mannered, as Life finds out during a recent telephone interview with him from Los Angeles ahead of his headlining set at the Formula One Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix.

He addresses this interviewer as "sir" several times during the chat and often speaks glowingly of his fellow artists and the contestants on reality singing show The Voice, on which he has been a coach since 2013.

"One of the cool things about the show is that they do such a good job curating and finding really good, talented people and giving them the opportunity to express themselves," says Pharrell, who is married to model-designer Helen Lasichanh, with whom he has a seven-year-old son.

He is looking forward to returning to his third stint with the show when the new season starts airing later this month and is excited about working with pop star Rihanna, who will join the show as an adviser to himself and the other coaches.

On how she will help the contestants elevate their performance, he says: "She's gonna be awesome. She is a vibe, her whole thing is a vibe. It's a feeling for her; I think she'll highlight the importance of vibration."

Pharrell's discerning music tastes, as well as network of acclaimed music talents, have also been on full display on a bi-weekly radio show called OTHERtone on Apple Music's Internet radio station Beats 1.

Some of his guests who have appeared on the show include Justin Timberlake and sister trio Haim. His playlist is an eclectic mix that ranges from unreleased tracks to undiscovered gems.

He loves doing the show because Apple gives him "freedom to just play all kinds of music" and he gets to give visibility to music that he feels people should hear .

Freedom, incidentally, is also the title of his newest single, which he says was inspired by love.

"I saw two people looking at each other from a lovely space so I thought, it's interesting, it just looks like love. And that's where the lyrics came from, the first four lines, and the next thing I knew, the metaphors just lined themselves up."



WHERE: Marina Bay Street Circuit

WHEN: Sept 18 to 20

ADMISSION: From $68.

Go to www.singaporegp.sg or call 6738-6738

INFO: Pharrell performs at the Padang Stage on Sept 18, 11.10pm

This article was first published on Sept 9, 2015.
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