And he’s competitive too.
SB: Extremely. He’s an athlete.
Yeah. He and I, in France we were talking about boxing and stuff.
SB: The kid was a hockey player, basketball player, soccer player, and he didn’t tell anyone he could sing. He was known as an athlete when I found him, and you can see that in him. I grew up an athlete. You can see it in him.
He broke his foot, and everyone else would cancel their shows. He’s got to dance, and he did 14 shows with a cast on his leg and sold out all the shows. People have forgotten that the first time he rocked Madison Square Garden and JingleBall, remember JingleBall when everyone went nuts? He did the whole show with a broken foot and a cast on his leg. He really pushes himself.
He wants it more than anyone I’ve ever seen. I mean, he has his moments, as a teenager, when he slips a little bit. But nothing gets him on the ball like competition. He loves it. At the same time, he’s competitive with himself and with legends.
Stevie Wonder is the only artist that hit it this big as a solo artist this young. Stevie Wonder was in R&B within the United States. Justin became a worldwide phenomenon as a solo artist so young. That’s why, in a time when there’s camera phones, there’s Twitter, there’s Facebook, no one’s ever experienced the kind of pressure that he has.
He’s competitive with Michael. He looks at the other groups in his space, and he doesn’t look at them necessarily as non-competition, but he looks at them as part of the team. We talk about it. He’s like, “All these other groups, if they help music sell, I’m going to do well.”
So pretty much, music should be collaborative. Then, when he looks at who’s setting the bar and what he should chase, we only talk about Michael Jackson. We talk about Michael Jackson probably, if not every day, every other day.
That’s a great person to strive for.
SB: And we’re not saying he’s going to be Michael Jackson, we’re just saying that if you’re going to look at anyone who did it right, the man did it right.
Yeah. The thing that is different from him and Timberlake and even Michael Jackson, is that they got to grow up in a group. He has to do that alone.
SB: We talk about this all the time. Stevie Wonder is the only artist that hit it this big as a solo artist this young. Stevie Wonder was in R&B within the United States. Justin became a worldwide phenomenon as a solo artist so young.
That’s why, in a time when there’s camera phones, there’s Twitter, there’s Facebook, no one’s ever experienced the kind of pressure that he has. And I think he’s carrying himself well. He talks to fans every day, and they encourage him. They kind of keep him up.
Even with Timberlake, he had Chasez to be like, “Yo, we’re going to grow up...” The other members of the group were relevant, but I look at JT, and JC kind of said, “We’re going to ease into growing up.” He doesn’t have that, and it’s more challenging, I’m guessing.
SB: No. He turns to us for help, but it’s tough. You’re a 17-year-old kid trying to figure out what a 17-year-old kid is supposed to be, because you’re out there on your own. And the world’s looking at you to see what a 17-year-old kid should be.
I admire him for how he carries himself, through puberty, through emotions. It’s not easy. I’ve got to say this carefully, so that people don’t take this the wrong way. He didn’t grow up with a cookie-cutter, easy lifestyle.
He hit it big early, and he’s living an extraordinary life. But part of the reason I think he’s able to handle it, is because he knows struggle at a very young age. He comes from a place where he never thought, never even dreamed of leaving Stratford.
What kind of struggle are you referring to?
SB: His parents were very young. They were growing up while he was growing up. Then, you add in the fact that they don’t have a lot of money, you add in the fact that no one in his family had ever left Stratford, the fact that his mother had him at 17, and she’s been open about the fact that she struggled with drugs and alcohol as a young woman, and Justin kind of saved her life.
His dad has been open about the fact that, as a young man, he had his struggles. Justin’s growing up seeing this, hearing this. He’s in a small town, where people talk. Did you see on Ellen, where he went back to that school in Vegas?
I know what it’s like to feel like you don’t have a shot, and you’re not made to be anything special, and that you have to live your life as best you can right now, because there is no tomorrow.
No, I missed that, what happened?
SB: Well, what he said there—and they didn’t air it, but it had us all crying—was, “I’ve never admitted this publicly anywhere. I need you kids to hear something, so you know that you can make it. I used to steal clothes from the lost and found, because I didn’t have clothes. I used to tell my friends, ‘Look at this cool stuff,’ but the truth was I was stealing kids’ clothes and saying they’re mine. I never admitted that I was embarrassed that I’d have to wear the same clothes, and I didn’t want to. So I know what it’s like to feel like you don’t have a shot, and you’re not made to be anything special, and that you have to live your life as best you can right now, because there is no tomorrow.”
It was really moving. There were parents in the room that were really hysterical, because they came from a tough upbringing too.
No one really knows about that.
SB: No. I feel like the struggles that he went through isn’t for this interview. I think at the appropriate time, as an adult, he’ll talk about this stuff. He also had a good life. He had love. His grandparents are amazing people, too. His parents love him, and so he had this good balance. Because it was his every day, he wasn’t super aware that he wasn’t well-off.
He’s a very special kid, and my hope is that we’ve been very protective of him. The next phase is not only transition into adulthood, but just like a normal 18-year-old, he’s going to start branching out on his own, and I hope that he surrounds himself with the right group of people, that have his best interests in mind. Otherwise, I’m going to kill them. Not him, them. And then, I’m going to kill him, too. [Laughs.]