The Grammy-winning artist speaks to Andrea Photiou about the love story which inspired her new music and an “overdue” return to her roots PUTTING IN THE WORK: Estelle
IT’S HARD to believe that Grammy winner Estelle, a Brit talent to be most proud of, has been in Los Angeles for over 10 years now.
Her sultry lilt now has a genuine American twang to it, which seems more pronounced during those times when she gets excited explaining the inspirations behind her latest project, an all-reggae album which is about to be released by one of the genre’s giants; VP Records this autumn.
The lead single, Love Like Our’s, is creating a buzz that hasn’t reached anywhere near its peak. The track features Tarrus Riley and will be included on this year’s influential, career-making Reggae Gold compilation album.
Each element of the song would not be out of place in a roots artist’s body of work, a testament to those who have forgotten Estelle’s collaborations with Buju Banton and Sean Paul to name a few reggae and dancehall icons. The London-born artist, whose work has spanned R&B, rap and more, feels that a exclusively reggae album was inevitable for her:
“At this point it’s overdue! When I mention in to my friends they were kinda like…’Uh…about time!’
“I still am [independent]- kind of! Essentially I’ve done a deal this time…it’s still my label but we partnered-up with VP. it made sense because they’re the best reggae label. I figured, who better to do it with? They know what they’re talking about.
HAPPY: Estelle looks forward to the release of her new album after finding faith in love
“The best worst thing that I do…the blessing and the curse thing that I do…every single record, in my head, it’s always approached from a reggae standpoint.
“I grew up listening to dancehall, Freddie McGregor…so first of all that’s where I go – I walk in and I’m like where’s the bassline? Where the drums?
“I don’t like records that sound light. I hate it when producers send me beats, or you go to a producer and the only thing that’s highlighted is the guitar, I’m like ‘I can’t feel this…I don’t know what to do with this’.
“I’m that person – I stand in front of the speaker [when raving], still! It’s a vibe.”
Speaking further on her affinity with the genre and how that manifests in her studio time, the 37 year-old said:
“I know what it’s supposed to sound like, what it’s supposed to feel like – when it comes out in the end, you’ve got to feel it.”
As well as being widely-regarded as one of the few artists that can credibly perform different genres with aplomb, a further example of Estelle’s versatility is her fledgling acting career which includes a long-standing voiceover role as Garnet on children’s series Steven Universe and substantial appearances in two episodes of Empire.
COLLABO: Estelle has teamed-up with Tarrus Riley for single Love Like Our’s
“The single [Conqueror] was out, Empire had heard it and wanted to feature it…”
The concept for the forthcoming album bears resemblance to the Empire storyline which sees the love story behind estranged exes Lucious and Cookie bought to life in a fictional album, When Cookie Met Luscious. When we point this out, Estelle exclaims;
“I will tell my mum you said that!”
Although the album had been conceived before her stint on Empire, Estelle admits there are similarities “with a less sinister background!”
“I’m not the divulger of my personal and private life…it was pretty iconic in the way they [Estelle’s parents] came together. I write songs that reflect my life but you’re not gonna hear me talk about it in detail on any blog or anything like that.
“The songs [on the album] came out a little bit more direct in the sense that – they [her parents] went through a wack scenario, people didn’t want them to be together, then they split up for 20 years and they both had like, whole other lives that neither of them that were really happy with; then they got back together…now they’re married!
WATCH THE OFFICIAL VIDEO FOR LOVE LIKE OUR’S BELOW:
“I had a perspective on marriage and love that was very like ‘Nah!’
“Based on watching my mum go through situations…I went through this thing of not believing in love, all my actions were letting me know that I didn’t believe in it, but even in the past four five years…watching them be together in the last 14, changed my perspective on it completely. I do believe in it, I see it, I see what I could be, I see what it should be…in the right context.
“I’m an African girl – my mum’s African – I was so scared I didn’t even wanna ask her if I could do this! I spoke to my dad too. I mean, I’m half and half [Estelle’s father is Grenadian], it’s a wrap! But if they said no …”
On maintaining a relationship with her mum all the way from the US, Estelle explains;
“I’m very grateful we can always talk about anything. I’m her oldest daughter and I’m very headstrong…I’ve lived abroad for 10 years. I’m just happy that we talk as much as we do and that we’re in each other’s lives as much as we are…I can call her and be like, ‘So ma…! You see this album..?’ And she was like ‘I like it, sounds so good, do it’!”
Loving the Hollywood life and the promise it holds for her, Estelle reveals;
“Part of the reason for being in LA was to audition and do other TV projects and I have about three in the works right now.
“I’m still excited about sun – I still get tremors!”
I’m just happy that we talk as much as we do and that we’re in each other