The Weeknd doesn’t give a lot of interviews, but the Scarborough native (real name: Abel Tesfaye) is opening up to Billboard in a rare — and quite extensive — interview that finds him covering a lot of ground.
In the interview, he gets candid about how he’s had to overcome stage fright when performing live. “I used to be very nervous, especially about performing on TV,” The Weeknd admits. “It’s usually just nerves when somebody sounds bad. People who become famous for singing are usually pretty good at singing. I think being known helps the nerves. Now, when I step out at the American Music Awards or on ‘Saturday Night Live’, I have fans. Before, I was just some indie R&B singer and I had to prove myself. You could hear a pin drop in some of those TV stations. Now, people come out and buy tickets. I hear them scream my name, so I know I’ll be fine. They want me to do well.”
He also talks about his latest album, “Starboy”, which he admits is the most ambitious project he’s ever attempted. “When I was making the early stuff, I never expected it to be so big. I was in my own kind of bubble. I never wanted to tour, I just wanted to create music and make a diary I could put out into the world. And sometimes I became the characters. I like to look at it like a film — for every director, every film is different, with different actors, different emotions, different plots. The other albums always had a theme. On this album, every song has a theme, is kind of its own cinematic piece.”
In addition, The Weeknd reveals the songwriters he most admires. “For me, Bill Withers is at least top five among songwriters. His [‘Live at Carnegie Hall’] album is even better than the studio ones,” he says. “It’s all passion. I also love the Chromatics — they were a huge inspiration for ‘Party Monster’.”
Now that the Canadian star is ensconced in Los Angeles, does he encounter problems dealing with the ever-present paparazzi? As he sees it, evading shutterbugs isn’t as tricky as some celebrities lead us to believe.
“I believe that if you’re always getting paparazzi, there’s something fishy going on,” he says. “I go out, and they’re there sometimes, but I don’t tell the whole world I’m going out. A couple of times, they caught me. I had a few new cars, and I wanted to drive them. That was a mistake. They literally followed me from Beverly Hills all the way down to Hollywood. If I had a great car, with my old hair, it was hard. Now? It’s a breeze. I just put the hat on. My life is one hundred times better. I respect the paparazzi, it’s their job, I got no beef with them. Luckily, for me, my career is putting out the hits and interacting with the fans. I don’t need pictures of me being generated all the time.”