Justin Bieber Talks New Music, First Love Selena Gomez, Rick Rubin & Monkeys

Justin Bieber’s new cover story with i-D magazine sees the 21-year-old opening up about his new Purpose album, his former girlfriend Selena Gomez, real talk on the music industry, his manager Scooter Braun, and more. A shirtless photo shoot accompanies the profile.

Notwithstanding Wednesday’s leak, Bieber’s latest interview comes before the official arrival of his first adult pop album, Purpose — which, based on what’s online and the released singles — is a cohesive mix of juggernaut dance pop anthems, reflective lyrics, and inspirational, tea-spilling, or lovesick acoustic songs, threaded with a deep vein of R&B that strikes its own distinctive sound.

Bieber’s lengthy interview with i-D reveals more than a few gems as he talks about growing pains, past missteps, and where he is now. With all eyes on him a day away from dropping Purpose, the pop prince enters a new hard-won era in a career that has never seemed more vital built for longevity than now.

Here are our five highlights from the feature.

1. A magical first love with Selena Gomez:

“I think with that relationship … I put so much of myself on the line with her,” Justin tells the magazine, referring to his ex-girlfriend, Selena Gomez. “Because I was so distant with everyone else.”So it’s like, you have the world who’s loving you but it’s not like they know my heart — they don’t know me. So when I found that love I was just like, ‘Woah, I want to hold on to this.'”

The heartthrob continued, “And I just put everything into it and in reality there’s just no holding back. You’re just like, ‘This love feels so good.'”

“It’s like, magical,” the Canadian explained. “There’s nothing like it. So I felt that, and I just didn’t want to let it go. When it was hard, I was just like, ‘I want to stick this out. So it was on again, off again, on again, off again… We were working out how to be in a relationship, how to be ourselves, who we were, in the middle of having people judge our relationship through the media.”

“I think that really messed my head up too,” he admits candidly. “Because then, it’s like trust and all this other stuff that starts messing with your mind. You’re on the road. And there are beautiful women on the road. And you’re just getting yourself into trouble.”

Selena Gomez Finally Over Justin Bieber

2. “Who’s Snoop Dogg?”

Not just one of the burning questions of our time, but a question Justin Bieber while talking about the idea of weed.

The singer admits that, during turbulent periods of his life, he was unhappy and “numbing my pain with other stuff.”

But, as many shamans might attest, Bieber also says he learned a lot about himself while high. “You just figure out what you want to be and who you don’t want to be. You have all these questions, and you start answering these questions.”

Given the media’s tendency to inflate anything Bieber does into a much bigger thing, and given previous public hysteria over evidence that the hitmaker has smoked weed, his view that any hypothetical habit should be kept strictly private is an understandable one.

“I mean, honestly, it’s just about perception,” he said. “At the end of the day, there are people who don’t think that’s good. And if they don’t feel that’s good then I don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable. So I’m not going to put it in their face.”

Justin added, “You’ll never see me smoking. Because that is not who I am. If it’s something I do then it’s something I do, but it’s not who I am and what I want to put on blast for the world to see. Like, who’s Snoop Dogg? That’s the dude who smokes a lot of weed. That’s become his identity almost. And I don’t want my identity to be anything but who I am and what my music is portraying me to be.”

3. Rick Rubin, Om, and Justin Bieber makes perfect sense:

Rick Rubin, the famed founder of Def Jam isn’t just widely regarded as a genre-crossing pioneer, he is also known for helping artists get the best out of themselves by showing them to control breath and mind through meditation. Earlier in the year, Bieber spent a week and a half rehearsing at Rick Rubin’s Malibu studio with a live band. Nothing from those sessions made the cut on Purpose, but Bieber didn’t come away empty-handed.

“We did a lot of meditating. We prayed together. We got pretty close pretty quick,” the singer recalls. “He makes people feel valued when they’re in his presence, which is really a special quality.”

Justin added, “I’m working on that right now. When I’m in any situation, I want to make the person feel valued. Really engage with them.”

“It’s been hard because there are so many people that always want something. But I’m getting better at it.”

Justin Bieber Rick Rubin
(Photo: Bieber with Rick Rubin in a pic taken in January, captioned "With the man Rick")

4. Justin’s monkey love still burns bright:

Back in March 2013, Bieber was given a baby capuchin monkey, “Mally,” by a buddy for his 19th birthday. Unfortunately, that pal didn’t give his famous friend the correct travel and health documentation, so the monkey was seized by customs officials when the singer flew to Munich airport in Germany ahead of a Believe Tour show.

Noting that the whole owning-a-monkey thing might seem odd to some, Bieber insists it wasn’t.

“It wasn’t a weird thing for me. Obviously people looked at it like, ‘Why does he have a monkey?’ But if you could get a monkey, wouldn’t you want a monkey?… Come on! Let’s not look at that as a weird thing, that’s a pretty cool thing to have. It’s a monkey!” The singer told i-D.

Justin went on, “I was like, I’m not going anywhere without the monkey. I went to Germany and they were like, you don’t have the right papers. I had brought all the papers that I thought I needed but apparently I didn’t have the right ones so they took my monkey.”

Elaborating, he mused, “Really, I can see why Michael [Jackson] would like monkeys. I don’t see anything wrong with having a monkey. I might get another one.”

For the record, the Biebs is aware of Mally’s sanctuary home in Germany and believes the monkey is happier with his own kind.

5: Bieber believes his collaboration with EDM titans Skrillex and Diplo was God-sent:

On collaborating, Bieber says he has a sense about who’ll want to work and who won’t. “I’m super aware of people and I don’t think I would ask someone that I knew wouldn’t want to,” the singer notes, adding, “I’ve got a good gauge of who I can ask. Usually they do.”

Of “Where Are U Now?” he gives the wings beneath it to a higher source. “I completely see that as being God. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to all this stuff, and then the direction that it went in? That was definitely God”, Bieber says, “Because you never know when you have a hit.”

Bieber previously revealed he had written a lot of darker material three years ago, at a time when he was in a darker state. He reveals, “I was in a different place and my music was reflecting that. When you’re in kind of a dark place you’re singing about kind of dark things. “

He adds, “I don’t know if I’m ever going to release it. I probably will later. But I wanted to come back with hope.”

To read i-D’s full interview, click here.

[Images via Alisdair McLellan / i-D]