As you swipe through the 30 million songs on Spotify as one of its 70 million paying members, have you wondered what it takes to be heard as an artist? That avalanche of music is as much a curse as it is an opportunity for dedicated musicians like Estelle.
“It is frustrating. Because there is so much out there, you have to really pay attention and do a great job. That’s how you stick around,” says Estelle in a rich, jovial baritone.
“The key to a lot of outstanding records is that when you read the lyrics it’s almost like poetry.”
The girl grew up with in West Kensington, London doesn’t seem fazed the online competition.
“You pay attention to what you are writing. You give it another spin, you listen to the words that you are saying. You find beautiful way of saying things. The key to a lot of outstanding records is that when you read the lyrics it’s almost like poetry,” says Estelle, a free spirit serving up an eclectic mix of R&B, soul and reggae.
This is the same gutsy girl who introduced herself to Kanye West in Los Angeles in 2003. The chance encounter — of all places at Roscoe’s House of Chicken ‘n’ Waffles — led to a musical collaboration on ‘American Boy’.
The soulful song turned the British singer into an overnight sensation in the United States, and along the way picked up a Grammy trophy for Best Rap collaboration. The chart-topping single is Estelle’s most-played song on Spotify till this day — with over 96 million plays and counting,
Estelle assures fresh music is on the horizon, as she is wrapping up a new record due for release later this year. Some of those songs will be teased at next month’s Sing Jazz festival.
“Of course, I’m going to perform my new song ‘Love Like Ours’. I may test out a couple of songs too,” says Estelle, who is part of the festival line-up featuring Jamie Cullum and Lalah Hathaway.
Love Like Ours is the first single on her upcoming record. Dropped last summer, the upbeat reggae duet with Tarrus Riley has clocked close to 4 million times on Spotify, which makes it her second most-played songs on the streaming platform.
The song’s celebratory tone is a reflection of true life events close to her heart. Her parents reunited in 2013 after breaking up two decades ago.
“It was just the most compelling story in the world to me. I’ve never hear of parents getting back together 20 years later. I’m paying tribute to the love story of two people destined to be together, especially being their first born,” says Estelle, who grew up in a large household in London with eight siblings.
Infusing reggae beats into the song is just part of the narrative.
“My parents were heavily into reggae. My mum met him when he was working his passion, his reggae band and shows,” says Estelle, who was born Estelle Fanta Swaray.
“My father plays like five to six instruments. For my dad, it is kind of full circle with me doing music. It’s like ‘Oh my god, my talent wasn’t wasted and it went to my daughter.”
The singer-songwriter also inherited her father’s talent for baking. The proof is in the pie — a pear pie to be exact — as seen from a Facebook livestream straight out of her kitchen.
The multitasker cooks, banters with netizens and breaks into tunes. More than just a therapeutic session, it is the singer’s way of connecting with fans while out of the limelight.
She says: “Social media is a way for me to say, ‘Hey people, I’m still here and I am making music.’ I’m quite an introvert in real life, if it wasn’t for social media, you’d probably wouldn’t see me.”