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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Revista T (Portugal, Março/Abril 2008)

Revista T (Portugal, Março/Abril 2008)

Nelly Furtado Sem Preconceitos
O último álbum apresentou-a sexy como nunca, e a mudança resultou em cheio: sete milhões de discos vendidos e novas nomeações para os Grammy. Nelly Furtado foi a artista mais ouvida nas radios portuguesas em 2007.
Texto João Alexandre
Fotografia Mark Liddell: Click Here

Friday, May 9, 2008

Missbehave Magazine (US, 2006)

Missbehave Magazine (US, Autumn 2006)

Her Love it’s like whoa! – Nelly Furtado talks about her baby daddy, blowing up, and finally getting Loose.

Text: Andréa Duncan-Mao
Missbehave Photoshoot: Click Here
We’ve all heard the old adage that children change everything. Usually, it’s partnered with complaints from new parents about sleep deprivation, lack of a social life; loss of financial freedom. But for most, it’s just a new way to look at life—and themselves—knowing that the world is bigger than once thought. For a pop culture reference, think back to Madonna’s 1998 Ray of Light album—the one right after Lourdes—where she radiated energy, creativity and sensuality. The petulant provocateur that cursed on Letterman, kissed statues of saints and got her S&M-laced, quasi-lesbian videos banned from MTV, finally seemed content—dare we say settled—in her newly curvy frame.
A similar metamorphosis has happened to our girl Nelly Furtado. It’s been five years since this daughter of Portuguese, working-class immigrants became the hottest Canadian export since Ginger Ale. Propelled by the whimsical hit “I’m Like a Bird,” the British Columbia-born, Toronto-bred former trip hopper and hotel maid’s debut album Whoa Nelly! earned her a Grammy and sold an over 7 million copies. Her natural beauty and quirky fashion sense—part Frida Kahlo, part b-girl, part downtown hipster—and lilting voice endeared her to legions of fans, Hollywood agents and Madison Avenue, who all wanted a piece of pop’s Next Big Thing. But instead of basking in the glow of fame and success, she turned inward, and in 2003 released a darker, more emotional second album—the somewhat lukewarmly received Folklore. The album’s heartfelt lyrics were inspired by the changes happening in her life and in her body—as the entire project was created while she was pregnant with her daughter, Nevis, now two and a half (the father is Nelly’s former boyfriend and bandmate, renowned turntablist, DJ Lil Jaz).
Now, the once wide-eyed flower child is back with a new attitude and a daring new album. Produced almost entirely by Timbaland, Loose is a cohesive collection of upbeat, dance-inspiring tracks that incorporate sounds as disparate as 80’s new wave, hip hop, reggaeton, R&B and traditional Latin ballads. And if you can’t tell from the name, or song titles like “Maneater” and “Glow,” or the steamy video for the single “Promiscuous,” Ms. Furtado has also gotten in touch with her, ahem, sensual side.Gone is the down-the-middle hair part, replaced by tousled highlights. No more modest skirts and hoodies, this Nelly’s all about bare midriffs and skinny jeans. In pictures and in person, she exudes the unflappable confidence of someone who knows just how much she’s capable of, in her eyes, the twinkle of an artist who knows they’ve made that album. On a cool Spring day, as she was gearing up to begin her worldwide promo tour for Loose, Nelly took some time to talk to Missbehave about life as a single mom, rollin’ like a rock star with Timbaland and how Crunk Juice might just be in her future.
How is it to be back in the saddle again after taking some time off between records?
You know, I don’t think I really took time off, I was just taking the time making the album, ‘cause I was having so much fun having my cake and eating it too. I was traveling around the world, with my little toddler, having a great time, kind of hanging out and having fun all day and at nighttime, getting to record with some of the best producers in the world.
Speaking of producers, you worked with Scott Storch, Pharrell, a lot of different producers, but Timbaland wound up being at the helm. How did that happen?
The president of my label, Jimmy Iovine, said, “You know, you should work with Timbaland again. You guys had something going [with the remix of Missy Elliott’s, “Get Your Freak On”], and you never really delivered on your promise. You did that song and left everyone wondering when you were going to come out with that sound again and you never did.” And it was funny because when Timbaland and I did that remix, it was kind of like a breakthrough, because for one little song, for one little remix, I got tons of respect and accolades. People would come up to me and know me from that song and it was incredible. And in the American hip hop world, it earned a lot of respect for one little remix you know? And it was really neat. So he played me some of Tim’s new stuff and it was like, wow! He was totally on the same wavelength as me – we just tapped into this vibe and it just got really artistically intense and fun and exciting. Timbaland kind of brings out the dark side of me and when I say dark I don’t mean negative, I mean like the mysterious side of who I am, kind of more magical side of me – it can be very seductive, you know? I think he just captures that musical part of me that is most seductive. So, we were coming from a really cool place. And we were so caught up in the music, we wouldn’t stop to eat. We would eat standing up and just keep working.
So how did Timbaland have time to get so diesel? He’s almost unrecognizable in the video.
Umm, Tim, he wakes up, he works out for like, three hours and then he works out for another three hours and then he does dinner or showers or whatever and then he comes to the studio and then chills, goes to the club, comes back and listens to music – he has a good life, a rock star life. It’s amazing because a lot of these musicians these days are really conservative and they don’t really live rock star lives but like, Timbaland, Scott Storch, Pharrell, they’re the ones living it up! First of all, they’re far richer than any other artist so they have a little more money to burn so it’s just so fun to be around them, they’re so entertaining. It’s like going to an amusement park, you know?
I’d imagine your life is a bit rollercoaster-ish now. What’s it like, now that you’re at the fever pitch of promotion, to balance the professional demands and the demands of being a mom?
It’s basically like being on a teeter-totter at a hundred miles an hour, like up and down, up and down, but like, I have help, you know? Luckily, I have a co-parent, her dad, who’s amazing so [it’s] between me and him and all the family and friends around who help reach out. I grew up watching my aunt in Portugal raising 8 children and my grandmother, she had 10 children. My other grandmother raised 8 children. So, I’ve grown up watching motherhood just be a part of life, not be this separate corridor that you have to walk down.
Nevis’ dad, Lil Jaz, was also in your band. That sounds complicated.
He’s probably the best DJ in Canada, hands down, one of the best DJs in the world so I was blessed to have him on stage with us because he’s extremely musical but he’s moved on to other projects, his major project is being Nevis’ father (laughs). There are amazing pros to the situation. It’s nice to have two artist parents too because when the parents aren’t working, they’re time is like, totally devoted to the child ‘cause the artist’s schedule is not a 9 to 5 schedule. So that’s really nice for Nevis as well. And I’m always reading about the subject and staying educated and staying informed, as much as I can. I guess you just have to do your best in life, you know? I kind of go, “Okay, things didn’t work out.” And that’s okay.
How has motherhood influenced you as an artist?
The major thing that happened to me was vulnerability. I think that the vulnerability that you get when you become a mother and you’re suddenly responsible for this little being and it’s like the floodgates of love open up and you just feel like, at one with all the mothers of the world and you feel more akin, more connected to everybody, like connected to humanity – sounds kind of corny but it’s sort of like this cool little club that you’re a part of. And I think for me it was like, okay, I have a family, I’ve got to provide for my family and I also want to show her a good work ethic so all of a sudden I got more serious about my job like, this is a job and I want to do it well, more professionally, like show up on time and things ‘cause before I was kind of like a little stick floating down the river, you know? And my manager used to tell me, “You have no goals. You’re just in it for the thrill.” And I was, when I first got into music, I’m not gonna lie, part of it was just for the clothes and the boys. [Laughs.]
Don’t think you’re gonna have a problem with boys. You’re showing a lot of skin this time around.
Yeah, it’s funny ‘cause I think it’s an inner sexuality that I’m expressing, like an inner confidence. I always loved the way that groups like TLC and Salt n’Pepa and even Mary now, you know, and Janet did it at a certain point in her career, kind of expressed their sexuality in a really fun, kind of, in control kind of way. I breastfed and traveled around the world with [Nevis] for two years and after that I was like arrhh! I was so tired, my body was so tired and I took a little time off and then I got my body back. It was like, oh my gosh! A new, improved body! I have curves! There’s curves for a reason, you know? Like I understood womanhood more and I think that’s probably what that sense is on the album so what you’re hearing is this new sound, like, celebration more of myself.I’m a little more about taking action now – experiencing life – good and the bad. Like if I’m at a photo shoot and I’m like, what looks good on me? This looks hot, let’s shoot it! It’s a different attitude now, I’m more assertive and way more to the point with people. I don’t try to sugarcoat things like I did in the past – people I work with, I’m just very like, clear and upfront – I don’t mind disappointing people anymore – not so protective of everybody’s ego.You know, I think you spend a lot of your life, as a teenager and growing up, just trying to be perfect, you know, fit in and try to do the right thing. I think for a long time you’re like, “I don’t care what anybody says”, but you really do care. And I’m at the point where I genuinely don’t care what people think.
Which seems to be very different than the mindset you were in for Folklore.
The success thing can be kind of daunting and you kind of want to reclaim yourself. With Folklore, I was dealing with those issues of like: how do I go from [being a] chambermaid to my first house purchase being a mansion. Just like how my first interview was with Vanity Fair and my first TV performance was with Saturday Night Live. It was like, how do you deal with all of that? I was dealing with that, going, “Ohh, okay. What does this all mean? Where do I come from?” Kind of dealing with my roots so I could move forward. I come from a small town, and a small town is always kind of, subconsciously trying to pull you back into that mentality of like, not being good enough. So now it’s kind of cool because I’m just appreciating where I’m at and going, “Hey! I’m blessed and I’m so lucky to have this job so let’s make the most of it!” Life is just so short and you never know when everything is going to be taken from you. Like, in a way, it feels like my first album coming out again, it feels like a whole new career or something, it’s really weird.
You are very involved in your Portuguese heritage and social causes, yet you’ve gone for a lighter, apolitical vibe on the new album.
I like the idea of doing the socially conscious stuff outside the music, like in my own time you know, attending different charities and doing work in other fields. But—and I know it sounds so crazy but I’m enjoying being the pop star right now. Before, I didn’t enjoy it as much. I shied away from the limelight because I didn’t have skills. I didn’t get to go to Mickey Mouse Club. I didn’t know how to pose for pictures or how to talk in sound bites. All these things are skills and they make your job in showbiz easier and I fought it for a long time like, “Bob Dylan didn’t talk in sound bites.” I had this very punky attitude, but now I have a little more of a practical, adult attitude like, “Okay, if this helps me through the day, will make the finished product better, than I’m going to go for it.” And that’s really changed a lot of things.
So nowadays a pop star has a clothing line, perfume and acts in movies. Is that in your future too?
I was resisting the complete branding of me, for the last 6 years, but now I’ve opened my mind to how great it can be and [how it can be] such a sense of self-expression, you know? I think I was focusing on the negative side of having multiple careers but now I’m more confident as a person. Like, when I first came out, I got all these scripts to me. It was a combination of me not liking the scripts and me feeling like I was stuck as an extra. So what happened two years ago was that I started acting lessons. I have an agent and I keep looking at things so definitely, I want to make an appearance in something that’s really fun for me. And as far as clothing lines and all that—before I got offered all sorts of things, you know, deals for modeling campaigns and I turned down every single thing and now I’m just in a different mind frame. I’m ready to take over! No, I’m just kidding (chuckles). No, but for me, it’s gotta be organic. If it feels like, “Okay, it makes sense”, or if I like the people involved with it or…
Right – It’s not going to be like, “I’m going to endorse the Nelly cigarette”.
Exactly. Because you have to look at yourself in the mirror at the end of the day, you know? I don’t think I’ll have my own power drink or anything like that.
No Crunk Juice for you?
Probably not, but I understand why people do it, you know? So who knows? Never say never.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Nuvo Magazine (Canada, 2006)

Nuvo Magazine (Canada, 2006)

Nelly Furtado

And this bird can sing.

A crisp afternoon in the city, snow abundant, a few kids shooting hoops regardless in an otherwise empty lot, a CD player accompanying them, almost all stuff from the rap charts. On Nelly Furtado’s new record, more metaphorically than literally called Loose, there is a true musical affinity with this music, an understanding of it, accompanied by some grateful folk touches and some resolutely pop sounds. As Nelly enters the studio for some photography, she is singing something she just heard on the street, sits down for some styling, and she’s beautiful, that’s for sure.

The new record is strong from start to finish. Each song has a distinctive introduction, some studio banter, a few seemingly random chords that suddenly come together, but never a straight-ahead slam into the song. Each song also ends in a unique way, whether it is a coda, some comment about the jam, or most often some instrumental work to bring it out. These are Beatles trademarks, extra incursions of creativity and intelligence into what is all too often a homogenized product: the popular song.

The record is on the studio sound system while Nelly is being made up and dressed for the photo shoot, and between tracks she sings a bit of “I’m Like A Bird”, the song that basically launched her career into the pop stratosphere. “That was so long ago,” she laughs. She is thoughtful about her music of the present, the direction it’s taking, and agrees with my Beatles analogy: “We really tried to give this an organic energy, jamming and singing and constructing the songs. But after we got it to a certain stage, I wanted to give every song something else. So we worked on how to bring them in, and how to end them. And the arrangements, you’re right, they are sparse. That’s because I wanted everything to stand out, nothing to get lost. When there is tabla, you should really hear the tabla.”

She is remarkably patient with the lengthy make-up process. “In the early days, this really bugged me. Drove me crazy. But it didn’t take me long to realize that it’s much easier to go with it, it’s part of the business, and you have to do it. It took too much energy to fight it.” She has her own, particularized sense of style, wears almost anything with great flair, adores costume jewellery, but looks pretty amazing in Chanel cutoff jeans. “The hair takes awhile. I’ve had a child, so it’s thinning a bit already,” she laughs again. The hair stylist shares a few points on volumizing, but basically says what everyone in the room is already thinking; her abundant hair is just fine, and the session rolls along. The thinning hair comment, though, is representative of Nelly. She is bright and a bit brash, totally self-aware and confident, and a straight shooter, although very much on the articulate side of the ledger.
“We really tried to give this an organic energy, jamming and singing and constructing the songs. But after we got it to a certain stage, I wanted to give every song something else.”
While photos are being taken, an advance copy, almost a rough cut, of Sam Roberts’s Chemical City rushes out of the studio speakers. Nelly responds to some songs more than others, often dancing between shots, clapping her hands in time, or tapping a thigh. “Oh, what’s the name of that one? I love it,” she says at one point. (The track is “Bridge to Nowhere”.) It must seem like a long way from her suburban Victoria neighbourhood, where she ran a touch wild with a group of friends and musicians, many of whom have had success in the industry as well. And Nelly has a lot of loyalty to those days and the people who inhabited her world. Luisa Duran, who is today applying make-up, was one of those high school friends. (“Nelly called one day, and said, ‘Hey my new record comes out soon, and we’re going on tour. 18 months. Want to come along?’ I said absolutely, and here we are.”)

Back in the make-up chair for touch-ups, Nelly thumbs through a couple of earlier issues of NUVO, sees Céline Dion and smiles: “She knows how to reach her audience, doesn’t she?” No doubt. (Not that Nelly considers her own audience to be necessarily the same, but the advance hype surrounding Loose is pretty intense, and her label, Universal, believes they have a hit on their hands. I’m sure that is true, and there is so much crossover potential here, from genres like rap and hip-hop, that are not always given to that sort of thing, Black Eyed Peas aside.) She also comes across an interview with Michael Bublé, with whom she did a duet (“Quando, Quando, Quando”) for his latest album, It’s Time. I tell her in some detail about Michael’s recollection of the recording, how Nelly showed up at the studio, pulled up a chair and a microphone, and blew everyone away with her jazz-inflected take, miles and miles away from Engelbert. Another laugh, and she affirms “I just wanted to come at it a little differently. And I was working a bit on my own new songs at the time, experimenting with things. I just wanted it to be musical.”

That is the guiding principle behind her new record, as well. “The first two, well, one was a trip-hop, pop thing, the other, more folk, but still a little too cerebral. I wanted this one to be much more about feeling the music.” Still, a song like “Explode”, from Folklore, has a lot of the elements you will find on Loose. When asked about the bass line for that tune, she nods, agrees that there are some thoughtful, compelling arrangements, and that the bass player really knows how to play music, not just accompany the rest of the band. “That’s probably my favourite song from that record.” It has a wonderful video to boot, with some animated segments that caught a lot of people’s attention: “They asked me if the lead character could be developed into a television series for kids. But I just couldn’t see her being used to sell gum and sugared cereal. So I said no.” Again, there is Nelly’s forthright approach, and at this stage in her career, no usually means no.

We listen to the patient arrangement of “’Fraid”, with its lovely a cappella ending. “We showed up at the studio, I brought some lyrics, but often I wrote them while we jammed. It is such a talented team. And Tim, well, he is a master of moods. He travels with a duffel bag full of CDs, seems to know every song, and he creates these amazing beats. We all work with that.” Tim is Timbaland, Miami-based rap producer, who has a certain way with a popular hit, while never seeming to sacrifice his credibility within the more hardcore community. So, he can produce “Cry Me A River” for Justin Timberlake, and collaborate with Snoop Dog at the same time. Or produce Missy Elliott and Jay-Z, Nas and Aaliyah. (He worked with Nelly and Timberlake for a track on Timberlake’s upcoming record, as well.)
“When I was 13 or 14, it was just me and my friends, listening to R&B, Salt-N-Pepa, that kind of thing. And Indian music, I loved it … these are cultures that I borrow from.”
Nelly Furtado makes deliberate decisions with her music, knows how to assemble the right team for what she wants to achieve, and in this case, “I wanted to reflect the live shows a lot more. Onstage, it is like being part of a collective, and I wanted this new work to have that kind of feel. I was a little too analytical with the previous records.”

There are influences, of course, beyond the artists she brings in to record. “When I was 13 or 14, it was just me and my friends, listening to R&B, Salt-N-Pepa, that kind of thing. And Indian music, I loved it. Cornershop was always one of my favourite bands. These are cultures that I borrow from, and then with Tim, or Juanes [with whom Nelly has performed live, and recorded several times, including a stark, lovely ballad on Loose, called “Te Busqué”], it all comes together.” Nelly was behind the glass, producing her first two albums, but this time around, her approach was much different. “With Tim producing, I just showed up, played music, had a lot of fun, even made up lyrics on the spot. It had a spontaneous feel, and I think that translated onto the tracks.” There has been a lot of attention to production detail, though, and in that process she is very involved. “Promiscuous”, the first single (and which has been, to an unfortunate degree, interpreted quite literally by a certain number of advance press) shows all the hallmarks of a great basic track being polished a bit, the arrangements vibrant and fresh but complex and well-thought-out as well. Or “Maneater”, again a killer groove, what Nelly calls “voodoo energy, elevated energy” but the song ends with a complex array of vocals which might even overwhelm a lesser song.

Tabla (on “Wait For You” for example), Brazilian percussion (“Say it Right”), and even a bit of late 50s, early 60s girl-pop come to vivid life on “Showtime”. There is a wide array of musical influence on this record, but it is all coherent, held together as a whole by the forceful singer/songwriter at the centre of it. After listening to “Showtime”, Nelly says, “Yeah, I wanted to sing a song like all those great pop singers did.” We talk a little about Lesley Gore, whose string of Quincy Jones-produced hits included “It’s My Party”. “Wow,” says Nelly. “I remember that one. Great song.”

There is also a duet with Coldplay’s Chris Martin. If you happened to catch Coldplay on Austin City Limits doing “In the Sun” with Michael Stipe, you might not be surprised to discover how great a harmony singer Martin is. “All Good Things” is the song; it begins with Martin sounding very much in high-pitched Coldplay mode, but he soon brings his vocal down into an incantatory-style accompaniment of Nelly’s own vocal. The result is beyond charming, nearly haunting in its beauty and its simplicity. “I loved doing that,” Nelly says. “Chris wanted to drop in to the studio because he loves Tim’s work so much, and Tim loves Coldplay, and, well, there we were. We just started jamming, and Chris just did his own thing alongside mine. It was great.”
Night has descended on Toronto, and Nelly has events, and miles, to go before she sleeps. The hoop’s mesh sits quiet, the snow has a thin crust on it, since the day got just warm enough. As she begins to pack up, she talks a little about family, her parents, Portuguese, who taught her how to respect and abide by a solid work ethic, her daughter, nearly three years old, who teaches her about spontaneity and joy. It is safe to say a whole lot of people are going to listen to Loose over the coming months, beat-driven but always catchy somehow, whether in cars, in clubs, or at someone’s home, and they will find some pleasure in the listening, and want to get the record for themselves, so they can get better acquainted with it. It’s that sort of music, popular in a fairly broad sense, but deeply personal as well.

And as Nelly Furtado, the person who is the creative force behind this music, goes out into the Toronto night, it is astonishing to realize that seven hours have gone by in a beat. All good things come to an end. But then you buy the disc, and it’s yours, again.

Story by Jim Tobler

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

MacLean's Magazine (Canada, 2001)

The 2001 Honour Roll - Nelly Furtado
'These creative things come together for me when they are supposed to'
By Shanda Deziel
Photos: Click Here

As the sun sets in the cool Nevada desert, Nelly Furtado is on the lookout for rattlesnakes, cacti and other hazards, but all she finds is some litter resembling a skull and crossbones. The 23-year-old singer is enjoying the downtime, only a few kilometres from Las Vegas -- where she is spending two days promoting her debut CD, Whoa, Nelly! The visit is a mixed bag: schmoozing DJs at a radio convention, hanging out with other celebrities and winning a U.S. Radio Music Award for Turn Off the Light, the most requested song of the year.

In the tranquillity of the desert or under the bright lights of the Las Vegas Strip, Furtado is equally at ease. She's part B.C. hippie and part urban chic. And she seems exceptionally well adjusted, considering her meteoric rise from musically inclined Victoria teenager who cleaned rooms at the Robin Hood Motel to four-time Juno Award winner and international recording star. Furtado's next challenge is to prove her overnight success is no fluke with a follow-up album, which she'll record in the spring. "The songs are really coming together," says Furtado. "I know they will. It's pretty much all I believe in -- that these creative things come together for me when they are supposed to."

Although you can't shake her confidence -- Furtado has known since she was 4 that she would be a famous musician -- she is the first to insist she's still learning. "I wasn't bred as a performer like all those other kids," she says, referring to her pop counterparts who got their start on the 1990s version of the Mickey Mouse Club. "I was raised more to be an artist, to reflect, write, work really hard behind the scenes."
As a child, Furtado took to the stage each year at a neighbourhood Portugu
ese festival, but it was the preparation she remembers best. Her mother, who was born in Portugal, "would give me a bunch of folk tapes and tell me to pick a song. When I found one I liked, I would transpose it to my ukulele and just start practising." By age 12, Furtado was writing her own songs. At 17, she joined her elder sister in Toronto and performed at local hip-hop talent nights. Although approached about a recording deal, Furtado didn't feel ready. "I couldn't play guitar. I couldn't write a whole song," she recalls. "I could have made an all-right indie album, but I couldn't have made a world-class pop album." So Furtado returned to Victoria for creative writing at Camosun College, went backpacking through Europe and, three years later, came back to Toronto in 1999 to make Whoa, Nelly!

Now, after a year of dreams coming true -- from "meeting cute boys and getting free clothes," to guest appearances at the John Lennon tribute, the Aretha Franklin VH1 special and Michael Jackson's 30th anniversary concert, to receiving fan letters that say "my songs help people through tough times" -- Furtado is starting to reflect on what propelled her to stardom and what will keep her grounded. "My parents raised me well," she says. "They taught me two things: to treat people right and work hard. I just apply myself the same way I did when I was in the high-school marching band or in college studying for an exam or when I was cleaning at the Robin Hood." And that's how Furtado will conquer the music world, one room at a time.

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