TORRANCE, California — Newly brunette Jesse McCartney may have dyed his golden locks for an acting role, but it looks like the "Beautiful Soul" crooner is also channeling that new brooding demeanor onto his next solo album.
The 18-year-old has been writing tunes for the follow-up to his platinum debut, 2004's Beautiful Soul, since the summer. McCartney says his sophomore effort, which he plans to start recording in February, will reflect artistic and personal growth.
"Lyrically it definitely will be discussing issues that I've dealt with in the last two or three years, whether it be fame, fortune, my travels or stuff that's happened in my personal life," McCartney said on the set of "Keith," an independent film he's been shooting since October with "Pretty Persuasion" starlet Elisabeth Harnois.
"I was 15 when I recorded Beautiful Soul, so by the time this [new] record comes out — that was like four years ago — the material [on this album] will certainly ... have a little bit older appeal," he added.
J-Mac has previously said he wants the Neptunes to help him move in a grittier, more grown-up direction (see "Jesse McCartney Seeks Help From 'Insanely Brilliant' Neptunes"). But he's also been in talks with Ryan Cabrera and Ashley Angel — formerly of now-defunct boy-band O-Town — for writing contributions.
"I just want to work with everyone, just to see who I kind of jive with," McCartney said. "You never know what's gonna happen and who it's going to happen with, so you just have to get around and do what you can."
McCartney has penned four tracks for the disc so far, but he's not about to shed any light on them — willingly, at least. "I never discuss or sing any of [the album] until it's finished, but I unconsciously started singing one of my songs that I was writing a few nights ago on [the set of 'Keith']," he recalled, laughing. "Elisabeth asked me, 'Hey, what song is that?' and I was like, 'Oh, just this song I heard on the radio.' I don't want anybody to know about it because then I feel obliged to finish it, so it's kind of a tease."
For now, you can get your heartthrob fix with the newly released Live: The Beautiful Soul Tour, a document of his summer excursion. McCartney says it was important for him to showcase his vocal chops so he's not seen as only relying on image and marketing, like some pop tarts.
"I wanted to show people that there's a little bit more than lip-synching in the pop world because I think that's a common misconception right now," he said. "There's a lot of junk out there, and it's kind of hard to justify a point when there's a lot of pop singers out now — without mentioning any names — who don't sing."
Once he wraps filming "Keith," McCartney is planning to hit the road once again in January to promote his debut album, which just dropped in Europe after being out for more than a year in the States. After that he'll gladly move on to new material.
"You know, [I think] the first record is pretty much [stale]," he joked. "I've sang 'Beautiful Soul' like 9 million times."