GLENDALE, California — One of the titles JC Chasez is considering for his solo debut is Schizophrenic, the word he uses to explain its multiple flavors.
While 'NSYNC's other resident songwriter, Justin Timberlake, chose a mostly R&B route for his first record, Chasez is all over the map.
"I have a lot more live music on it, but I also have electronica pieces in there 'cause I love that stuff," JC said during a break at one of the studios where he's been recording. "My favorite kind of stuff is super-hype music when I'm in the club, or something to really zone out to so I can drive my car and kind of forget about everything. ... I definitely incorporated the electronica, but I've also taken the very raw elements as well and mashed the two into this big noisy pit of tones and timing and melody."
Like Timberlake, Chasez parades his Michael Jackson influence. However, while previewing several of the tracks on Thursday, other names came to his mind, like Prince, Seal and Jamiroquai. One of the dance ditties uses the beat from Corey Hart's 1983 single "Sunglasses at Night," while a more rock track is carried by handclaps.
So far, JC has cooked up his musical smorgasbord with a variety of producers, including electronic music maestro BT, R&B hitmaker Rodney Jerkins, Riprock 'n' Alex G (Christina Aguilera) and newcomer Rob Boldt.
"My goal in making this record was to have a lot of fun, so basically I just ended up working with my friends," Chasez explained. "BT and I became friends when we worked on the 'NSYNC record ['Pop'] and I had kind of looked up to his stuff. We ended up hanging out and so what did we do? We worked together" (see "BT Secretive About 'NSYNC Payback On Upcoming Album").
"[Riprock 'n' Alex G], I've known them for years; we used to live together," he continued. "I didn't want a fabricated record so I didn't go make calls and say, 'This guy's a hitmaker, so I need a hit right now.' I took a hippie mentality to it. 'Dude, let's hang out and write tunes all day.' "
With Jerkins, who hails from JC's home city of Orlando, Florida, the singer and the producer pulled each other in different directions.
"He made it more sparse than maybe I'm used to," Chasez recalled. "And I did some weird melodic things with him. I started singing all this weird stuff over it. And he's like, 'Whatever you're doing, it's weird, but it's cool.' We just found our place in the middle."
Lately, JC's been in Boldt's studio, where he's been writing songs on a grand piano and recording them with live musicians, including experimental keyboardist Roger Manning Jr. (Beck, Air). He's also composed and recorded string sections.
"The stuff that I do with Rob is very organic," Chasez said. "I didn't think radio or club at all; I thought purely musical. It pushed me as a musician, which I enjoyed 'cause when you set the tone and the level of that musically it pushes you more as a songwriter. You think, 'Man, I have to think of something that's good enough to go with this lyrically.' "
When it comes to writing lyrics, JC can be quirky — as in songs about getting hit by a cannonball or falling in love with an alien — but mostly he tells it like is. In fact, his other contender for a title is The Truth.
"Even though I have a barrage of material in my mind, it comes out very succinct and very clean, simple and truthful," he explained. "It can be anything from being out or, of course, the classic thing, being in love or maybe falling out of love. There's a lot of weird stuff going on in my brain, but I think it's stuff that everybody relates to. There's songs about sex, there's songs about drugs, there's songs about relationships."
One of the other voices on the album, in a more figurative sense, is JC's fanbase. After finishing his first song, the "Drumline" soundtrack's "Blowin' Me Up (With Her Love)" (see "JC Chasez, Tara Reid Find Love Among Wreckage For 'Blowin' Me Up' "), he put it on his Web site, www.onlyartist.com, and asked fans for feedback (see "JC Chasez Ready To Receive Your Love And/Or Criticism").
"Since 'NSYNC's been chilling and we haven't been on the road or in contact with all our fans and everything, I needed to find a way to interact with them," Chasez explained. "I also wanted to show my appreciation. I'm gonna put songs out there, not only from my record, but I'm going to give them something free. After I'm done putting together my album, I want to give them something special because I want them to know that I still care."
A lot of the e-mails JC receives are ideas about other rappers or singers he should work with.
"That seems to be the big thing right now, collaborations," he said. "[But] if I end up collaborating with somebody, I want it to be spur of the moment. I refuse to have it planned out. I think that's going to take away from the whole process."
A release date has not yet been set for the record, but Chasez plans to finish it in the next couple of weeks, after working with Dallas Austin. The recording sessions will find JC coming full circle, as Austin produced "Blowin' Me Up" and was the person who convinced him to do a solo album. Before that, the 'NSYNC star was reading scripts.
"He's like, 'You've got too much to say. You know, there's no reason why you shouldn't. You're writing songs anyway,' " Chasez recalled. "And I kind of went home and looked myself in the mirror and was like, 'Dude, you're not an actor. I don't know what you're thinking with that pile of books and stuff like that over there.' I do that stuff to take my mind off of doing music, but at the end of the day I want to be in the studio. I had to look myself in the face and go, 'You can do TV shows, but remember that's not what you do for a living, dude. You do records for a living.' "