Nelly Furtado | Today Online Interview

Unexpurgated: Nelly Furtado

by Christopher Toh
Published at 10:05 pm, August 12, 2012

Nelly Furtado not only looks hot, she has such a lovely tinkly voice over the phone that you can’t help but get drawn in by her tone and timbre. The singer will be here for a special exclusive showcase for Singtel AMPed customers on Tuesday night and she’s got a new album scheduled to be released next month, The Spirit Indestructible, and that was more than even reason for us to pick up the handset and give a buzz to the woman who’s so far managed to defy all sorts of attempts by the music press to pigeonhole what she does. And here’s what she had to say…

“I’m In Taipei right now. I have a concert tomorrow night in Taipei, then the next show is Singapore, then Manila and then Tokyo. I’m spending my month here.

You’ll be here for the SingTel Amped showcase – for those of us who haven’t seen you live, what can we expect? And what are your expectations of your show here – have you been to Singapore before?
My show is pretty eclectic, I’ve got lots of songs across the genres. I kind of have everything in my show. My show is like a smorgasbord of music, there’s a lot of fun, dancing, crowd reaction and emotional moments. But I always give it my all, no matter what size the audience is.

Is mixing up the genres an important thing for you? Like, you don’t like to be labelled as “R&B” or “pop” or “dance”?
I do think it’s important, I think, for me, it comes naturally. My influences are very eclectic. I don’t just listen to music in English, I also listen to Spanish or Hindi music. I’m very open when it comes to music. Even my melodies are influenced by various cultures. I think that’s part of what makes me eclectic.

The Spirit Indestructible, why call it thus?
It’s a very spiritual album. I kind of underwent an awakening in the last couple of years. Coming into myself again. It’s my fifth album, but I feel like the same person who put out Whoa Nelly. From travelling and being on journeys over the last few years have been really enlightening for me. I just have a lot of faith in the future, that’s why I called it the Spirit Indestructible.

Can you give us a sneak run-through as to what the album will sound like?
The new album is entirely in English, although I have one song that’s partially in Swahili – sung by a Kenyan boys’ choir, whom I met while on a trip to Africa with the group, Free The Children. I’ve done a lot of cross promotion with that charity as well. I have a tank top with The Spirit Indestructible on it, and the money goes to the new school that they’re building in Kenya. It’s kind of cool, like a lot of personal life have been inspiring certain songs and it’s quite a meaningful album for me. Out of all my albums, there’s an energy there that’s very present and full of adrenaline.
Sounds like you had a good time doing this… The albums are always a reflection of what I’m going through in my life and I think I was in a really great head space when I was recording the album. The bulk I receorded with Rodney Jerkins (producer) and I went into the studio with him after I went on a month-long camping trip – I was swimming in waterfalls and climbing mountains, very off the grid, just walking the earth – so I think my spirit was in a good space and I was able to let my creativity flow. So there’s an innocent sound on the album as well, very youth and innocent.

Was there any pressure during the recording where you felt you had to make this better than Whoa Nelly or Loose?
I think so. I think I diffused the pressure somewhat because of the SPnaish Alunm I put out in 2009. That was a good way to kind of explore my musicality in a different way and have something to offer for this one. I learnt a lot of things about songwriting, because I was collaborating with a lot of songwriters. I usually write on my own. For the Spanish album I had to collaborate to make sure I was making sense in Spanish! So it forced me to look at songwriting in a different way = these songs have to make sense, tell a story – it gave me a fresh outlook going into this. That took a lot of pressure away. For me it just takes time to say, OK, I can put this out. I had 40 songs, but we cut it to 12 for the album.

Has being a mum affected your songwriting? How so? Was being a mum also the reason for your philanthropic efforts with Free The Children?
That was a big impetus. I was lucky because I always wanted to attached myself to an organization that had meaning for me. And when I met them, it felt like this was the moment I was waiting for. It’s a very youthful and innovative organisation. Their admin rate is only 10 per cent, where most NGOs is 30 per cent. And they’re transparent about their finances. They’re all online and there are a lot of good people behind it. And I just felt connected. I brought my daughter to Kenya and she was able to meet a lot of the people that I had met and made some new friends. It’s been interesting. And it all sort of crossed over. I have a song on the album called Miracles, which talks about the miracle I’ve witnessed, seeing these people and being inspired to give hope for the future. It’s positive.

Many people still remember for your hit I’m Like A Bird, but do you ever tire of performing that song?
Actually no. It’s amazing, but I love it. It’s become more and more meaningful as the years go by. Only the other way, I was playing a show in Malta, and I got on early on at night, and there were a lot of dance acts on. And there was 50,000 people who seemed to really like the uptempo stuff, so I was like ‘uh-oh, I’m like a bird is in the set and it’s a ballad with piano’, and I was getting nervous. And then it was time to sing it, and by the end, everyone was singing it with me. I just think that’s the magic of songwriting. I feel very blessed to have songs like that which stand the test of time. You see young people singing it, and you go, ‘wait a minute, you were probably only about five when that song came out’. It’s a funny thing, but that song, I really enjoy singing. Believe it or not!

What would you say is the best thing about being Nelly Furtado right now? Is there a worst thing?
The ability to put this new album out, that it’s finally about to come out. In just five weeks’ time. And just getting to perform here in Asia. I love going to new places, I’m excited to be going to Singapore because I’ve never been there. There’s no time like the first time. Worst thing? I don’t know! I don’t like to complain about my job. It’s a pretty good one. I think I’ll sound like a brat if I came up with a bad thing.

You’ve been through a lot as a musician, but what would you say is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt all these years?
To keep your focus on the music and creativity and nurturing that creativity and artistic ideas and imagination. Just focus on your mission as an artiste, on the creative process, because everything else is like… it’s fine to have a hand in the business and know what’s going on, but you don’t want to let it take over your creativity impulse. Your creativity is what keeps people interested in you. So whatever it takes, stay creative. I think that’s key.

What is your personal philosophy of life?
I think it’s important to remain passionate about life and surround yourself with people with positive energy and to also seek balance in your life. That’s also something I learned the hard way. I’ve had moments where I’ve given myself so much to work at and you try to be superwoman, right, but you’re only human, right? We have to give ourselves a break sometimes.

And what would you like the Nelly Furtado legacy to be? What would you like written as your epitaph?
Hoepfully by that time I’ll have a larger repertoire of music and I just want to make a lot of music and so I hope I leave lots and lots of music. I just hope a kid, one day, will be shopping in an antique or vintage store and find one of my old CDs or vinyl or something and just kind of go, wow, and take it home and listen to it and have it inspire them to make an album. My albums are inspuired by all kinds of music, so even if someone finds and old recording one day and that inspires them to start a band – that’s all I want. Source: Today Online
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