Before the Black Eyed Peas and Wild Orchid, Fergie was hanging with “Kids Incorporated” — and the “Peanuts” gang.
“I’ve done voiceovers all my life,” Stacy “Fergie” Ferguson revealed recently of her less-documented show-business experience. “I was Sally for two years and then Lucy for one year, amongst other characters. I like to play with different voices, which is what I’m having a lot of fun doing on this record.”
This record would be The Dutchess, the debut solo album that the 31-year-old singer has dreamed about since childhood (see “Fergie’s Split-Pea Soup: Reggae, Jazz, Ludacris, B Real On ’Crazy’ Solo LP” ).
“Every song has its own character,” she elaborated. “They use different pieces of my voice and that’s what I want to express, ’cause it’s fun. It makes the album less boring for me and hopefully for others as well.”
If the provocative, infectious “London Bridge” — the #1 single that Fergie will perform to kick off MTV News’ “Red Carpet on the Rock” Video Music Awards preshow at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday — is any indication, The Dutchess should be anything but boring.
“She’ll have a song about voodoo dolls where she’s talking about her past and getting over those demons,” the album’s executive producer Will.I.Am explained, “but then she’ll have a song like ’Fergalicious,’ where it’s just being sassy and flaunting her stuff from a strong female perspective, paying homage to Salt-N-Pepa.
“We’re chameleons,” he continued, crediting Fergie’s background in the Black Eyed Peas for her genre-spanning style. “We can open up for Metallica or go rock with Justin Timberlake. Or we could go out with Busta Rhymes. We have so many different types of — I want to say ’personalities,’ but then you would think we’re cuckoo — but we have so many different types of suits that we could put on and still be us.”
If that’s the analogy, then The Dutchess is not just about dressing up but undressing as well — with Fergie revealing more than she ever has before.
“I show a lot more vulnerability than on the Black Eyed Peas records,” Fergie said. “This album is kind of introducing myself to people who don’t really know who I am. It’s interesting because I feel like I’m very open and very honest in interviews and such, but I don’t know if a lot of people know who I am or what I’ve been through and all the different phases of my life.”
Fergie’s riding high now, but there was a time just before joining the Black Eyed Peas when she was at an all-time low. After her previous group, Wild Orchid, was dropped from their label, she went into a depression and got hooked on drugs. She’s also been through her fair share of heartbreaks, which are well-documented on some of the ballads.
“It’s kind of putting myself out there, which is scary, but at the same time it’s something that I need to do just because I’ve always wanted to do it,” Fergie said. “I’m not going to air all my dirty laundry on a Black Eyed Peas record, because it’s not appropriate.”
It was Will who essentially rescued Fergie, and the two have been tight ever since. So he’s been the perfect confidant as she’s transitioned into a part-time solo artist.
“He’s like my partner in crime,” Fergie said. “We get in the studio and sometimes we’ll disagree and sometimes we’ll really agree, but we just have such a love relationship. We just understand each other. I mean the first time we worked together, on the song ’Shut Up,’ we got the song done in less than an hour. I could say something that won’t make sense to the normal ear, but he’ll understand.”
It was also quite convenient working with Will since the two have been touring together nearly nonstop since Elephunk dropped.
“We recorded in London,” Will recalled. “We recorded in Beijing, we recorded in Australia, we recorded in … what’s another weird place? ’Clumsy’ was recorded in the John Lennon bus [a traveling music education lab], like in a parking lot in Pittsburgh right next to Shakey’s. … To be able to record on the road, that’s a task and a half.”
It was well worth it, though, for Fergie, who found the various locations inspiring, especially in enhancing the wide variety of styles featured on the album.
“Touring the world, you’re experiencing so many things and you’re influenced by so many things that that is your truth,” she said. “It wouldn’t be honest if you didn’t include all those influences in what you’re doing. So everything that we did is honest.”
The Dutchess is due September 19.