All hail King Usher. The R&B superstar reigns over the cover of Billboard wearing a bejeweled plastic crown over his hoodie with the tagline, “Usher in a New Era.”
In anticipation of his upcoming tour, the 36-year-old father of two spoke to the magazine about his new album, protégé Justin Bieber, and relationship with girlfriend/manager Grace Miguel.
He has dozens of songs finished for his upcoming eighth album including ones with Skrillex and Diplo, but the project still doesn’t have a release date. Three singles have debuted including “Good Kisser,” the Nicki Minaj-assisted “She Came to Give It to You,” and “I Don’t Mind” featuring Juicy J.
His “UR Experience” tour, which kicks off on November 1 with supporting act August Alsina, will feature elaborate choreography, tons of pyro, and a 13-piece band that Usher refers to as his “funk-soul orchestra.”
“This will be one of my freest tours,” said Usher. “Shit, I’m singing love songs that went on to be baby-makers—and now the damn babies are in the audience. Talk about a family reunion.”
Read highlights from the interview below.
On Grace Miguel: “I have an incredible partner and manager. She has helped me through some of the hardest times in my life and my career. … One thing that has come from having a great partner like Grace is being able to cherish the places that I’ve gone. In the past I’d do what I have to do and get on the bus to the next city. Life has become a vacation.”
On his album, which was originally due this fall: “I just ain’t ready. Meaning I have more that I want to say and more that I want to do. My process is pretty different. L.A. Reid will tell you, it takes two albums to make one with Usher.”
On Justin Bieber: “Our relationship is more man-to-man now. He’s making his own decisions and it’s important to show support. I can say I’m not happy with all the choices my friend has made, but I’m supportive of him. I try my hardest to give as much positive reinforcement as I can. I’ll punch him in the fu**ing chest when I need to, and give him a hug and kiss when I need to. It’s more than just mentoring. I love the kid.”
On being mentored by Diddy as a teenager: “I’d say I earned my stripes in New York City. My time with Puff, it gave me chutzpah. I got to see performers like Tupac Shakur, Redman, Method Man, Ice Cube. I got to perform onstage with the Notorious B.I.G., be in sessions with him and Craig Mack. I got to be part of the driving force that was Bad Boy, that was Puff.”