HOLLYWOOD — It's too soon to say exactly what to expect from Nick Lachey's follow-up to What's Left of Me, but the singer says fans can definitely count on something a bit lighter.
"It was such a hypersensitive point in my personal life, I had a lot to say in that regard," Lachey said of his 2006 album, which chronicled his divorce from Jessica Simpson. "I always write from a personal place and clearly this time around, this point in my life, that's a very different perspective than I had last time. So I do anticipate the album will be slightly different and have a few more colors that the last one didn't."
At the same time, he also offered a warning about both albums.
"It's not always a literal, personal experience that you're putting out there," continued Lachey, dressed in his studio attire of track pants, sleeveless T-shirt and ball cap. "You're certainly motivated by things in your life, both good and bad, but it's never a literal representation of life and what you're going through as an artist, it's just kind of a starting point."
Speaking of starting points, for Lachey's yet-untitled third solo album, his first steps lead to the Underdogs, the red-hot production duo behind the "Dreamgirls" music and hits from Omarion and Fantasia.
"Their track record speaks for itself," Lachey said. "We've known each other for a long time now and it's kind of one of those things where one of these days we're gonna work together and I'm glad it finally happened on this record."
"[We're doing] big radio records with big, huge choruses," Underdog Harvey Mason Jr. said of their work with Lachey. "His voice is really strong and we hope to try and give him a chorus that can support that, a message-type of song with good lyrics, some emotion behind it, 'cause he can really pull off those type of records."
On Thursday, the three were working out a ballad — titled "She's Gone," oddly enough — with Lachey changing around some of the Underdogs' pre-written lyrics.
"I love to be a part of the writing process and I feel like I can contribute in that way," Lachey said. "But at the same time, I've never been one to say, 'Oh it's a great song, but I didn't write it so I'm not gonna do it.' Man, I've learned early and often that a great song's a great song and they don't always come along, so you snatch them up when you can."
Along with the Underdogs, Lachey is planning to record with many of the same collaborators from What's Left of Me. From there, he's keeping an open mind.
"I started out the last album in one place and ended up in another," he said. "It's kind of a journey, so until you've finally reached your destination, you never know what route you're gonna take. That's the one thing I've learned: Don't try and plan it out so much, just write honestly and perform honestly and whatever comes, comes."
Nick definitely plans to include several of those ballads, but beyond that is anyone's guess.
"One of the best parts about working on a new project is the experimental phase of figuring out how you want your sound to evolve," Lachey said. "That's always important to challenge yourself as an artist and a singer to grow and move in slightly different directions, while at the same time not losing the fanbase you've worked so hard to build up."
With recording under way, Lachey has set aside other projects, including the television and movie roles he has pursued in recent years.
"The acting stuff is something that will always interest me and hopefully the opportunities will continue to be there, but right now I feel like I re-established myself as a singer and re-established myself in the music business, so I want to continue to build on that and get back out there with another project," he explained. "Being on tour this past year and seeing the success of this record kind of reminded me and reiterated to me how much I enjoy the music business. That will always be, first and foremost, my passion."