“I have great taste because I’m a fan first,” says CeeLo Green. The Atlanta-born musician has been bending genres and blowing minds for two decades, from his early days with hip-hop legends Goodie Mob to making chart-toppers as part of the duo Gnarls Barkley and his own fascinating, eccentric solo career. He’s been a judge on The Voice, played the Super Bowl with Madonna, won Grammy awards and Brit awards and even provided voices for cartoons.
“I’m always an individual, even in those collective efforts. And I’ve run the gambit as far as music from one side of the spectrum to the other,” he says. CeeLo spoke to Vegas Seven about his upcoming Cleopatra’s Barge gigs, his musical inspirations and what makes a good show great.
You’re a very flamboyant performer—Las Vegas seems like a good fit for your style.
I love Vegas. Vegas is a city with so much class and so much depth in terms of our industry, in terms of entertainment. And I’m so fantastic, I’m so fabulous and flamboyant, so you hit the nail on the head.
And you’re performing at Cleopatra’s Barge, which is one of the last classic Vegas venues. Is CeeLo going to take the lounge to the next level? What can we expect?
It will definitely be a first. We know the history of this particular venue, the Caesars property, and Vegas in general. I think it’s exciting. I don’t really have anything planned—I mean I definitely have this shit put together, but we’re trying to be loose, leave some room for improvisation… I do covers, I do small talk and joking and having fun. I aspire for it to be more of a production than just a mere performance.
I don’t know who’s going to be in attendance, so maybe I try to put a little something in there from my Goodie Mob years, in the event that someone is from Atlanta or the southeast region. Someone is there because they want to hear something from Gnarls Barkley, and then some people don’t even know that I’m Gnarls Barkley. You’re going to have people who only know me from The Voice, so I have to make sure I give them excitement, give them energy, innovation. To me, those are all the makings of a good show, a good show in general and for any performer… that’s the art and the magic. I think people just go for good enough often, so I’m going for great.
What or who were your early musical inspirations?
My early inspiration was gospel. Of course, my parents were ministers and so church was something of a performing art training ground, really. So I had my fair share of Baptist church on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays cause that’s how much time I spent in church. In terms of voices—Jackie Wilson, Al Green, you know what I’m saying, Curtis Mayfield, Sam Cooke, Brook Benton [singing] “It’s a rainy night in Georgia.” That’s how I learned how to sing. Not imitate, but integrate. That spirit that lives in me, I have a ghost in me. And I’m dutified in it. I don’t just do it because I dare to be different: I’m just different, you feel me?
Did anyone else inspire you as a performer, in terms of showmanship?
I remember being observant and being in awe of that moment in entertainment—Earth, Wind & Fire or Elton John or Alice Cooper or KISS, where the fashion statement spoke as just as loud. So many other great performers—when I mention their name an image comes out, you can see them in your mind and you know that’s important, you feel me?
You’ve been on The Voice as a mentor, you’ve worked with a lot of young artists and you’ve got a lot of experience with different parts of the industry. Any advice for the aspiring musician?
I don’t feel like I’m an old artist, like I’m an elder artist at this point, 21st year in the game. I’m doing my thing, I’m still young. But if they want to hear what I got to say, it can be quite pleasant to have survived, to have retained and to reiterate some wisdom from my experience. … but other than that, I lead by example. I lived it. They know I’m sincere. It’s sweat, blood and tears and I think that’s clearly apparent.
July 21-22 & 28-29, 8 p.m., tickets start at $119, Cleopatra’s Barge at Caesars Palace, caesars.com