Happy to be an Estefan, Gloria’s daughter charts own path
MIAMI — Emily Estefan was so self-conscious about being the daughter of Cuban-born superstar Gloria Estefan that she avoided singing in front of anyone until she was 18. Then, one winter night at the family’s Florida beach house, she finally sang for her mother. First she asked her to look away.
“I was like shaking, shaking, shaking, shaking. Everything in my body was shaking. But I did it,” said Emily Estefan, now 22.
Then Gloria looked at her, and she cried — the two things her daughter had asked her not to do.
Four years later, Emily is releasing her debut album, “Take Whatever You Want,” which came out Friday like a declaration of independence. “I am honoured to come from this family. I would love to yell it from the mountains and also be recognized as a person,” she said.
Emily already had been following in the musical footsteps of her parents. Her father, Emilio Estefan, is one of the biggest names in Latin music production and founder of the band that turned Gloria Estefan into a star. The younger Estefan had learned guitar, keyboards and drums and enrolled in Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music.
But after that night when she let herself go, inspiration to become a singer and songwriter kicked in.
When she returned to Berklee after her winter break, she began to spend her early morning hours writing feisty songs about freedom, penning the lyrics and the music of every instrument for her soul and jazz-influenced album.
In an interview at her late grandparents’ mansion in an exclusive island between Miami and Miami Beach, Estefan talked about “huge shoes to fill,” born the heiress of the performer of such hits such as “Conga” and “1-2-3.”
Of her parents she said: “I will never be them.” But she went on to say: “The moment when you say none of that matters is when you realize that you love it, and you love it enough to dedicate yourself to it. It doesn’t matter what comes out, as long as it is honest.”
At the mansion’s garage, her mother watched her rehearse with her band for her first solo concert, and then stepped out for a chat.
“There’s soulfulness, there’s R&B influences, there’s depth. She sounds like, honestly, a 40-year-old singer who went through hell. It comes out, all this emotion in her music,” Gloria Estefan said.
Gloria Estefan thought maybe she was just a proud mom, blinded by love. So, Gloria played a track to her husband without telling him who performed it. “He said ‘Oh my God. She is amazing. Who is that?’ ‘She is your daughter,’ I said, and he flipped.”
Emily Estefan is, at least right now, more shy than her famous mom onstage, preferring to be shielded by drums or with a guitar around her neck. She dresses all in black with bulky military boots, and her dark black hair is pulled to one side, the rest shaved.
Listeners may find a common vibrato in Emily’s first single, “Ask Me To,” to her mother’s early boleros such as “If We Were Lovers.” Emily sings in a different way, but both voices are rich, and crisp, especially in falsettos.
“When people say ‘Oh, you have terrible similarities to your mom.’ I say ‘Yes. I lived in her womb for nine months,’” she said. “That’s cool. If that comforts you, that’s OK. But listen to me also.”
Emily Estefan released her debut album, “Take Whatever You Want,” on Friday.