CeeLo Green is driving around Atlanta when he calls to talk about his upcoming “Love Train” tour.
A few nights earlier, Green was boogying on Jimmy Kimmel’s stage as he and KC and the Sunshine Band became KCeeLo and grooved through “Mashup Monday” with the disco classic “Get Down Tonight” and Green’s “Bright Lights Bigger City.”
(Watch it below.)
The Atlanta soul singer giggles at the mention of the performance and launches into a string of happy expressions about the experience.
This is typical for the loquacious Green, a guy whose resume would require a dozen pages: solo singer, rapper with Goodie Mob, partner in Gnarls Barkley, former judge on “The Voice,” onetime reality show star (TBS’ “The Good Life”).
His many ambitions are matched by his outsize personality, which beams through the phone in a conversation that zigzags from his tour – which plays Terminal West on Thursday – to his latest album, “Heart Blanche,” to how he’s trying to get healthy to his Atlanta-based charity.
Buckle up for a chat with the pop culture maestro.
Q: You had a really specific idea for this tour, so what do you have planned for ‘The Love Train’?
A: It’s really about moments that show, ultimately, we are all one South. It’s a homecoming for me, going back to those intimate venues where you can be hands on and accessible. In Atlanta, I’m hoping to reconnect with old fans and family. I’m going to be doing all of my music, a mix from beginning to end, almost in chronological order.
Q: Will we hear any Goodie Mob?
A: Some, yes, but I didn’t want to lean on those songs too much because we couldn’t get all of the guys to do the run with me. And also, there is some interest coming across the table for some other Goodie Mob projects.
Q: What about the production of the show?
A: We’re doing the smaller venues due to their historic backstory, so I didn’t want to have an overproduced production. I wanted to do something a bit scaled down and intimate, otherwise it would defeat the purpose.
Q: Your latest album, “Heart Blanche,” really shows your love of pop culture – you even sample the “Taxi” theme on one song! Are you the type of writer who tucks things away when you see or hear them to use down the road?
A: I see those things as little messages in a bottle that resurface. Who else would (have those references) but me? It’s kind of ingenious and incomparable, a bit of an innovation on my individual part. It ends up being something charming and distinctive and a signature of mine. I soaked up TV from Carol Burnett to Andy Griffith to ‘Carter Country.’ So after all these years, to use a famous piece of music from (composer) Bob James (his ‘Angela’ is the ‘Taxi’ theme), was to give it another extension of life in song.
Q: What was the goal of the album? What did you want people to know about you and your music this time around?
A: I felt like I wanted to go back and come around full circle with everything I had been going through and I had a burning desire to be expressive and artful. I wanted to showcase that on this album. There were things I addressed or spoke about that could count against me, but people have found the album really sincere and genuine. I definitely want to touch people in a special place. Even after 20 years of selling albums and the commercial success I’ve been able to have, I’m still grounded in addition to being optimistic.
Q: Are you still involved in your (Atlanta-based charity) GreenHouse Foundation?
A: Absolutely. But I have to give credit – my sister Shedonna, she’s in it day to day and keeps it flying. I have that platform to inform people about green education. When I played the (Atlanta) Hawks halftime show (in December), they gave us a $25,000 donation for the foundation. We feel like we’re making a great deal of progress, but I have to commend her and the staff for their tremendous effort.
Q: How much time do you get to spend in Atlanta these days?
A: I’m in Atlanta a lot more often now than I have been the past five years. I recorded part of ‘Heart Blanche’ here. I do extensive traveling, but I’ve been fortunate to be able to come home and chill out and reconnect with the city. I love Atlanta. It’s still home. It has a nostalgic kind of effect on me.
Q: Do you still watch ‘The Voice’?
A: No, I don’t to be totally honest. I feel love for ‘The Voice.’ I still talk to (judges) Blake (Shelton) and Adam (Levine) and Pharrell (Williams) recently. We’re all cool. I do miss what I contributed to the show. I think I make the world a bit more exciting and social. I made myself unforgettable. Not a day goes by where I don’t cross paths with someone who watched me on that show. I may go back, though. They’re talking about getting the original people back together and I would love to do it.
Q: Would you return to Vegas to do another residency (Green’s “Loberace” show played Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in 2013)?
A: Over the last 20 years, I have been touring for so long. If I could secure something stationary, that would be ideal for me. Then again, it’s hard to commit because in one moment I could have another international hit to take me around the world. I do enjoy the residency approach to performing and stationary life. You can still carry on a somewhat normal life. You can do your workout, have dinner at a decent time.
Q: Speaking of that, you’ve been looking slimmer.
A: Thank you. People have said they’ve noticed. I’m in a healthy relationship and she has me more conscious of it (Green and Shani James were engaged in October). I’m getting older and you get that reality check. We have to sustain ourselves to be around for each other. I have people who depend on me. So I’ve been getting more home cooking, eating better and eating at decent times. A lot of times people associate overweight with overeating, but I don’t eat enough sometimes. I might be in the studio for 12 hours and not eat or eat at midnight, you know what I’m saying? TV does add on a few pounds. When people meet me in person, they see that I’m a lot more solid.
Q: Have you made any wedding plans?
A: It’s not even something we talk about. We wanted to commit to each other in a formal way, show the public. We’re just enjoying each other. We’ve both been divorced, so we’re cool. I think a lot of people fail to bring friendship across the boundary. I want to have a best friend and sometimes adversity challenges that ambition.
Q: Some of your peers have gotten involved pretty visibly with the upcoming presidential election. Is that something you might do as well?
A: No, not necessarily. I’m checking out everybody. With (Atlanta rapper) Killer Mike and Bernie Sanders, to see Mike be so articulate is so encouraging. Before Mike endorsed him, I didn’t even know who (Sanders) was. I’m up on the current events, but I have no personal connection with anyone. But I’m proud of Mike because he’s one of ours; he’s showing a lot of that civil service.
With Escort. 9 p.m. Thursday. $35-$40. Terminal West, 887 W. Marietta St. N.W., Atlanta. 404-876-5566, http://www.terminalwestatl.com.