By Marc Snetiker
June 16, 2015 at 08:53 PM EDT
David Roemer

However you’re planning to listen to Adam Lambert’s The Original High—and trust, you should—you’ll quickly notice that the high-octave wails and showy vocals are in rarer supply than Lambert’s two previous studio albums.

Lambert, 33, actively sought a new sonic change for his decidedly softer album, which he recorded between bouts with Queen (a collaboration that resulted in a wildly successful worldwide tour). Though he isn’t entirely shedding his glam-rock shell, Lambert tells EW about his new inspirations for The Original High and why he hopes audiences will reconnect with the voice they first fell in love with on American Idol

Your new album has a more laid-back feel. What brought about the sonic shift?

I think it’s simply a reflection of where I’m at. I’m a little older, I’ve now established myself, I’m a little more comfortable in my own skin and in the industry. I don’t feel the need to prove as much or say, ‘Look at all the things my voice can do!’ What I want to prove is, hey, listen to this song. This is a great song, this is a feeling. I want to prove that I can connect.

Did you feel like you had to show off in the first two albums?

I don’t know if I had to, but I chose to. I wanted to. It was a conscious choice to kind of be ridiculous. And now I just feel like I got a lot of that out of my system. I’m not a new person—I’m still me—but I’ve grown up a little bit.  [But] I think I went further into an EDM thing than I’ve ever gone into. I mean, I’ve grown up, but that doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped going out. [Laughs]

There are still plenty of club beats on the album—do you feel more at home recording those?

I think coming right out of Idol, I was established as the guy that did the classic rock songs, so I felt at the time that my album needed to stay within that lane. But I love a lot of different kinds of music. On the first album, I tried on a lot of different outfits in a sonic way, and the second album, I got really experimental and explored pop-funk. For this one, I wanted to reflect the music that I love, the music that I listen to when I go out or when I’m at home or when I’m on the. One of the reasons that calling it The Original High worked is that the first time I heard dance music when I was a kid was in the ‘90s. I was like, what’s that? What is C+C Music Factory? And so in certain ways the album is kind of nostalgic and in certain ways it feels like it could be the future for me.

What did you learn during your time touring with Queen?

As an artist and a singer, it was a big challenge to step up and front the band for a tour. These are major songs that everybody knows and Freddie Mercury is a rock god. I didn’t want to get up there to try and compete at all, because I can’t, because it’s Freddie. But once I struck that balance between paying my respects and making it my own, I realized that we had nailed that and I was really excited. It won a lot of people over, and it felt like a victory. It felt like a really, really great accomplishment. It made me feel good about myself and gave me a lot of confidence and it reminded me why I loved singing and performing.

Did that translate when you went back into the studio for The Original High?

I think it gave me a renewed sense of…totally a high…and that renewed sense of confidence and the belief that I want to try something new.

To what extent are you a new Adam Lambert?

I’ve noticed that there are people who come up to me and they’ve kind of expressed without saying it that someone thought it was embarrassing to be a fan of mine. [laughs] Which I think is very funny. I think it’s because I’m the type of person that kind of has been unashamedly out in left field. I do crazy things and I have said crazy things and I have been completely over the top and so yeah, I wanted to kind of pull it back a little bit and I wanted people to be able to see my heart a little bit more and know the real me and the person that’s in all of that.

So what’s on the horizon, touring for this album?

I would love to tour the album but that’s probably a little ways away. I believe in the album and I feel like it’ll connect with people. Next year will probably be spent getting it on its feet and out there and performing songs on TV shows and radio shows and all the ways that I can share it.

Are you any closer to recording new material with Queen?

I don’t see that happening, to be honest with you. Not under the name Queen. To me, Queen is Brian May, Roger Taylor, John Deacon and Freddie Mercury, as far as recordings go. What we did on this tour was a collaboration. It was a beautiful opportunity to get up on stage with this amazing band and bring these songs to life It might continue, as a live collaboration, but what would we record? We’re not going to re-record any of their hits. That’d be sacrilege. That would be too weird. I think if we were to record new music, I don’t know if it would be under the name Queen. Maybe I’m overthinking it, but that’s just kind of my stance on it. But I was excited to snag Brian for my album!