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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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