Editor’s note: With live music and concert reviews on hold due to COVID-19, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is focusing on how Georgia musicians are spending their time in our new feature, Mic Check.
When talking to CeeLo Green, it’s usually best to just stay out of the way and let the entertaining, loquacious fellow share his thoughts uninterrupted.
Green, who is readying the June 26 release of a soulful new album that honors his roots – “CeeLo Green Is Thomas Callaway,” which he worked on with Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys – has been staying with his family at “a safe and social distance” near Peachtree City the past few months.
In a recent conversation about the upcoming album – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution will have an extended feature on Green next month – the singer talked about how he’s been spending time and the enduring effect of Little Richard.
Q: What have you been up to the past couple of months?
A: We had a chance to get a sense of normalcy while still having compassion for people who might be less fortunate. We do travel collectively and separately and, not to say that we enjoy not having a choice in the matter, but it was an opportunity to hit a hard reset and express to one another your thoughts, hopes and fears. Just to pass on some ideals and information, work out together. My son is a producer, so he’s been making new tracks and working with some old samples. The wife was cooking every day, and I’ve enjoyed being able to walk the yard and get some air. Stuff that should be normal on an average day. We embraced it as an opportunity as opposed to an ordeal and with an optimism that we practice in our everyday logic and thinking.
Q: What do you miss?
A: We’re social, and we like having villages of people around, especially when we’re home. Other than that, everything was compensated with a rich quality of life and an appreciation of going back to the basics. I look around, and I see my son and my wife and food and laughter and positivity. There’s television, too. I haven’t looked at TV in years! We watched the entire “Breaking Bad” series and all of “Ozark.” I cannot find it in me to complain. I’ve always been satisfied with my career and comfortable in my skin. I have exceeded more than I could have imagined in my wildest dreams. I’m so confident in that, and that’s a peace that a lot of people don’t have. I want to share (those feelings) with people who might be a little disheartened. I want to be able to teach and to counsel.
Q: What are you listening to?
A: I’ve been going through oldies. Earth, Wind & Fire, The Emotions, Al Green — I listen to that regularly. I made a cool playlist of some things I thought were relevant, like (The Ramones’) “I Wanna Be Sedated,” (and) Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me.” To me, nothing is better than the ‘80s, like Culture Club and Duran Duran. Those are always the heights that I aspire toward, when music wasn’t segregated or discriminated against.
Q: I remember when you moderated a Grammy event with Little Richard here a few years ago and said you were going to refer to him as “father” for the night. His death must have been difficult for you to hear about.
A: I truly don’t know a musical life before Little Richard. I don’t know who could have inspired him because he was the first to do so many things, and then he instilled those things in other iconic people. I got the news (of his death) and was like, wow. We talked on the phone a couple of times. You don’t want to be bothersome. But when I was with him, I knew he was in some pain from hip replacement, but still joyous. The fact that he even acknowledged me was a gift that will remain…Little Richard saying my name, touching my arm, reaffirming me to me. His opinion is the law. I must have done something right in my life.
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