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Interview:
Fergie Hitting Big Outside The (Black Eyed) Pea Pod
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

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She’s a Black Eyed Pea. A solo artist. A model. An actress. And, in more than a few quarters, a hottie. And she doesn’t mind that at all. “Hey, I’ll take whatever positives I can get,” says Fergie, who’s No. 10 on Maxim’s Hot 100 Women of 2007 list and is riding a wave of success with her first solo album, “The Duchess.”

“But,” she adds, “first and foremost, I am a singer. I’m not the girl who’s going to look perfect all the time, and that’s OK.”

It certainly is with her fans, who have scooped up more than 3.3 million copies worldwide — nearly 2 million of those in the United States — of “The Duchess.” The album, which came out in September, has also spawned four hits so far, from sassy club bangers “London Bridge” and “Fergalicious” to more contemplative fare such as “Glamorous” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”

Fergie also has popped up on tracks by rapper Daddy Yankee and Satellite Party, the new band led by Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell, and contributed a cover of Heart’s “Barracuda” to the “Shrek the Third” film soundtrack. She’s a spokesmodel for the Candie’s fashion line and appeared in the horror/action film “Grindhouse.”

So stepping outside the Peas’ pod has been a success by any measure. But Fergie, who declares on the album that “It’s time to be a big girl now,” says she’s achieved much more than impressive sales figures.

“This is something I had to do in my life,” says the California-born singer, who was born Stacy Ann Ferguson and made her name as a child actor (“Kids Incorporated,” “Great Pretenders,” several Peanuts special voice-overs) and with the pop group Wild Orchid before bottoming out into a late’90s crystal methamphetamine addiction she overcame before joining the Peas in 2002.

“Being a solo artist is my dream. It’s really important to me to have my own voice. It’s something I knew I was going to do no matter what, and it’s finally here.

“But I’m glad it happened this way, with me being in all these bands first, because it’s made me a better artist and I’ve gradually worked up to this point as opposed to being thrown into it.”

Fergie says her goal with “The Duchess,” which came out in September and was executive produced by Peas leader will. i.am, was to “be true to who I am, which is why I included a lot of different styles on the album. Hopefully people can appreciate all the different sides of me.” She also wanted to step outside the whip-tongued fly-girl image she cultivated with the Peas and show herself to be a more versatile and “rounded” performer. “I think some people are surprised that I’m actually a singer,” she notes. But will.i.am was not one of them. “Fergie is real meticulous with her vocals and stuff,” says will. i.am (real name William Adams). “She’s, like, a perfectionist — ‘Oh, lemme hear it again.’ That’s what I like about her; she’ll push me as a producer rather than me pushing her as an artist.”

Fergie has actually been working on “The Duchess” since before she joined the Peas. The vocal on “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” for instance, was actually recorded as a demo in 2001, she says, while “Losing My Ground” was written during her Wild Orchid days.

But she freely credits her continuing tenure with the Peas for nurturing the artist that made “The Duchess.”

“It gave me the confidence to stick to my guns and say, ‘You know what? All this music is what I love, and if you have a problem with it, that’s your problem,’ “ she notes.

That said, Fergie acknowledges she was careful about how she rolled out that variety, making sure to lead with the familiar — like the provocative “London Bridge” and “Fergalicious” — before coming with the “deeper stuff.”

“It’s a gradual thing,” she explains. “I didn’t want to force that on people right away. It’s just too much.”

But she also hopes to give us more Fergie before “The Duchess” runs its course. Another single is certain, but the actual song hasn’t been determined, and she plans to be on the road throughout 2007.

Some of those shows will be with the Peas, including an appearance at the London Live Earth concert on July 7 and a special 15-show, 15-country tour at the end of the year. The other three group members are all working on their own solo albums, but Fergie doesn’t foresee any parting of the ways.

“The thing with us is it’s such a great family, and we’ve always been honest with each other,” she says. “I love the beauty of having both, because being a solo artist is my dream, and it’s really important to me to have my own voice.

“But I also love working with the Peas. I like both, and there’s no reason I can’t do them both.”



FERGIE, FURTADO FEUD: ON OR OVER?

Fergie and Nelly Furtado both come to town this week with a feud between the two pop chart denizens still simmering in the background.

The beef began when Canadian singer Furtado apparently took some shots at the Black Eyed Peas member on her 2006 album, “Loose.” Alerted by producer Scott Storch, Fergie “verified it was true” and countered with her guest appearance on Daddy Yankee’s “Impacto,” referencing Furtado’s hit “Promiscuous” as she sang “I ain’t promiscuous/I’m the realest chick in this/ I’m-a pull your wig back!”

“I had my chance to say my peace on that,” Fergie says. “I’m not a doormat, and I wasn’t gonna just let somebody call me out and not respond. It’s something that had to be said.”

Furtado noted earlier this year that she and Fergie had resolved the issue “face-to-face,” but both singers subsequently lashed out at each other again last month on “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest’s Los Angeles radio show. Still, Fergie calls it “a light battle” and doubts it will escalate.

“I think it’s over,” she explains. “I feel like we both said our things that we had to say, but we’re not trying to create this as some ongoing battle. It’s not about that. It’s just something we had to do between ourselves, and that was it.”



Fergie and Rooney perform at 8 p.m. Wednesday (June 13th) at the Fillmore (formerly the State Theatre), 2115 Woodward, Detroit. Tickets are available only through tour sponsor Verizon. Call (313) 961-5450 or visit www.fergie performances.com.

Web Site: www.fergieperformances.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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