"Man, it must be something in the water."
It's that common refrain Pharrell Williams hears about all the talented people who come from his hometown of Virginia Beach that inspired the prolific hit maker and 12-time Grammy winner's latest project: a massive three-day festival unlike anything the city has ever seen. Stretching miles across the Virginia Beach coastline, the very first "Something in the Water" festival featured everything from local businesses to big name sponsors and even a pop-up church service open to the community.
As "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King explored the festival grounds with its creator, it was clear that in Virginia Beach, Pharrell is the ultimate hometown hero. For him, this festival is about more than entertainment.
"I feel like there's just been so much, like, divisiveness in the air," Williams said. "In our country. The spirit of division ... We have to come together and not only celebrate our differences, but recognize that, you know, through celebrating each other we can do great things."
Williams said his vision for the festival is for people — and corporations — to be inspired.
"'Cause we have a lot of CEOs, CMOs, CBOs, CCOs flying down here to look around to see what's going on and see the incredible opportunity here. For them, listen, we have wanted, as an area, the NCAA championship to come here. And we've not gotten that opportunity yet. But who wins the NCAA this year? UVA. So for us, it's like this is what we're doing this for. We just want to raise the awareness that, like, Virginia is here and we are open for business."
"We're like a cul-de-sac in the middle of the East Coast of America," Williams said. "And we've had our people, but we've never really congregated in a way where it – you just see us as a unit. So we had the ambition to do things differently. You know Timbaland as he makes music, he makes it very differently. I mean, look and listen to Missy Elliott, you know? She's very different. We celebrate our differences. So we just wanted the opportunity to do that here and have music be the thread but not the entire fabric."
When it came to music, Williams delivered an all-star lineup, many of whom were longtime collaborators over the course of his career. Despite his long list of titles — which includes record producer, record executive, fashion designer, entrepreneur and A&R representative — musician, he said, is the title that will always come first.
"Music has been the skeleton key to open every door for me," Williams said. "So as a musician, which that word comes from, you know, one who listens or is informed by the muses, which were angels, like, we are interpreters. So it's like having that thing, having that gift and being able to share that gift with people, complete strangers, regardless to what they think politically, regardless to how they feel religiously, it's the one thing. It's, like, music is a unifier."
Williams elaborated on something he once told King, which is that when he makes music, he sees it in color.
"It's much more common than you think. I think most musicians have synesthesia. Us musicians and artists we call it a gift because it's what helps us to sort of identify with what it is that we're feeling. You know, they call the blues the blues for a reason, you know. So, like that's, it's kind of always been, you know, part of, like, the musician's vernacular to associate colors with music."
Williams said his favorite color is yellow. It's the color he says he saw when he created what some might call music's happiest song: "Happy." The song and its music video became a global sensation but Williams admitted he was over it at one point.
"But you just have to accept it, like, the universe has handed you this gift, you know, that's helped so many people," he said. "Because I wrote that thinking CeeLo was gonna do it, you know. But as the universe would have it, it was me. So I'm super grateful. You know, it's only when you think it's you with the juice, is when you start getting caught up. And there are people who are the juice. Beyoncé is the juice … You know what I'm saying'? Jay-Z is the juice. I'm the straw. I'm the — I'm the antennae."
Williams recently tweeted: "Pinch yourself often because it's the only way to assure yourself that you're awake."
How often he does it? Every day.
"Every day I wake up. God is the greatest ... I was raised in Atlantis Apartments, not even a mile from here on Section 8. And now we are on this section of the beach. I'm super grateful," he said. "And still to this day my best verses come from my shower or, you know, when I'm swimming or when I'm next to water. Here we are looking at, you know, this beautiful ocean which represents life. And yeah, I pinch myself all the time. I never forget where I come from. And that's part of the reason why we're here, you know. It's because this is where I'm from. You know, this is a pinch being here."