Nelly Furtado

Nelly Furtado The Loose star chats with us about life as a solo artist, her influences, and notable progression since her first album, Whoa, Nelly!.

Thanks for chatting with us today, Nelly. What first made you want to become a singer? Where did it all start for you?

For me, I guess I just always knew. I was one of those lucky kids who just walked out onto the stage when I was four years old, for a performance with my mother, at like a church event, and god…right away, I just loved being on stage, I loved the reaction from the crowd, I loved the excitement, I loved the fact that I was spreading positive energy. I already could see myself performing for thousands, that very first day when I was only four. So it was never in question, I knew that I’d be doing it for a living.

I just wrote songs all the time - I’d be constantly singing, making up my own melodies, making up my own lyrics, started writing them down when I was twelve. Always played instruments, every kind, started recording when I was 16. The great thing is, I wasn’t a show kid, d’ya know what I mean? It was always like really cool things I was doing, like playing concert trombone or jazz trombone.

You were in a marching band, too, weren’t you?

I was, yeah. I was always really music-focussed. My mother definitely pushed me to do music, and really encouraged me, drove me to all my lessons, but it was always about the music first, you know. It was never about shows. I actually didn’t have a lot of live experience until my first album came out, and it was like – whoooaaa – really overwhelming.

Your parents emigrated from Portugal to Canada, so you grew up in a very multicultural environment ... how would you say it’s being reflected in your life, and in your music taste, especially?

Oh, like in everything I do – my parents emigrated to Canada. That was nothing - they just kind of went for it! They didn’t speak the language; once they got to Victoria, they had three of us there, and we just grew up with both cultures, it was a duality. And growing up with learning the language ... we went to night school to learn Portuguese, our mother spoke English to us at home, she took us to folk dancing lessons – Portuguese folk dancing at the weekend, and we’d learn Portuguese songs, and attend church in Portuguese.

Then she started taking us on trips to the Azures. We went on family trips every so often in the summertime, and I learnt a lot, it was great to see not only the rural background of my family, and working class roots, but also just the culture. The family, the love...the different pace of life. Growing up in Canada I met so many other young people with the same experience, and their parents are from India, Hong Kong, Somalia, Chile. We were attending different cultur[al] events like every weekend. So it was really rich, and that's why my music’s rich, and that's why – I’m, y’know, endlessly interested in collaborating with artists from around the world.

It’s been well documented that you’ve been a fan of Indian and Desi music. What Asian artists and singers could we find in your CD collection?

Erm, I’ve got [so many] Pakistani singer[s], and I’ve got a couple of contemporary sort of things in my collection as well, including the Joash CD that I like quite a lot.

So what really interests you about South Asian music, and the films?

God, I love films, they’re incredible! Actually, a Canadian director named Deepa Mehta was born in India, [and] she just came out with a third part of her trilogy, Water – I don’t know if you’ve seen the film, but it’s absolutely beautiful. She went through a struggle to film it, and actually ended up shooting it in Sri Lanka. But it’s a gorgeous film, and I think anybody would appreciate it; anyone interested remotely in Indian culture. I met her actually: she was walking off a plane, and I literally ran 100 metres, and I was like "aahh, hiiii, I'm Nelly Furtado, and I love your films!" [Laughter]. And she also did the movie Bollywood Hollywood which is great. But I do love the traditional Bollywood films. I was originally going to do the Ranga de Basanti movie, in India, actually...

But we’re seeing a lot of US Hollywood stars now making progressions with cameo roles into Bollywood...It’s great..!

Yeah, yeah it is. I do quite enjoy watching a Bollywood flick now and again at home. God I just think it’s beautiful - the colour. I was also offered a role in Bombay Dreams on Broadway about two years ago, and I went to the theatre - it was beautiful. But [it was] just [the] wrong timing, god yeah...whoop I’m tapped, I can’t wait to go to India in December.

Well first of all, let’s just hit one of the hottest albums: Loose. What was your inspiration behind the whole album, and the name of the album, especially?

You know what, Loose came to me after doing sessions with Jurassic 5, and The Roots, and Timbaland, like all these hip-hop acts. When Nelly came out asking for collaborations I was like "yeah sure", and I did as many as I could fit into my schedule. And every time I did, I got this great feeling, like I didn’t have to try. It was as if like it was effortless, like it was really natural, because I grew up on Hip Hop and R 'n' B, and my walls were plastered with Hip Hop and R 'n' B stars growing up. That was my life, and I felt that it was time to do an album that kind of paid tribute to that side of me - Timbaland really brings that out of me. He also brings out this darker, more strong, powerful me in the studio, and I just love that. I just love him to death, and we had this special chemistry - we really wanted the world to hear that, you know?

Yeah, that was a hot tune. I liked the video as well. The video was cool.

Yeah, the video was fun. Then he invited me for the Get Your Freak On remix, and that changed my whole world. That really gave me faith in who I was in that side of my world as an artist. Cos it was right around when I’m Like A Bird came out, and he had this juxtaposition going on with the Get Your Freak On remix. But some people had never heard I’m Like A Bird but loved Get Your Freak On remix, and...

Speaking of Timbaland, apparently he’s been showing you how to shake that booty to his sound. Is that true?

[Laughter] Well he is a great dancer - he has natural rhythm - and there were times in the studio where he went, "What are you DOING? You’re dancing like a crazy raver from Canada." Actually, when I did the video for Promiscuous, I went to the dance studio, worked with this choreographer called Fatima, and I just walked in and it was the scariest day of my life in a way. She was like "Oh!" and we spent the day...and after it was like "Ahh!" It was great!

When I was a kid, I did like Janet Jackson, Hip Hop, dance, at school, everything. So it was basically just tapping back into all that again, and getting more confident in it, and now I love dancing. I love trying the moves. I love learning the choreography. It’s a challenge, and I like challenges.

Now, before Loose, there was Whoa, Nelly!, which featured Fly Like a Bird and Turn off the Light. Let me just say off the record: Turn off the Light - the urban remix - was hot.

Timbaland’s always pushing boundaries like that, and he and Scott Storch produced it together - the Turn off the Light remix. That went to number one on Rhythmic Radio in the US.

There’s been a transition in your image and music