NEW YORK -- Bruno Mars was jealous of Amy Winehouse because he wanted to do what she did: release genre-bending songs that connected with audiences around the world.
"I felt like everything I've been saying, everything I wanted to do, she did it," the singer-songwriter-producer said in a recent interview.
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Winehouse, who died last year, won five Grammy Awards for 2007's "Back to Black," including album of the year.
"You couldn't put it in a box 'cause it could be played on rock stations, it could be played on rhythmic stations, it could be played on pop radio, and I've always wanted to make music like that -- that could be spread out, and can't be pigeon-holed to one thing," he said. "And they did it. Her and Mark Ronson."
Mars was signed to Universal Motown when he grew envious of Winehouse, who released "Back to Black" on Motown's sister label, Universal Republic. Though his record deal fell through, the crooner had a breakthrough in 2010 on Atlantic Records with his near-double platinum debut, "Doo-Wop & Hooligans." And this week he's releasing an album full of even more sounds with "Unorthodox Jukebox." It features Ronson, who has produced for Lily Allen, Adele, Nas and Q-Tip.
"(I was) not thinking about business or radio or politics, just doing what I love to do, and that's creating music," Mars said. "Whether it be a reggae song, rock song, a love song, the main thing was just to, whatever I was feeling, to try to capture that emotion."
The 27-year-old talked about his sophomore album, which includes production collaborations with Jeff Bhasker, Diplo, Paul Epworth, Emile Haynie and the Smeezingtons, the production trio that includes Mars, Philip Lawrence and Ari Levine.
Q. You and the Smeezingtons wrote your entire debut album. Why did you decide to reach out to other writers and producers on your new album?
A. Why not? That's when the fun comes in. Now, it's time to have some fun. Let's put the dream band together. ... I love their take on pop music. ... It was a big ole science project.
Q. Did you listen to the radio while recording the album?
A. No, not because I didn't want to listen to the radio, it's more because I generally, literally locked myself in the studio. Like, we were in the studio. In the dark. No windows. Nothing. Like, it got bad. Beard down to here (points to floor). Everyone smelled like cabbage.
Q. What's it like putting out an album following the success of "Doo-Wop & Hooligans"?
A. Well, I feel like you have to constantly keep proving yourself, and you have to constantly keep getting out there and showing them you're more than just that one song on the radio that's just playing. And that's what I had to do the first time around; I had to keep going out there and keep performing live.
Q. Lyrically, what made you write the song "Young Girls"?
A. On that song I remember feeling like an old blues man, and I wanted to talk about the young girls that are just giving me the runaround, and basically it's kind of the sentiment like you're looking for love in all the wrong places. It's very easy to do and I'm sure a lot of people have done it. You know, you go out every night and you're drinking and you're having a good time. There's a moment when you get lost; you get lost in the sauce! And you know, reality sets in and basically ... you can't be looking for love ... in nightclubs and being intoxicated.
Q. Your parents are also musicians. What do they think of your music?
A. They've been my biggest support, my mom and dad. No one believed in me more than they did. And I'm talking about some things on this album that are not the most comfortable to play for your mother (laughs). But she knows. She understands and I talk to her and I tell her if I don't write what comes to me then I become a cartoon. And she understands it and supports me 100 percent.
Q. Will you collaborate musically with them?
A. We are the world. Just me and mom and pops, my cousins in there. I mean, I'd like to. You know my sister sings, my brother plays drums in my band. My whole family is a bunch of musicians. So, when the right time comes, you'll see it on some kind of reunion tour, CBS special, "Behind the Music: Bruno's Family," trying to revive my career.