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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.


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