Sporting a much shorter ‘do and a few more years of life experience, Nelly Furtado is back in the spotlight to introduce her new album, The Ride. Though Furtado has been working steadily since the release of her first album Whoa, Nelly! (in 2000), it’s been five years since she last released an album (The Spirit Indestructible, in 2012) and some are calling this her comeback. We sat down with the Canadian songstress to chat musical inspiration, The Ride (available March 31) and maintaining a well-balanced life. Read on for her thoughts.
On the evolution of her career
When I started out I was this scrappy 20-year-old tomboy who just was in love with music 24 hours a day and I was very driven by this goal of ‘I want to share my music with the world.’ Once I’d had the chance to be in that spotlight, I started to then look at the whole thing and question it from a different lens, which is what I did on my second album. And then I had my daughter and music became a thing I did for fun in the studio, almost more like a release, a getaway. [My new] album is very much about this maturing process. Life really is like a ride. I’m a sensitive person, so I have a need for balance in my life and I think sometimes my emotions get the best of me. I fall down pretty hard and then I have to pick myself up again. I have a song called Phoenix. It’s a ballad and it’s about, you know, you’re going to be all right. Although life gets really real sometimes and really hard, you have the inner resilience to accept the ugly bits, to accept that life sometimes will be messy and you don’t always need to wrap it up in a sound bite. This album is a bit more like the hangover when you wake up and go ‘What happened yesterday?’ At the same time you feel alive but know you have some stuff you have to work on. It’s pop, there’s a lot of movement in the songs.
On the media calling this album her comeback
[Laughs] Every album is a comeback. I’m not lying, every single one of my albums, aside from my Spanish album because it was something new, has been branded a comeback album. But you know, what a great opportunity to have a chance to come back every four years. I guess people can judge the music and see. I am proud of myself for always remembering that the music is the most important thing. Although this is my career, it’s also my passion. I still approach it as this passion project. It makes me happy and I always have music to fall back on even if it is just for my own enjoyment.
On the inspiration behind her new single Pipe Dreams
I’ve been doing non-profit work with Free the Children as an ambassador for about six years. I actually wrote Pipe Dreams in Kenya. There the local community will show visitors the way they used to get their drinking water and cooking and cleaning water from the Mara River. Some women still do but many of the women in this village now have the opportunity to get water from the Aquifer borehole, which is a centrally located community-run well. It’s a lot closer to the houses and the girls are able to go to high school because they’re not spending that extra time walking to collect water and fire wood. I was on a walk with them carrying water and the lyrics just kind of came to me. It’s that real life aspect, like ‘Don’t sell me no pipe dreams, I want the real deal.’
On falling victim to her emotions
I’m an emotional person. Being a songwriter – that’s the trade off, you’re really empathic and emotional so sometimes you’re kind of a victim to your emotions and have these highs and lows. You go through minor depression-like periods in your life. I wrote Flatline [from The Ride] around one of those times. It’s sad and happy at the same time. When all is said and done I don’t think you’re at your most creative when you hit your low-low but at that point when you start surfacing. I wrote Phoenix after a bottom point in my life. It was almost like I had touched the ground and started surfacing again. Lately things have been so wonderful in my life that I’m writing all the time. Happiness brings lots of inspiration – if you’re open to it.
On her connection to nature and working with the Tide Purclean brand
I grew up in Victoria, BC, and Vancouver Island is this beautiful place. I was blessed. My parents taught us this great reverence for nature and I was always out by the ocean and in the woods. So this combined with the fact that I grew up in a family of housekeepers is a great fit. My mom worked at a motel and she hired me at a young age. I worked in the laundry room and cleaned so I understand when people get used to a certain product that they like to stick to that product. This is Tide’s first bio-based product, which is great because it cleans with the same power but it’s also ecologically friendly.
On maintaining a healthy work-life balance
My daughter has been such a grounding force in my life. I love being at home around her and cleaning my house and doing the laundry and just trying to get in touch with myself on a creative level. I might clean and write songs at the same time. There’s something that happens when you’re in that meditative state.