If the stimulating visuals for “Make Her Say (Beat It Up)” are any indication, Estelle Swaray is cooking up some heavy hitters for 2014. The Grammy award winner has been in LA, New York and everywhere inbetween prepping Love & Happiness Vol. 3: How Stella Got Her Grove Back and an album all about l-o-v-e and its sub categories: passion, courage, “The Bullsh**” and True Romance.
We recently caught up with the Senegalese-Grenadian artist to talk about what we can expect and much more.
Related Article: New Video: Estelle ‘Make Her Say (Beat It Up)
Photo Credits: Uzo Oleh
Vixen: What’s different about this album compared to your previous work?
Estelle: This is a happier album. Someone described it to be as me being free. Not to say that I was ever tied up or anything, but just being free. It was like man, I don’t even care anymore. This is exactly how I feel with no edits, no trying to make it nice for someone to get it. I don’t think I was in a space to remotely entertain anyone’s idea of who I was. There are so many things to consider, but this time around I wasn’t considering anyone else’s version. So I said “look, this is how I feel today…and I’m going to write a lovely love song.” So that’s what this is—me on any given day, doing any given genre.
At the end of “Make Her Say,” we see Polaroid pictures with titles such as, “Passion,” “Courage,” “The Bullsh**” and “True Romance”– are those sub-categories that are going to be addressed throughout the album?
Those are four segments of the album. The idea of putting out this album and it just be pure sunshine after a breakup, I couldn’t do it. I wanted to write a bunch of songs about how I really feel and it all started to make sense and come together in those four themes. For example, we tried to find ways to say the bullsh*t, but we couldn’t think of any other way to say it but the “bullsh*t.”
Going around in circles, trying to stop yourself from feeling a certain way, even forcing yourself to feel a certain way. For “Courage” it was just being brave enough to address certain things in your relationship. You should have courage in everything that you do; we have one life to live. Passion goes into all three of the themes. You can be passionate about how you feel, you can be passionate in courage and you can be passionate in the bullshit—it’s something that we all have. I don’t know anyone who is really happy or who is really living their life that isn’t passionate about what they do.
What’s the most important element of a song?
A good beat; a good bass line. I’ve been in sessions before and people would be like “take the baseline out, and I’m like “Why?” I have my fall out moments. My father used to be a session drummer for a lot of UK reggae acts, so that’s where that comes from. My mother’s from Africa, so it’s like an inherited thing. On Sunday evenings, Soca and Reggae were always playing. I want to incorporate that in my records. With these pop records, people like to turn off the bass, but I can’t live on treble alone.
What kind of reaction do you want to see from viewers with the “Make Her Say” video?
I just want them to be open and understand where I’m going with it. I don’t want them to take it for sensationalism. I do want them to have a reaction to it, but I want them to really understand where I’m going with it. I could’ve done all black, all latex, in some fierce outfit—which is exactly what I was going to do. I decided to do something that was real and lifestyle. I wanted it to be something that everyone relates to. Everyone has been through a breakup, everyone’s had to get their shit back, and sex is always awkward the first time. This was about embracing yourself, however you feel.
Do you consider yourself a feminist?
Feminism is such a subjective term. Everyone has their own definition of feminism. I believe in being a woman and everything about a woman. I believe in all rights, I believe in equality and I believe in standing up for yourself. Be who you are meant to be. Feminism can mean something completely different to a lady in Dubai wrapped in a hijab versus to a lady in Afghanistan wrapped in a hijab because it’s two different cultures. I say just do what you have to do in the space that you have and if you feel the urge to change it, then change it…Shout out to Gloria Steinem and the women who had to do certain things for women to be where we are now.
Do you think that provocativeness is becoming a trend in Hip Hop and music lately?
It’s been a trend. [Lil] Kim and them started it. Before that, you had to turn up looking like a woman. Salt ‘n Pepa were like a big deal for wearing a bunny suit on stage. We shouldn’t be scared of it because this is what we were born with. Just make it relative. This isn’t a sex tape, this isn’t a porno. You see the difference between a porno and my video. Make it classy. I would say I could never have my legs up in the air or my tits out if I wasn’t making a record about it. I would have to reevaluate myself.
What is your favorite love song of all time?
“At Your Best” by Aaliyah, “Sweet Love” by Anita Baker and “Saving All My Love For You”- Whitney Houston, even though she’s singing about being a side chick.
Do you write your own music?
I do—the majority of it. I try to write as much as possible. I’m not the girl who will say “let’s go make an album…I want you, you, and you to write it. Now, go!” I can’t do that because I have to live it. This is stuff that I do. This is me singing. I start my album a lot of times with producers and people that play keys and guitar. We get the direction from that.
I’ll write something and we’ll all listen to it and change things around. I write when I’m listening to beats. I’m like a producer. I’m seriously involved in the entire process and that’s what takes so long. Between me and my team, we definitely go in to make records. The beat for “Make Her Say” just felt like sex and red lights, so that’s what I wrote and it came right out.
Considering how eclectic your music is, how would you describe your music?
Good. Real. Real good. I wake up on any given day and just make good sound. I’ve tried to do an R&B album and it sucked. It’s because of how I grew up. I grew up listening to rock, pop, reggae, indie, whatever you want to call it. Then we listened to Bares Hammond and Bob Marley. So we grew up with everything. That’s how I listen to music, so this is how I make it. I’m not able to listen to only one genre.
Are you a relationship person? Do you believe in love at first sight?
I am and I do. I’ve only been in three real relationships. I’ve had some really good sex in between, but those were the only solid relationships. My whole thing was I’ve watched and my step dad and my mom for so many years and to me that’s what a relationship was. I always knew that it was two people in a house figuring things out. Year’s later, she divorces him and gets married to my real dad.
I believe in love at first sight because my mom and dad told me how they met and told me that’s how she felt when she first saw my dad. My dad said that he was going to marry her and my mom wasn’t with it at first because she just had my older brother and she was about to go back to Africa. He persuaded her to stick around and then they had me. And 30 years later, they’re married. True love is not something you can run away from. It’s something I’ve seen in my family and I believe in it, absolutely.
If your sex life were a love song, what would the title be?
“Any time, Any Place” by Janet Jackson.
What is the biggest turn off of a lover when you are about to get intimate?
Biggest turn off would be expecting me to make the first move. I like to be a woman, so you better do something. I’m not here to be an aggressor.
What’s the most romantic thing someone has ever done for you?
I wanted a particular dessert. And this certain somebody went out to get it for me. I was having a long day of running errands and recording and I was craving my favorite treat. And before I knew it, he came back with it. I just thought it was so sweet.
What advice would you give to a couple that is trying to spice things up in the bedroom?
Role-playing is awesome. A lady should go out of her way to find out all the things that her man likes and just surprise him one night. If you’re always in sweats and a tee shirt for bed, you should try getting that entire French maid outfit and some stripper heels. It will be funny because you don’t know what you’re doing. Role-playing is so much fun!
How would you describe love in your own words?
Love is that unseen unspoken resonation with somebody. The bullsh*t, the courage and all that stuff, you’ll go through it because you love that person. To me, it’s knowing that that’s who you are supposed to be here for. You’ll go through everything for that person.