Published Apr 30, 2012After the massive success that was 2008's "American Boy" with Kanye West, there was nowhere for singer (and sometime rapper) Estelle to go but up. Or down. But if there ever was any pressure for the London-born artist, she's not stressing it. Now based and working Stateside with artists such as John Legend, Akon and Rick Ross, Estelle's future is in her own hands. Her latest album, All of Me, is a project deeply indebted to Lauryn Hill's now-classic The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, complete with personal interludes throughout featuring group conversations speaking on love, loss and modern dating in general. Showcasing elements of soul, hip-hop, pop and reggae throughout, she says the album is intended to come across as a reintroduction of sorts for her new and existing fans alike.
What would the concept behind the album this time out?
Whenever I do my shows, I always have a conversation. I talk. In between songs I speak to the band, I speak to the crowd. So for me it was about having that conversation on the record. Just things that me and my friends think and would talk about. And I wanted to have that on the record.
Why make things so personal?
Because people always ask me for advice and I'm pretty good at giving it? Joking. I always like songs based on life. My love life is hilarious to me and to my friends. They live through me vicariously. My opinion and my version of what love is and should be about ― I always write from experience. Because I'm not into doing songs just to do songs.
You've said that you tend not to sing songs that you didn't write. Why the exception with a track like (the Akon-penned lead single) "Thank You"?
I was in the studio listening to it and my heart started pounding and I was like "What?" The words spoke [to me] and the song was in the moment, you know? It definitely [spoke] to my life and my reality.
Are you tired to talking about "American Boy?" Do you continually feel any pressure to top the success of that record?
No. I didn't even think twice about it. I was just concentrating on making good records that I like and that was it, you know?
How do you define your style?
I pretty much do whatever I like doing. Some might create 12 R&B-sounding records in a row that sound the same. But who wants to do that? It's boring as hell. I feel that people don't just listen to one style of music anymore so I choose not to.
What were you hoping to achieve in creating this project?
I wanted people to get a real good sense of me. People would be like, "Yo, you're cool as hell but we don't really know you." [Many] people don't have money to go to a show. And the ones that don't have my album are the ones that I really want to win over.
You've been quoted as saying you admire female artists like Mary J. Blige, Erykah Badu and Missy Elliot, artists who "don't have to strip off or compromise themselves to be recognized as musicians." How hard is it to be this way in this industry?
Those artists are the reasons that I'm doing this. An artist like [Blige], I love what she's done. She's not afraid to be daring, angry and upset in her music and that's cool. I just realize that she's done it and love her for that.
You have various guest appearances on this album, from Chris Brown to Janelle Monáe. How did these collaborations come together?
I called the people that I wanted to be on the record. I'm not good at doing records just [with anyone].
How does Estelle define success?
I haven't gotten there yet. I'll let you know when I get it.
What are you listening to right now?
I'm listening to a lot of old music. Right now, I'm listening to old gospel type music like the Winans and traditional stuff like that. I'm also getting back into my house music.
What's it like working with people like John Legend and Rick Ross?
I think that they really respect me. I do what I do. And they know that I'm a good musician in my own right.
You have very unique vocal styling and phrasing. How did that all come about? What are some of your musical influences?
It depends. I hear a piano line or I hear a melody and it reminds me of something and I'll pick that direction instead of what the obvious sound of the record is. [Even] if it is a hip-hop record, the chorus may sound church to me. So if [a particular song] sounds like that, that's how I'm going to approach it. That's a reason why I listen to what I listen to because it lets me hear all angles, you know?
What's next for Estelle?
A lot of touring and on being the road. I'm excited. I'm really excited.