Singer, songwriter, and photographer Ingrid Chavez has had a career most artists could easily covet. Perhaps most famous for her work with Prince during the late 1980s and early 1990s, Chavez also cowrote “Justify My Love” with Lenny Kravitz, and has recorded and performed with Ryuichi Sakamoto and Japan’s David Sylvian, whom she eventually married. Soon after, she took a few years off to focus on raising their daughters. Her new project, Black Eskimo, is a collaboration with indie hip-hop producer Marco Valentin and an extension of their online radio show that focused on Neo-soul, Trip Hop, and Ambient music. In that spirit, they have created two EPs of catchy, hypnotic grooves called Deep and Heady.
We caught up with Chavez while Black Eskimo was in New York recently to master their first EP, Deep. The second EP, Heady will be released in the fall. Deep is available for download at Black Eskimo’s Bandcamp site, and is premiering exclusively on Vibe.com below.
VIBE: Tell us a bit more about this album and how it came together.
Ingrid Chavez: I have wanted to make this album for many years, even before I started working with Marco Valentin. My previous album A Flutter And Some Words is a beautiful set of songs and it really marks that space and time in my life but, I have been moving steadily towards a more honest portrait of who I am in all of my darkness and light. All of my work speaks of this life of ‘chiaroscuro’, and this one in particular plays in the shadows of the deep, heavy soundscapes that Marco has created as a canvas.
How do you look back on your days with Prince?
Working with Prince was like being in a fairy tale. It happened so naturally. We were Artist and Muse. Our friendship and work together took us both to a creative spiritual place that two very beautiful records were born out of, Prince’s Lovesexy and my Paisley Park debut, May 19, 1992.
A lot of people are unaware that you wrote Madonna’s “Justify My Love” with Lenny Kravitz. How did that come together?
Writing “Justify My Love” with Lenny Kravitz and Andre Betts was one of those moments when magic just happened. Andre got a beat going, Lenny recorded a synth line and then he asked me if I had something I wanted to say. I had a letter on me (my letters are like poems) and so I got on the mic and basically read the letter. One take and the rest is history.
After that, you wound up performing and developing a relationship with Japan’s David Sylvian. What was that experience like?
I thought that I had just died and gone to heaven when I was invited to join David Sylvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto in New York to record on Heartbeat and Cloud #9. Both artist were two of my greatest musical influences. After that recording session David and I became inseparable and soon after were married. We recorded an EP called Little Girls With 99 Lives, but soon after I found my interest was in raising our daughters and put music aside for several years.
Before this album, you had another solo album, A Flutter and Some Words. How does that fit into all your other work?
A Flutter And Some Words was the first full album that I had made since the Paisley Park release, May 19, 1992. I felt a newfound sense of creative freedom in making that record with Lorenzo [Scopelliti]. He brought a beauty to my life that was pure poetry. He sees the potential for beauty in all things and I learned a lot from him. He is an ambient artist and I am a song writer, what came out of that collaboration is a body of work that captured the warmth and golden light of Liguria and the snowy landscapes and backroads of New England.
How did you team up with your new producer, Marco Valentin?
After A Flutter And Some Words came out, I found myself wanting to dive a bit deeper into my heart and mind lyrically. I really wanted to write to something a bit more edgy and challenging.
What was the inspiration for these two EPs?
I was listening to the Massive Attack album Heligoland at the time when Marco got in touch with me via Facebook.
How did you produce this album?
[Marco] sent over some tracks and I was immediately attracted to his beats and sense of melody. We started sending recorded ideas back and forth via the internet and that was how most of this album was conceived. He finally relocated to New Hampshire where we spent the next two years recording and mixing this album.