Songstress Nelly Fur­tado makes mem­o­rable re­turn with new al­bum, Ride

Some­times step­ping back is the only way to move for­ward

Village Post - - Contents - by Ron John­son

Nelly Fur­tado has had highs and lows in her 20-year ca­reer in mu­sic: Gram­mys and hit sin­gles, as well as a few more for­get­table mu­si­cal for­ays off the beaten path. Maybe it was too much too soon. But for what­ever rea­son, Fur­tado had a cri­sis of con­fi­dence and stepped way back from a myr­iad of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as­so­ci­ated with be­ing a pop icon and run­ning a record la­bel.

“I lit­er­ally started clean­ing my own toi­let, wash­ing my own un­der­wear,” she says.

“I was back at the Robin Hood Mo­tel [in her home­town of Vic­to­ria, B.C., where she worked as a cham­ber­maid for eight sum­mers] as a teenager scream­ing over the vac­uum cleaner.”

At one very mem­o­rable point, she found her­self wan­der­ing the aisles of a Michaels craft su­per­store some­where in the north of Toronto.

She had a mo­ment, and that mo­ment led her back to her car and straight down­town to Queen West where she parked in front of Cosmo Mu­sic. It was here that a mop-topped teenager who had moved to town from Bri­tish Columbia would trawl the stacks for records to sam­ple in the mak­ing of her mon­u­men­tal de­but al­bum, Whoa Nelly. The al­bum sold mil­lions and turned Fur­tado into an in­ter­na­tional sen­sa­tion.

Her stardom reached even greater heights with her third al­bum, Loose (2006), and the song “Pro­mis­cu­ous,” which be­came her first num­ber one hit in the United States.

But since those heady days, when she was of­ten called the next JLo, her ca­reer has been dis­parate and in­con­sis­tent.

By her own ad­mis­sion, she got too wrapped up in ev­ery­thing other than her own mu­sic. And a re­turn to her old cre­ative stomp­ing grounds was just what she needed to re­gain some of her cre­ative en­ergy.

“I re­mem­bered the smell of the record sleeves, and some­thing in my heart led me down there,” she says of vis­it­ing Cosmo.

“It felt so bliss­ful, and the mu­sic was bring­ing my joy I hadn’t felt in years.”

So af­fect­ing was the visit, that Fur­tado asked the owner to let her work in the shop, which she did for a short time, in­clud­ing the time a cou­ple came in to pose for their wed­ding pho­tos amongst the vinyl stacks.

“They were like, ‘Are you that singer, are you Nelly?’ And I was like, ‘Maybe.…’ ”

In her time off, she also took dif­fer­ent artis­tic classes, wrote, trav­elled and spent more time be­ing a mom.

“I went through a re­ally cool jour­ney, you know. We let peo­ple take us on rides, let our­selves be taken, and we en­joy the ride, too,” she ex­plains.

“For me, the last five years has been spent do­ing all kinds of things but started with me look­ing in­ward, and that’s the most dif­fi­cult of all, the jour­ney in­ward.”

Al­though be­ing around vinyl went a long way to­ward help­ing Fur­tado find her way back, it was also work­ing with a crew of mu­si­cians and the fer­tile artis­tic land­scape of Dal­las, Texas.

It started with Annie Clark, of St. Vin­cent fame, who Fur­tado worked along­side for a Lu­mi­nato project a cou­ple of years ago. And that, in turn, led to her cur­rent pro­ducer John Con­gle­ton.

“I dropped what I was do­ing and flew cold turkey to the Oak Cliff neigh­bour­hood in Dal­las, a very artis­tic kind of com­mu­nity, very eclec­tic,” she ex­plains. “I worked with John in his stu­dio in a con­verted fu­neral home on this quirky lit­tle street. It was a re­ally wel­com­ing com­mu­nity of artists and cre­ative types.”

It was also in a Dal­las neigh­bour­hood that Fur­tado found the per­fect set­ting for the video of her song “Pipe Dreams” while vis­it­ing an es­tate sale in the Lake High­lands dis­trict.

“It was this small house, and when I walked in, sure enough there was beau­ti­ful jew­ellery and art and ce­ram­ics,” she says. “I re­al­ized the lady’s name was Edna Sue. As I was leav­ing, I asked the woman who was there if we could shoot a video to­mor­row, and that’d I’d give her a hun­dred bucks.”

It’s all come around again for the B.C. na­tive who moved to Toronto in 1996 to live with her sis­ter. To­day, ev­ery­thing is dif­fer­ent for Fur­tado. Gone is a record com­pany ask­ing Fur­tado to collaborate with the lat­est young stars. Gone are the pres­sures that come with run­ning a mu­sic la­bel.

“It re­ally feels like a turn­ing point, and it’s been re­ally great to have a pro­ducer like John to help re­ally fo­cus on art,” she says. “I was like, wow some­body cares. Some­times you just need one per­son to care.”

She was free to be, as they say. And she’s re­sponded with Ride, out March 31, her most af­fect­ing and per­sonal al­bum to date. It’s a pow­er­ful stew of Fur­tado’s pop stylings and emo­tional song­writ­ing with Con­gle­ton’s more punk el­e­ments.

“It’s not ex­actly like a mood al­bum. I wouldn’t put it on at a party start to fin­ish,” says Fur­tado. “But if any­one can re­late to screw­ing up, they will like this al­bum.”

Fur­tado, who de­scribes her­self as a “diehard Cana­dian,” is look­ing for­ward to tour­ing in sup­port of the al­bum this sum­mer.

“Oh my God, I’m so ex­cited, I’m do­ing a bunch of fes­ti­vals in spring and sum­mer,” she says. “It’s very unique be­cause I have three generations com­ing to shows now, which is cool. It’s amaz­ing and so fun for me.”

Nelly Fur­tado found inspiration in the state of Texas for her new al­bum ‘Ride’

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