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Saturday, February 16, 2008

PollStar Magazine (Canada, 2000)

Magazine PollStar (November 27, 2000)

Pollstar’s HotStar of the Week
Monday, November 27th, 2000

Nelly Furtado was a free-spirited teenager, suspicious of the music industry and continually blowing off anyone who offered tohelp launch her singing career until a family gathering kicked her in the butt.

After performing one of her original songs, “Onde Estas” which appears on her DreamWorks debut, Whoa, Nelly! at her grandmother’s birthday party for about 60 relatives, her mother, who had always been supportive but never interfered with her daughter’s come-and- go decisions, said, “You know, if you want to do this, you should go for it.”

Maria Furtado was aware that Gerald Eaton, lead singer of The Philosopher Kings, had been phoning Nelly in Victoria, B.C., to come to Toronto to work with him. And as a member of a multi-platinum Canadian group that composed soulful-pop for Sony Music Canada, Maria felt comfortable giving her blessing.

Nelly was a D.I.Y. kinda gal who wasn’t afraid of success, but rather uncomfortable losing control of her art. “When you make independent music for so long, you’re just scared of all the paperwork and the music industry. I didn’t even want to sign SOCAN forms,” she chuckled.

“I didn’t really know what I was talking about. It took someone with the leadership and guidance of Gerald. I probably owe it all to him, pretty much, in deciding to do music professionally.”

Furtado, 21, said she always found singing to be as natural as breathing. Her first performance was at age 4, singing a Portuguese-language duet with her mother at a Portuguese church hall for an audience of 400. At 9, she picked up the ukulele at school and a year later, the trombone. Throughout her teens, she was drawn to traditional and contemporary music forms, playing in a Portuguese marching band and developing a “religious” infatuation with hip-hop.

Meanwhile, she kept books of original song ideas and for Christmas, received “kiddy recording gear,” she said laughing.

The first musicians she met were underground MCs and DJs who hung out in local parks and malls. She even wrote rhymes for a while. As grade 11 came to a close, she planned a visit to Portugal. During a stopover in Toronto, she hooked up with Tallis Newkirk of hip-hop group Plains of Fascination and ended up singing back-up on his Join The Ranks album.

After her summer vacation in Portugal, where she opened her mind to native rock acts like Os Del Fins, San Tose E Pecadores, and Pedro Abrunhosa, she finished high school in Victoria then returned to Toronto, forming a trip-hop outfit with Newkirk.

The recording project, called Nelstar, was validated when VideoFACT awarded the duo a grant for “Like,” but Furtado didn’t showcase the material live. She felt the whole trip-hop style was “too segregated,” she revealed. “I don’t know if it represented my personality enough and vocally, it wasn’t showcasing what I could do with my voice.”

She decided to move back home and registered for creative writing at Camosun College. But before she left, she performed at the 1997 Honey Jam, an all-female talent showcase held at Lee’s Palace.

“I had to perform to a DAT, which was not that exciting but I guess I blew everybody away because I looked unassuming. I was wearing jeans and a T-shirt, and burned into my song,” she remembered.

Little did Furtado know that Eaton and his manager, Chris Smith, had been invited to the showcase by her friend. Eaton immediately approached her to write with him. “I decided to cooperate because I knew he’d be a really good connection,” she said.

They went to Sony Music Canada’s writer’s room and co-wrote a duet and an R&B song. She recalled she was “overcome with this happiness of working with a professional musician.”

Once back in Victoria, she bought a guitar and started writing and performing at open mics around the city while attending school. The Philosopher Kings came through town several times. With some downtime ahead, Eaton, who had formed Track and Field Productions with bandmate/guitarist Brian West, insisted she book a flight.

Hooking up at West’s home studio, the trio wrote “My Love Grows Deeper Part I” also on Whoa, Nelly! and she knew this was the right partnership.

With a handful of Furtado’s world-influenced pop songs, including the current hit, “I’m Like A Bird,” and Smith as her manager, attorney Chris Taylor started shopping the striking young woman in late 1998. By spring, after meeting numerous labels in New York and Los Angeles, she signed with DreamWorks and continued making the album with Track and Field.

Still, Furtado hadn’t tested out the material live until she met with Jeff Craib at S.L. Feldman & Associates and insisted he get her on a few Lilith Fair dates in 1999 just herself with a guitarist. Marty Diamond of Little Big Man Booking obliged. In the summer of 2000, she held auditions for her band.

“I didn’t want the pop singer in the front and the band 10 meters in the back,” she said. “That’s not what I’m about. I’m inspired by bands like Beck’s, where everybody plays a role and they almost become caricatures and everybody feeds off each other.”

Furtado played a few quiet Canadian gigs before launching a full-scale American club tour in advance of the album. She has just wrapped up a promo trip in Portugal and Milan with the band. She plays a handful of radio shows in the U.S., then returns to the U.K. in the new year. A U.S. club tour kicks off 19th January in Seattle.


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