Nelly Furtado on Her "Spirit Indestructible"
Artistically, there is just no settling for second best when Nelly Furtado creates new music. She is enthusiastically anticipating delivering this latest rush of creative vibes. As she puts it, "It’s like forever. It’s like longer than having a baby... almost!" With the release of "The Spirit Indestructible," Furtado jumps genres again and brilliantly, I may add. Pop, folk, rock, funk and world beats collide as her inspirational garden. Musically, this crop of new songs is in an exotic and powerfully positive bloom.
She elaborates on the process of creation, nurturing her personal "nostalgia" as inspiration in writing new songs and working alongside the incredible producer Rodney [Darkchild] Jerkins on several innovative new tracks. When Nelly Furtado says,"Don’t fence me in," she means it and still soars majestically high on "The Spirit Indestructible."
She elaborates on the process of creation, nurturing her personal "nostalgia" as inspiration in writing new songs and working alongside the incredible producer Rodney [Darkchild] Jerkins on several innovative new tracks. When Nelly Furtado says, "Don’t fence me in," she means it and still soars majestically high on "The Spirit Indestructible."
How would you compare your "pre-release" emotions with releasing your debut, "Whoa Nelly" to this latest release "The Spirit Indestructible"?
I’ve never felt this excited to release new music before, especially since I’ve been waiting for a couple of months now, because the original release date was in June. So, I’m telling you I can’t wait and it’s been a long time.
The music has a lot of essence, adrenaline and a lot of energy. For me, music is like food and I like to feed people. I’m just excited to feed people with this music.
I’ve never categorized you as a musical artist who is just "pop" or "rock." Your music has always been succinctly individual. I read that you had previously thought of retiring? That was kind of disconcerting. (Laughter)
I didn’t mean for it to be (laughter). I go through phases where I just question the whole process of waiting so long to release music and all the red tape that goes along with it sometimes. I want to press a button on my computer and play my fans a new song I just wrote. It’s more that than anything else.
When I’m sort of questioning everything after every album... usually that happens after the tour, I go, "Okay. Am I going to do this again?" I think it’s the way of forcing me back in the studio, forcing myself to create something that it makes me so excited, that I’ve got to get back in the game. It’s kind of good. It’s sort of like a "money back guarantee" for the fans, that if I’ve released something, it means I’m a hundred percent backing it.
Lyrically on this, you return to your personal past and bring up the "nostalgia" of important memories, how did this musical direction begin for you?
Hmmm... I don’t know. It’s a weird journey. When I did my Spanish album, I was really forced to work on a different part of my brain as a songwriter. I was absorbing myself in a different language sitting with my co-writers and expressing myself in another language. Making these things come to life with all these ideas
Then, I found myself among Latin singers who I worked with in concerts and performances. I felt like I had to step-up the vocals to inspire the meaning. I think a lot of Latin singers meld into their songs. There is a certain surrendering to the moment and the performance that happens, that I learned from.
That succinct feeling where you really know what the song’s about... I think I’ve got that in this new process. I needed to push myself and be more lyrically thor- ough. I think after having to be thorough in Spanish and having those songs make sense for someone and to be poetic, going back into the English process, songs definitely have to make sense and the lyrics have to mean something. I think there is more storytelling going on in this album.
That must be so rewarding.
Another thing happened on a spiritual level; feeling like I was home again and spiritualized and grateful for every moment. Then, when I met Rodney [Darkchild] Jerkins, it all came together in an interesting way where he was somebody who I would have died to work with... even when I was 14 and getting those songs. When I met him, it was sort of innocent and youthful and magic happened. I started writing from this other place.
Working with Rodney Jerkins must have incredible.
It really was! You walk in to his studio and there are photos of Michael Jackson and him at the soundboard. You feel some of the energy of some of the singers who have worked in there... whether it’s Whitney Houston, Michael or Beyoncé, or whoever it was; you just feel this energy in his studio. I think also as a singer, you are just forced to give it your best. To deliver and exceed my expectations, which I always try to do when I work with a producer for the first time. I always love that feeling of "oh my God, I’ve got to deliver here-I have to prove myself." That’s my favorite feeling in the world as a singer, that’s why I do so many collaborations. It was intense. I felt I had to set the bar and reach a new bar with him, that’s what we tried to do together.
The production by Jerkins on the song "Parking Lot" is very jubilant and energizing. Will you share a bit of the creation of this song?
I want to say I kind of write my songs like a jazz musician. I provide the solo, I hear the music and I start singing lyrics and melodies. Usually I like to write the words in the first couple of hours. It’s kind of mumbling in the beginning, when we first start on the song.
When we met, he [Jerkins] started telling me how he liked the international sounds and instruments on my records. He said, "I think there is a few you haven’t tried, let’s try a bagpipe or something..." The sample that’s on there is a synthesized version of some exotic sounds. So, I kind of mumble the rhythms and go back and write words to the rhythms, like a scat singer or something.
In the choruses of "ride around and get a spot," I think Rodney was really inspired by this digital image of being in the car and saying, "Oh look, let’s turn the speakers up." Immediately, it flashed back to being a kid and having the time of your life, waiting for that special someone to roll by and drinking (laughter) a Slurpee or whatever... in a 7-11 parking lot.
It’s one of those times when you don’t think much of what’s going on until after- wards, "Oh yeah, this was a moment!" A very relaxed kind of a mood; it’s a lot of fun.
On your video for "Spirit Indestructible," all the elements combine beautifully along with you. It’s a magnificent balance of fire, ice, water and sky.
Well, thank you.
Yeah! Before you actually created this video, what did you hope to visually achieve in putting this together with such a powerful song?
It’s interesting because at the same time, what happened was just great timing. My friend made a video of Spencer West climbing up Mt. Kilimanjaro. He lost his legs at 4 years old to a genetic disease. He is so inspiring and a motivational speaker and talks to kids about "redefining their possible." So, to see him literally climbing up a mountain with his hands and only half of his body... when he reaches the top it’s incredible.
While Spencer was doing his climb, which took about ten days I think, I was shooting the video on Grouse Mountain in Vancouver. I was definitely thinking about him. British Columbia is beautiful and I’m from B.C. originally, Vancouver Island. We just wanted something epic-looking and we thought it’d be great to get me on the mountain top.
Also, there is this elemental thing going on, like you said, with the fire and the water and everything. All of the songs have themes about them but there are themes that could be extended in other media. I’m producing my music videos that way.
Nice. I have to tell you, I didn’t think of Julie Andrews in "The Sound of Music "when you’re on that mountain once.
You know what? (Laughter) That’s my favorite musical and one of the first songs I sang in my first performance was probably that song from "The Sound of Music." That’s one of my favorites.