Pharrell Williams: Screen Test

In a video interview with W’s Editor at Large Lynn Hirschberg, Pharrell Williams cops to being girl crazy, confesses his musical crushes (as a child, he loved Joni Mitchell, and as a teen he “wanted to make out with Madonna”), reveals why he does his best songwriting in the shower, and much more.

Released on 5/29/2014

Credits

Starring: Pharrell Williams

Transcript

00:04
The first style of music that I remember hearing
00:07
was what my mom and dad used to play
00:09
whenever they were together.
00:10
They would play you know Earth Wind & Fire
00:13
with the windows up.
00:14
A lifelong mystery to me, were the stars
00:17
really twinkling that hard as I listened to those
00:19
Earth Wind & Fire incredible jazz chord progressions,
00:23
or was it the influence of
00:25
my father's favorite smell in the car?
00:27
The first instrument I ever played flat out were the drums
00:30
and it was a suggestion by my grandmother
00:32
because I used to line all of her pillows up on the couch
00:35
and I used to take her cake batter stirrer
00:38
and egg whisker things and play drums all the time
00:43
and she said why don't you play the drums?
00:45
And so in seventh grade I enrolled for beginning band
00:48
and she bought me my first snare drum and began there.
00:52
Walking down the street, I would always hear music
00:54
in my head, whether it was something that I heard before
00:56
or something that I was sort of making up to myself.
00:59
And I would always time it with
01:01
the sections of the sidewalks
01:02
and as I stepped over them onto the next square,
01:05
I would make a kick sound and then the next square
01:07
would be a snare and so it was
01:09
boom, snap, boom, tap, boom, tap.
01:13
You know how they say too cool for school?
01:15
I was too cool for school.
01:17
By that time, I was trying to make my way
01:21
into Teddy Riley's studio.
01:23
Teddy Riley landing his studio a five minute walk
01:27
from my high school was kinda like me telling you that
01:29
Jesus, Tupac, and E.T. are playing spit poker.
01:34
It's not the reality that we know.
01:36
When he came into the Virginia area,
01:38
he didn't move it to D.C. or the capital of Virginia.
01:41
He didn't move it to Richmond.
01:43
He moved it not to Norfolk or Chesapeake or Suffolk
01:46
or Hampton or Newport News,
01:47
he moved it to Virginia Beach.
01:49
But he moved it a five minute walk from mine
01:52
while I was in high school,
01:54
so when I look over my shoulder and I see how far I've come,
01:58
I understand this very clearly
02:00
that there's a calculation there.
02:02
I can never call what's gonna be a hit.
02:04
You know you're always walking around going
02:06
man that's gonna be a banger ahahaha.
02:07
Happy you know Happy, we were driving around in the truck
02:11
it was like four of us getting in the left lane
02:14
for no reason, ain't no cars up there.
02:16
We sang that song man for I wanna say maybe over an hour
02:20
because we got on the highway and just drove.
02:23
Like that's when you know that something feels good.
02:25
Oh man there were so many that I wanted to hahaha.
02:28
When I was young, like I you know
02:31
I want to fill up on Madonna.
02:33
And you know what, as a child I loved Joni Mitchell.
02:37
♫ Help me I think I'm fallin in love again
02:42
♫ Da da da da da
02:45
♫ Da da da da da
02:49
Her chords, her chords, her chords.
02:55
Man like
02:56
♫ You love your freedom
02:58
Joni Mitchell's chords were just like magical.
03:01
That kind of music got me all day long, any time.
03:04
As a child, every time I went in the shower like,
03:07
I would always hear songs and I would always see things,
03:10
I would always have like a vivid imagination.
03:12
It was much more vivid when the water was running.
03:14
Sometimes when I'm in the studio,
03:17
every once in a while, I don't do it often,
03:18
but every once in a while, I'll just have them turn on like
03:20
water sounds, whatever and I'll sort of pace the room
03:22
if I need it.
03:24
I was definitely a mixed up little boy.
03:26
You know I definitely had like my flat top haircut
03:29
in the 80s but you know I was also wearing
03:32
slip on checkered vans.
03:34
I had my skateboard but
03:35
I also thought Run DMC was the shit.
03:38
Skateboarding definitely gave me my lenses
03:40
for which I see life through still to this day.
03:43
Things are either real or they're not.