In January, I met up with Coldplay in the studio in London, where they were into the final weeks of work on their hotly anticipated third album, X&Y (due June 7). During a lunch break, I sat in a Notting Hill park with frontman Chris Martin, who was underdressed for the city's chilly winter weather, having just gotten back from a research trip to Ghana with Oxfam friends.
A vegetarian, he shared some food with me from a nearby Asian deli. Though he kept nicking from my tub, Martin was eating light: ''When you've got all these photo shoots, you can't pile on the pounds,'' he joked. The singer has an easy way with a quip, but will never be accused of taking his music lightly, as the previous year and a half spent recording and re-recording X&Y has proven.
Martin's the kind of guy who deflects personal questions about his wife, Gwyneth Paltrow, and 1-year-old daughter, Apple, by asking you about your life and before you know it, you've rambled on for 15 minutes and he's gotten off scot-free. I did my best to keep him on course.
CHRIS MARTIN Where are you from?
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY Los Angeles.
MARTIN I think L.A.'s great. There are loads of lovely old houses. I watched The Aviator, and I like that era of L.A. Have you seen The Aviator? What did you think?
EW I liked aspects of it.
MARTIN [Suspiciously] You liked... aspects... of it.
EW All right, I wasn't crazy about it.
MARTIN Really? Wow! I was crazy about it. I loved it. But I'm not a journalist. God, you must be a harsh critic. I thought it was amazing.
EW Maybe you relate to Howard Hughes in some way? He's famous for reshooting Hell's Angels. You've been re-recording a lot of the tracks for your new album. I've had a couple of listening sessions with the tracks you've been cutting, and I've heard about 10 songs from the album at this point.
MARTIN Seriously? I'm sorry about that. None of it's finished, you realize that. It's gonna sound a lot better than that.
EW Hey, it sounds great to me.
MARTIN But you didn't like The Aviator, so who can trust you? We're trying to finish it, but there's just some songs that are missing the right energy or not sounding raw enough. The record still isn't finished, so that's why I'm loath to say specifically what it sounds like. If we end up having a very piano-y sounding record, it'll be because we've gone down the synthesizer route, and some soul has arrived, and then we brought it back to the piano. At the moment, on a couple of songs, we think we've gone too electronic, and we're just making it more real. There's definitely influences from electronica, but I would hate it if our album could be described in one [phrase], like ''It's an electronic album.'' Because it isn't at all, and it will be less so in a week.