More than a decade after her solo debut, The Dutchess — which spawned five Top 5 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 after its 2006 release — the newly single Fergie, 42, returns with her soul-baring second album, Double Dutchess, out Friday.
Below, EW catches up with the star to discuss motherhood’s effect on her music, working with Nicki Minaj, and why she’ll never record only one genre of music.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: It’s been 11 years since you released The Dutchess, which included No. 1 hits like “London Bridge” and “Glamorous.” How ready are you to get this album out into the world?
FERGIE: I feel like I’m nine months pregnant. But as people were getting more and more disappointed that the album wasn’t coming out, it made me more motivated to put out something great. So of course I’m an overachiever and decided that I’m going to give everyone a full visual experience and do a video for every song.
You married actor Josh Duhamel (Transformers, Safe Haven) in 2009, and then in 2013 you welcomed your son, Axl. Is that why this record took so long?
Yes! They can keep banging on my door [to release an album], but I’m like, “I’m with Axl. I’m off the grid! Bye!” [Ed. note: After this interview took place, Fergie announced that she and Duhamel had separated earlier this year. “We are and will always be united in our support of each other and our family,” she said in a joint statement.]
How else did becoming a mother change your relationship with music?
Becoming a mom and getting pregnant reset me. I just got on my game. I’ve never taken on this much responsibility — I’m executive- producing [the album] — and I kept wanting to make it better and better. I wanted to strive for greatness.
You tackle a wide spectrum of genres on this LP, from the hip-hop sounds of “Hungry” to the tropical vibes of “Love Is Blind.”
The Dutchess was all over the place too. That album had all kinds of different styles, but the common thread was that they’re all organic to me. I can’t put out an album of just one style of music — of just what’s “on trend.” I would feel like a fraud.
You also teamed up with Nicki Minaj on the funky “You Already Know.” What was that like?
We’re both highly detail-oriented. I like when people are like that, because I can understand that. I can’t see something that’s unfinished and be okay putting it out. I don’t want to put out “okay” stuff. She and I just get along. I know she’s had beef with other people, but for me, she’s great!
What were your lyrical goals for the album?
There was a lot of emotional stuff that I needed to clean out from inside me. I really opened my heart on this album. I’m not holding anything back. It’s funny, because I would go to these different producers and I’d have this stack of composition notebooks. They’d be like, “What are you doing?” Everybody else texts, and I’m like, “Nope, I’m old-school, these are my life experiences here!”
It feels like you really went through something to get songs like “Love Is Pain.”
For sure! That song is not just about one person. It’s about several relationships in my life. It was nice to be able to focus on a feeling and really take it there. I went [for] big drama. That’s a big ’80s rock-anthem ballad. Like, get out the lighters!
Being in a high-profile relationship, though, means that everyone is going to make assumptions about the lyrics.
Of course, but some of these relationships [that inspired the songs] are not romantic at all!
In July, the album leaked onto the internet. How did that feel?
You know how they say, “God only gives you as much as you can handle?”
Well, sometimes I wish he wouldn’t trust me so much! [Laughs] That was like a punch in the gut. It was the same thing when I joined the Black Eyed Peas. I was so excited, and then everyone had their comments about how this girl is terrible. That just happens to be the way everything has happened for me in my life. I’m used to going to battle.