LIVING HER BEST LIFE: Etana has many projects in the pipeline since splitting from VP Records
I’VE BEEN witnessing the emergence and development of Etana over the last few years and her movements have made an impression on me.
Undoubtedly one of the strongest characters in the reggae market at the moment, she is never afraid to speak her mind.
She has carved out a strong online personality for herself too, with a series of clever and engaging videos for fans including some acoustic sessions whilst in the car!
“We were just hanging out before an interview - I posted it and saw there was interest from people so I decided to them more often. Social media has made me reconnect with fans in a different way. To be honest we have always had to do it differently, but we think about it a lot more now”, she tells me, fresh from another big festival performance.
Her professional career has taken another new turn recently – she is now a fully independent artist after a seemingly amicable split from her long time home at VP Records.
“The contract (with VP) expired and I didn’t feel like just sitting around and waiting for an album to appear. They didn’t want to do things how I wanted to do them - they wanted to wait around a bit longer and I think I was worried about their marketing department and their strategy, so we parted ways in good faith. I was there for a long time so I felt I had become part of the family, but like most families not all the members got along! They have been very supportive;; we just have different outlooks on what needed to be done.”
So what does that mean for her career now?
“This is like a new voyage for me. Previously my management used to speak to the label about our strategy and the journey began there…now it’s down to me and I want to hear what my music is going to sound like and decide what we do. The EP is done, and we are looking at how we can maximise it in the market. It has seven tracks and I’ve worked with Rimshot from Miami and Wire from Jamaica who I have worked with before on “I Rise”. I also wrote and produced it to. None of the records on the forthcoming EP will appear on the longer album that we are planning.
Etana doesn’t suffer fools and her vision is very clear – that leads me to think she is something of a control freak – a point that raise much laughter when I brought it up.
“No, I’m not! (laughing down the phone) – I remember writing a track for the “Better Tomorrow” album, and the music executive from the label being in the studio and trying to give direction. In the end I told him he could choose the writers and I would approve the songs but I took control of the “I Rise” project and this new EP. I’m clear on what I want but I don’t consider myself a control freak.”
The UK is something of a second home for her, and a place where she has always received a warm welcome. This time she will be working with a new band
“I am working alongside elements of Morgan Heritage’s band”, she says, “Peetah Morgan spoke to me in Miami and convinced me to work alongside them to make the band changes on stage as simple as possible.”
I’ve been playing her excellent new single “My Man” on my radio show and she gets a vote from me on her subject matter and the style in which she puts her message across. She explained the motivation behind it.
“We recently had this period where we spoke about men being abusive towards women - obviously it isn’t all men, so I wanted to celebrate the good ones, the ones that are always there and attentive to their woman and children.”
“I was at Penthouse studios and Tarrus Riley played me his version of the tune and told me not to leave! I said to him that maybe I should write a track celebrating the good men and we wrote it there and then. I didn’t want every man to feel that women look at them negatively. I think that as women we need to set the tone and standard of how to be treated when you walk into a relationship.” An admirable sentiment.
As we close our conversation I couldn’t help but bring up a subject that caused some controversy for her last year. Etana went on record when being interviewed in Jamaica to say she supported the then Presidential candidate Donald Trump in the then forthcoming election.
The backlash was immense.
Last week marked the 100-day anniversary of Trump’s Presidency to date- does she regret her statement?
“I had no idea what the criticism would be like. I didn’t even think anyone in Jamaica even cared about it. I had just had a baby and heard a few soundbites from Trump and thought he could be the best person for change. I’m not following his Presidency – I think he is having a hard time in the White House, but the world is having a hard time dealing with him! I would rather stay focused on my music from here on in. I learnt so much during that period including rule number one – don’t talk politics with journalists!”
Let’s hope no one asks her about the UK elections during the tour!
Next week we speak to the Original Grammy Kid, Shabba Ranks, ahead of his UK show this summer