"It's changed my whole world," says singer-songwriter/producer Bleu. "I have a completely new outlook on my career and my life. It sounds dramatic, but it's really true."
The gifted pop-rocker's effusive words don't refer to the creation of his dynamic, highly personal new album, Four. Nor do they reflect his work as cowriter with chart-topping acts like the Jonas Brothers and Selena Gomez. Rather, they convey his response to the astonishing generosity of his fans, who helped him raise $40,000 following the launch of his campaign on DIY fundraising site Kickstarter.
As a result of fans' contributions, he's been able to launch his own record label and put Four out himself in North America. (UK indie Lojinx acquired the rights to release the record across the pond.)
The financial offerings were accompanied by fervent good wishes. "I only wish I could afford to pledge more," goes a typical comment. "I want to help because you are giving me so much with your music," reads another, while still another admirer writes, "Loved your music for years—so glad to help in any way and be a small part of your work!"
Bleu was stunned by the enthusiasm of his loyal fan base, "I was playing a show a couple of weeks ago and told everybody about the whole thing," he recalls. "I started crying onstage."
The release follows on the heels of 2009's critically admired A Watched Pot (which suffered, promotionally, from big-label implosions far out of his control), and comes amid a flurry of cowriting and production projects. "I really enjoy working with other artists part of the time and then creating my own material," he says. "It keeps things nicely balanced."
What's more, Four demonstrates Bleu's decision to forego what he calls the "brass ring" of the pop mainstream in favor of pleasing those dedicated fans. "I made this record just for me and them," he says. "I just want to take more chances and make them—and me—happy."
Not that he's neglected his preternatural skill at crafting gigantic hooks: Four is packed with pop pleasures. But the lyrics of these effortlessly catchy tunes often find him venturing into more spiritual, and sometimes much darker, territory than ever before.