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Usher talks Super Bowl halftime show, new album and what's coming next

Usher talks Super Bowl halftime show, new album and what's coming next
Usher talks Super Bowl halftime show, new album and what's coming next 08:19

You might say that Usher has the world at his feet these days. From his home near Las Vegas, he can see the site of next week's Super Bowl, and a moment he's dreamed of for most of his professional life: headlining the Super Bowl halftime show.

"You know, everybody says they want to win a Grammy, or they want to win an Oscar, or a Tony, or an Emmy. A Super Bowl is something that everybody wants to play," said Usher. "And here it is. It happened."

And it only took 30 years. In case he's not on your personal playlist, Usher is a global superstar who's won eight Grammys, sold many millions of records and created what is essentially the romantic soundtrack of a generation. For the past year or so, he's been the hottest ticket in Las Vegas, with a residency that surpassed all expectations.

For Usher, it's all about putting in the work. Even after his show opened, he'd still practice hard, sleeping around four hours a night on average.

"It's pretty bad, but it's good," he said. "You know, my creativity just doesn't allow me to really stop. It's just, like, always going, always going."

 Usher said the greats who've come before him to Las Vegas are always top of mind.

"I mean the history of African Americans who had to perform here and couldn't go through the actual casinos…now, to be here, the residency, it's like, man. What a whirlwind," he said.

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Usher is preparing for his headlining performance at the 2024 Super Bowl halftime show in Las Vegas. CBS News

Born in 1978 and raised in Chattanooga and Atlanta, Usher Raymond IV started singing where so many greats got their start: the church choir. With his mother Jonetta Patton by his side, he entered talent shows and would sing just about anywhere he could find an audience.

"I was the artist, right, who basically stood on the corner and sang songs for change, right?" he said. "I didn't have the opportunity to kind of sit down and play guitar, but I could sing. I didn't actually collect change. I wish I would have, at least, got paid for what I was doing."

He was still a teen when he caught the eye of big-time music producer L.A. Reid.

"I managed to impress him so much that he asked me to be, you know, his first solo male artist, right?" Usher recalled. Reid signed him on the spot.

Seventy-five million records later, Usher is one of the biggest names in the business and, as of last May, an honorary doctor from Boston's Berklee College of Music. 

Usher got "that name" from his father, Usher Raymond III, who left home when his son was still young. The two connected years later, shortly before the elder Usher died of liver disease.

"We had some good conversations that maybe helped me understand, and maybe remedy some of the pain that I felt," Usher said of reconnecting with his father. "I feel resolved about it because I did get some answers that I needed. I was conceived in love, regardless to whether my mother and father managed to make it."

That was part of the closure Usher sought from their conversations.

"The other half had a lot to do with, you know, why? Was it something I did? Was it something that was done? Or, did you just not want me? Was I not good enough?" he said. "And one thing that he told me that was most valuable is, 'Where I know I couldn't be there for you, I prayed that God would.' So, man, I was like, 'Wow. That's…OK. I get it.'"

Safe to say his dad would be proud. Usher's album, "Confessions," went Diamond, meaning more than 10 million copies sold, and he's already trying to top it. This week, he'll release his ninth studio album, "Coming Home," just two days before his appearance at the Super Bowl. 

Talk about having a moment. He said the real challenge was keeping his Super Bowl appearance a secret from his kids.

"As of August, I knew. And I had to keep it a secret up until the grand unveiling for the world," said Usher. "And I couldn't let my kids know. So, like, any kind of documents I'm receiving, you know, we had, like, a code word that we would only talk on the telephone to let it be known that we were discussing 'Utah,' you know?"

Utah was the code word. When Usher was finally able to tell his family about the halftime show, he said it was like "Christmas."

"You don't get a chance to surprise your kids that often anymore. It's like, there's no fantasy moments," he said. Usher's kids had suggested in the past that he play the Super Bowl, and he had advised them "to pray about that."

A few of his prayers will be answered too. Usher actually dropped into the big show in 2011 with the Black Eyed Peas, but being the headliner himself is a pretty big leap. 

Usher says he hasn't settled on what comes next — he's testing the waters of a few different options. But right now, there is only one all-consuming thought. He's got a show to do.

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