His favourite colour is purple. He can seriously play the drums. And he drives the ladies on all continents wild. Canada’s biggest social media export, a rather jet-lagged Justin Bieber, arrives to the UK to promote his new 3D film, Never Say Never, and picks up a Brit Award. The global mega star, accompanied by his mentor and producer Scooter Braun and the film’s director, Jon M. Chu, talks about how he got here, his hair, his fans, his Biblical inspiration, love, and kissing Cheryl Cole. Are you ready for ‘Bieber fever’?
Congratulations on a massive US opening weekend and your Brit award [Best International Newcomer] last night…
Justin Bieber: Thank you.
Did you have a good time at the Brits?
Justin Bieber: I did! I did! I met a lot of cool people and I got a kiss from Cheryl Cole, so that was pretty cool.
When did the idea first come to you to make this concert documentary?
Justin Bieber: Well, I didn’t really know what was going on. It was kind of his [Scooter Braun’s] master plan and then I was like: “Yeah, I’d really like to do that.” And then all of a sudden this guy [director Jon M. Chu] shows up with a camera and he just starts filming me. I’m like: “Who’s this random guy filming me?” And he was like: “Oh, we’re making a movie.” And I was like: “Oh cool.” And then…
Scooter Braun: We originally had the idea… I wanted to do the movie but I wasn’t sure about putting it out in theatres, so we were going to self-finance it and go straight to DVD. I never wanted to make a concert movie; I always wanted to tell the story. And we had this concert… we actually blocked off the seats and were going to shoot the Garden ourselves [Madison Square Garden], and Paramount came to me and said they wanted to partner up, they liked the idea and then they said: “We want you to be with Jon Chu.” I said: “The guy who did Step Up?” They said ‘yes’. And I said: “No, no I want a documentary guy.” I was told by a friend of mine that Jon was a dancer. And that’s why I thought he was so great at shooting dance. I got on the phone and Jon said: “Oh no, no, no. I’m a film student, I’ve never danced in my life.”
Jon M. Chu: Unless you catch me at a Bar Mitzvah or a wedding, I will be on that dance floor.
Scooter Braun: But Jon said to me: “The reason I’m known for that is because that’s what they put in front of me and I want to be the best at what I do.” And if you see this film, Jon Chu is the best at what he does. So, he took our vision and made it one hundred times better.
Justin Bieber: He’s the best!
You had lots of archive footage and spoke with Bieber’s family before. How much did you know about this story before you got involved?
Jon M. Chu: I knew that the story was amazing in itself because I grew up in the Silicon Valley with technology. Then I saw Justin’s rise on YouTube… I was doing a couple of little YouTube videos. So, I knew that the story was fascinating about a new generation of kids that were being empowered by technology – not by a big corporation but chosen by the people themselves. So, telling that story that wouldn’t have been possible five years ago, I thought was fascinating.
How much footage did you actually have?
Jon M. Chu: Oh, that was insane. We had four terabytes of footage for Step Up 3D and three for Step Up 2, because I shoot a lot. This had 30 terabytes of stuff. I’ve seen every moment of this guy’s life! It’s a little bit weird!
How do you feel about that Justin?
Justin Bieber: It’s a little creepy [smiles].
All your baby photos are out there for everyone to see. Most of us hate having our baby photos seen by other people…
Justin Bieber: I’m OK with it.
How do you feel about making the transition to adulthood and avoiding going off the rails, which sometimes happens to other young child stars? And do you worry about your voice changing?
Justin Bieber: What do you mean? I mean like everybody’s voice changes so it’s not like its abnormal. There’s a lot of singers that have gone through the vocal change, like Usher, Justin Timberlake and Michael Jackson, Boyz II Men. So, it hasn’t been an issue for me. If you’ve seen my movie you’ve seen that my voice has continued to drop and it’s going to get deeper and deeper, so I’m not really worried.
And what about making the transition to adulthood?
Justin Bieber: Um, well I have such great people on my team to just guide me in the right direction. My Mum travels with me. They definitely keep me humble and sane.
And people like Usher, who have been there?
Justin Bieber: For sure.
The concert footage in the film looks amazing in 3D. But what was your initial reaction to seeing yourself in this movie in 3D for the first time?
Justin Bieber: It’s not really a concert movie but it kind of shows my story. It was kind of cool to see myself so big but at the same time I was a little… what’s the word? It made me feel self-conscious because your face is so big that you can see everything.
Did you have to make any changes to your dance routines to record the film in 3D?
Justin Bieber: No [pauses and laughs]. We added dancers but we didn’t really change anything.
What’s the strangest thing a fan has asked you or done? And what’s the strangest thing they’ve asked you to sign?
Justin Bieber: I’ve signed a cereal box before. And then the weirdest thing a fan has done… I’ve had girls get tattoos of my name and I had a mum get a tattoo on her back.
Scooter Braun: Wait a minute; we’ve got to explain that. So, the mum got a tattoo of the DJ, not him.
Justin Bieber: So, [what happened was] the radio station had a contest – if they got that guy from the radio station’s face tattooed on their back they got to come to my concert and meet me. It was really crazy.
Jon, were you prepared for the fans?
Jon M. Chu: I understood intellectually what it was going to be like, but emotionally, I had no clue how it was going to feel. It was insanity. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my life or could even imagine. There’s an energy… even when I don’t know that Justin’s in the room I can feel the energy shift and that’s something that I definitely felt being around him.
Do you think you’d be where you are today if it wasn’t for YouTube and Twitter?
Justin Bieber: It’s crazy… without the Internet I would never be in this place… without YouTube and stuff. But also I wouldn’t be here without any of my fans supporting me. My fans and I have that special connection because we’re able talk on Twitter and Facebook. We really have that one-on-one connection, so I think that’s what’s important.
Scooter Braun: He really feels like a celebrity unlike any other time. You can literally get like text messages via Twitter of what he’s doing during the day, or how he feels about something… Even before we first started this journey, we made a YouTube video, and people could follow us right along as we were making the movie. Then you see the movie, and after the movie, you can talk to us after. That’s a pretty crazy narrative experience.
I’m a bit worried because Bieber fever has gone right around the world…
Justin Bieber: Why are you worried about it [laughs]? That’s a good thing!
What’s the cure for Bieber fever? I mean, now that this film is coming out even more young girls are going to become addicted to you. Does that worry you?
Justin Bieber: Why would I worry about getting more fans?
But aren’t some of them crazy?
Justin Bieber: Yeah but they’re the ones that support me and they’re the ones that help me to be here so… Btw: there is no cure for Bieber fever!
How long does it take you to do your hair?
Justin Bieber: Five minutes. I just rolled out of the bed, and came here and shook my hair.
There are a lot of Bieber fans attending the film’s premiere at the O2. Do you have a special message for your London fans? And what do you hope they’ll get out of the movie?
Justin Bieber: A special message to my London fans is thank you for everything… for camping out and being so supportive, for buying tickets to my movie and just for being so cool. What I hope they get out of the movie is that whether you want to be a doctor, or an actor, or a singer, or a police officer… any goal you have, you just have to set it and never give up and always make sure that you always just follow your dreams.
Who’s your biggest role model?
Justin Bieber: Who is my biggest role model? Does it have to be in this day and age? OK, Job. Seriously! Do you want to know why? Job from the Bible… So, he got tortured, he got his family killed, everything was taken away from him – his job, his cattle, everything – and he still remained faithful to God and still trusted God after everything was taken away. He didn’t know why it happened but he still put his faith in God and remembered that everything happens for a reason. So, that’s why. Read the Book of Job.
In the film you’re seen with people around you almost all of the time. So, when was the last time you felt lonely or alone?
Justin Bieber: Um, I guess I’m fine with being by myself. I’m kind of an independent person, so I don’t get really lonely.
Do you get much time to yourself?
Justin Bieber: Not a lot of time to myself. I work a lot. But at night-time… that’s usually my down-time, where I get just to lay in bed and I go on my computer and check Twitter and all of that.
Do you ever get the opportunity to feel anonymous in any of the places that you go now?
Justin Bieber: Not really [laughs].
The reviews for the film have been amazing – you’ve said yourself you’ve been surprised by the reaction. Do you hope the film will convert people who have criticised you in the past?
Justin Bieber: I hope people go to the movie, whether they’re a fan or not, just to see the experience that I went through. It’s just inspiring, whether you’re a fan of me or not a fan of me. There are some people who are not going to like my music because it’s not their style of music… they might like rock or different sound of music. But if you see the movie, it’s just inspiring for everybody.
What did you want to convey, Jon?
Jon M. Chu: To me it was whether you knew everything about Justin Bieber or nothing about Justin Bieber we wanted to bring you his story because this wouldn’t have been possible five years ago. So, that was the main thing to show how these kids empowered themselves.
Justin Bieber: Also, I was on the Internet last night. I saw these videos of these guys [reviewing the film] and I thought: “OK, this guy’s going to hit on me for ten minutes straight, saying that I have ugly hair and I look like a girl and my voice hasn’t dropped and all this stuff.” So, I go to the video, and this guy’s saying: “OK, I’m not going to lie, I hated Justin Bieber and now after watching this movie it got me to really respect him.” That was really good to hear. That was cool.
We heard you were out very late last night, so what were you up to?
Justin Bieber: I wasn’t out late last night. I got in early. I got in right after the premiere.
Scooter said you were up until 8am…
Justin Bieber: I was but I was in my room and I was just lying there because I couldn’t sleep. At all!
What were you thinking about?
Justin Bieber: I wasn’t thinking about anything, I was trying to sleep. I was thinking about zzzzs. When I was lying down, nothing would happen. This usually works: I put on soft music and that still didn’t work, so then I was just laying there and trying to sleep. The time difference… because I was in LA. It’s eight hours or six hours. It was jet-lag. I was home early but couldn’t sleep.
You mentioned you saw Cheryl Cole last night at the Brits, so what did you talk about?
Justin Bieber: We didn’t really chat; I just gave her a kiss. We got right to business [laughs].
How did you feel about people always looking for any details about your private life? And do you worry, or are you prepared, that one day, all this could end?
Justin Bieber: No, music is my passion, so I feel like I’ll be doing this for a long time, and God forbid, if anything happens, I’ll still write music. So, I could write music for other people. I see myself making music for a very long time.
And what do you think about people trying to find out things about you?
Justin Bieber: Oh, on the plane ride here I was sleeping the whole flight and then all of a sudden two people claimed that I had been rude on the flight. But I was sleeping.
Scooter Braun: Wait a minute. Hang on. We have to explain that one a little bit more. When we got on a plane… who has been on a plane where you have to push the button on the side to move the seat side to side? Well, I kept doing that but Justin couldn’t figure out how to do his and I kept laughing with Jon hysterically. So, Justin decided to get up and go [makes a roar and pulls a face in mock frustration] with his chair and somebody called me afterwards and said: “Is it true Justin through a hissy fit on the plane?” We got a good laugh out of that. Actually, he also asked me: “Did Justin say he only reads Canadian papers and wouldn’t read any American papers?” I said: “No, his actual response was: ‘Do you have anything in Japanese? I only read things in Japanese.’ So, it always gets twisted.
Is there anything else you’d like to clear up?
Scooter Braun: He is not dead [laughs]!
Justin, Happy Birthday in advance. You’re nearly 17 and your songs are all about love, loss of love, yearning and unrequited love. So where does that come from in a 16-year-old?
Justin Bieber: OK, so some people say: “He’s 16, what does he know about love?” Have you ever had a dog? Did you love him? OK, did you have a dog when you were a kid?
Justin Bieber: OK, well this won’t make sense [laughs]. As a kid, you love your parents and then you get, like, 11 or 12 and you start seeing girls and you’re, like: “I like them. I want to see that person because she’s cute.” But you don’t really know the real meaning of love. But you think you do. And then you get a little older, you’re 14 and you’re in high school, and you still think you love them. But you don’t really know. You’re still young, so you don’t really know exactly what it means. So, you turn 15 or 16 and you have a little bit more knowledge on what it means because you’ve maybe had one or two girlfriends… I think love is like a learning process throughout your life. You learn how to be better at it and you learn more about it. I’m still learning. I’m not saying I know everything about love. I’m still trying to figure out girls… I don’t think you’ll ever fully figure out girls. You’re supposed to laugh at that.
Scooter, do you think Justin knows how to sing about love?
Scooter Braun: Alright, when we started making the records he was writing all this different stuff. When I used to listen to Michael Jackson as a kid, we all listened to the Jackson Five growing up, I think when you hear that voice from a younger person… the first thing when they’re singing about that puppy love stage, I think it reminds us of when we actually weren’t jaded by love and we actually believed in it. I think that’s why the music connects so well with people… not just kids but adults, because it reminds us of that time when we were hopelessly in love. We haven’t had that first major heartbreak. Someone asked me last night about his [Justin’s] whole transition… I think that what’s so great about Justin’s music, and I’ve heard the new records he’s writing, he’s natural. He’s turning 17 and he’s writing about the stuff that 17-year-olds are going through. It’s less about puppy love. He’s asking about life and I think that’s the great thing about music… it’s a timeline through our lives. So, when you ask about adulthood, it’s not like one day he’s a kid and the next he’s an adult.
Justin Bieber: Making that transition is not a process. It’s you evolve as an artist. I was 13 when I was making my first record. But now my music is going to evolve and over time it’s going to be changing. I don’t know what I’m going to be doing in five years. You could see me doing this [makes a rock gesture] but probably not, though.