Grammy-Award winning songstress and #EssenceFest alum, Estelle released her new album, True Romance on Tuesday. We recently caught up with the British songbird to discuss her new album, her state of mind post-breakup, and why she refuses to stick to one genre.
Essence: With this being your fourth album, how do you feel you’ve evolved over time as an artist?
Estelle: I just try to live the life I know I was given to live and write about it as I go along. I think my strongest point is when people relate to me as a human. It’s more like, “Oh, yea, she sings some real sh*t.” That’s kind of what my thing is. I don’t know how to do ‘baby’ a thousand times in the words and a body roll, so I don’t have to do those. There’s a place for everything and that’s just not my place. I always want evolve and I always want to be the best human for my personal sanity. Whatever comes along with that, as far as music, is what it is. It works out.
Essence: What message did you want to convey to your fans this time around?
Estelle: I wanted to give them the energy that it’s okay to be human. It’s alright to not want to stay sad, to not want to be miserable in a failed relationship. It’s ok to want to be better, do better and also be in that space, while trying to figure yourself out. To be a better human. There’s no relationship goals to aspire to when it comes to yourself. You can just be who the hell you are in that moment and be alright with it. As long as you are evolving, as long as you’re moving along, do it on your terms.
Essence: What inspired the creative direction of True Romance?
Estelle: This album was inspired by my life and where I wanted to be post break up.
Essence: Would you describe this as your most personal album?
Estelle: Yeah. They tend to all get more intricate as they go along. As I get older, I lose the gene for being polite becomes less and less apparent. I’m saying more. I think I’m getting to [the] root of how I feel about some things. Some people start off in their career and they get politer, later. I think I started off polite and got rid of it later, which is cool. Like an “I’m a grown lady and I can curse” kind of thing. It’s freeing when you hit a certain point in your personal life and I don’t have to censor [yourself] for anything or anyone. It’s a certain level of freedom that happens so every time I do what I do for my living— what I feel like is my calling— it’s going to reflect in that.
Essence: Do you ever feel afraid to be that raw to the world or worry how that will be perceived?
Estelle: No, I don’t care. I get one life, I get to live it and that’s about as much anxiety as I can deal with. I’m not good at curtailing myself anymore. I’m not good at taking a good breath before I speak anymore. I used to do that all of the time and then it just became… for what? I feel like we’re all extremely very human. If you can’t understand that some days I want to speak in metaphors and some days I may want to be polite, some days I may just not want to do any of that. If you can’t understand that, then you’re just not human. That’s what I wanted to do with my music. Let me just write a record that is raw in some places and real as hell in others.
Essence: This album is a bit of a melting pot of genres. There's House-inspired production as well as Pop.Then you have some old school R&B sounds on there. Are you at all worried that it will make it harder for consumers to connect with the material?
Estelle: I think people are used to it at this point and when people ask me that question, I’m like, ‘I don’t know how to do one genre. What does that mean?’ There’s different sides to all of me so there’s no difference for me there. I don’t know anyone who listens to one genre. Think about the different genres you hear on a Friday night or a Thursday night in the club. From trap to EDM, you’ll be turning up. The biggest record now, Tuesday, [by I LOVE MAKONNEN] is trap and EDM. [So,] I’m never doing one genre
Essence: Do you believe your affinity for mixing genres comes from being raised abroad?
Estelle: Yeah, absolutely. When I first came out here, there weren’t very many artists who were comfortable mixing genres on an album. I was like, “Yea, this is what it’s going to be.” Cut to 7, 8 years later, everyone has got different genres on their album. That’s always been our thing at home, to like mix it up and listen to a variety of things.
Essence: Conqueror is such a triumphant anthem. What was the inspiration behind that song in particular?
Estelle: Conqueror is one of these records that basically you could relate to at any point in your life. I heard it and I was like, “this is wonderful!” “This is going to be the most relatable song.” Coming from a record like All of Me’s Thank You, where do you go from there? Do I go straight to happy? [No, that] would be an absolute lie. You go to, I’m going to pick myself up and get this together. I’m giving you the in between. It’s an in between record. In other words, how do you become happy? How do you get yourself out of that rut? By picking yourself the hell up! Get up off the floor! Don't wallow in it. Get up!
Essence: There aren't any features on this album. Is there a reason you decided not to do any collaborations this time around?
Estelle: Yeah, it’s my album! Everyone does records with 50 people on them and you don’t know half of the records on the album with just them on it, you just know the features. I wanted to do an album that was just my album, with just me on it. That’s kind of, what I think people with albums should do albums with just them on it. A feature here and there isn’t bad, but not like 12 records! Then, it’s a compilation.
Essence: The album itself is anchored by the four themes of passion, courage, true romance and the bullsh*t. Do those themes reflect your personal view of what romantic relationships consist of?
Estelle: It reflects my personal view of what humans consist of. We are crazy. We are courageous about the wrong things and we are courageous about the right things. We are passionate about the wrong things and passionate about the right things. We are on our B.S. 90% of our lives. My thing is being okay with every single part of those moments as it relates to you. If you get to that point of, “I’m fine with it all,” you might find somebody else who’s fine with it all and that could be your life partner or that could just be your friend. You can find true romance on your terms. That’s a huge step. Just being OK with who you are and who the person is that your dealing with versus what the world tells you. It’s about your terms and how you want to do it.