Presence: The Voice coach Will.i.am. Photo: Marco Del Grande
As the four coaches on the reality TV show The Voice chase talent on the show's cavernous stage, William Adams - better known to his fans as Will.i.am - insists that all is fair in love and television.
''Is it really a competition?'' the Grammy and Billboard Music award winner asks, easing into a chair in his Los Angeles office. ''I choose not to look at it that way.''
The contestants ''want to have a career, [so] what can I do to help them on their way?'' he says. ''How can I help fine-tune something special they have? The four coaches, we have our careers. And if another career can come out of the show, that makes our industry healthier.''
Adams, 39, has been the frontman for the hip-hop/pop band the Black Eyed Peas since 1995 and has also recorded four solo albums. In 2011 he joined the British version of The Voice as a coach and this year (with fellow Voice UK alumnus Kylie Minogue) joined The Voice Australia, replacing outgoing coach Seal (while Minogue replaced Delta Goodrem).
He admits candidly he did not expect The Voice Australia to deliver top-tier talent. ''I thought they were going to have good singers but I didn't think they were gonna have 'What the f---, did you hear that?' I didn't think that was gonna happen.
''If I had to judge The Voice UK versus The Voice Australia, Australia has better singers. That was surprising. Surprisingly awesome.''
His relationship with Australia, he says, is long-standing and meaningful, noting Australians embraced the Black-Eyed Peas before many other countries.
''I have been going to Australia since 1998, that was the first place we [the Peas] were ever successful.
''Our first gold record, our first platinum record, came from Australia. That's where we went to tour all the time. Big Day Outs. And then our own little tours, at the Metro, in Adelaide, Canberra, Brisbane, Perth, doing our little runs around the country.''
Walking onto the set of The Voice Australia, the new coaches found easy camaraderie with established coaches Joel Madden and Ricky Martin, Adams says.
''I think we all have a natural chemistry,'' he says. ''Kylie and I have chemistry because of The Voice UK and it's hard not to have chemistry with Kylie, she's a sweet, huggable, cuddly, snuggable, 'let's watch TV and eat marshmallows' kind of person.
''Joel is the kind of person it's hard not to have chemistry with because he's just fun. And Ricky is nice. I don't think we're competing against each other; we're mindful of everyone, we respect everyone's opinion.''
While The Voice Australia continues to deliver titanic ratings to the Nine Network, the most common criticism of the talent show genre is that it attempts to pump talent from an ever-diluting well, and that it delivers artists who are too derivative of iconic artists, at the expense of genuine musical artistry.
But music, Adams says, has always been simultaneously inventive and derivative. ''I think we've always had originals and duplicates, right?'' he says. ''It's not just right now, it's always been that way.''
While much of the new season's PR focus was on Kylie Minogue's return to Australia, Adams has generated enormous attention. Some have even suggested he's more popular with the show's female demographic than Latin lover Martin.
Adams pauses at the suggestion, and then breaks into a wide smile. ''That's because they like Vegemite,'' he says, laughing.