Estelle Interview: ‘Conquerer’ Inspiration + Embracing Confidence on ‘True Romance’ [EXCLUSIVE]
Estelle wrote her upcoming album, ‘True Romance,’ simply because she had to.
Last night (Sept. 3), the Grammy-winning singer teamed up with Gilt City for a special live performance and first listen of her new album. During the party, Estelle explained to her audience that the project celebrates brushing herself off after a particularly sad time in her life. When Estelle sat down with PopCrush at the event, she discussed the motivational vibe of her single ‘Conquerer’ and shared the one lyric that summarizes the message of ‘True Romance.’
Check it all out in the interview below!
What inspired you to release a song with this kind of motivational message?
So we got to the end of the album and everything was “feelingsy.” Not feelingsy in a bad sense – in a very intricate wordy sense. It wasn’t hard to decipher, but I wanted something that if I sang it for someone in Yugoslavia who didn’t speak English, didn’t know who I was, would be able to grab it and get the gist of what we’re talking about on this record. And my whole thing has been — this whole album has been – about me picking myself up off the ground. What doesn’t even remotely look like I was on anybody’s ground, I was for a long time in the interim of this album. ‘Thank You’ is a hard breakup album, so I wanted something that was like, “Girl, get up. Dust your feet. Dust yourself off. You’ve got this. You can do it.” I heard the record and I was like, “Pretty much! Let’s go, c’mon! This is it. Let’s get it!” I was recording it at two in the morning somewhere and I was like, “Yeah, this is special. This is a special one.” So that was it.
You mentioned that you wanted it to be understood by people who couldn’t necessarily translate the lyrics. Are there any songs by other artists that do that for you?
Yeah, plenty! [Pharrell's] ‘Happy’ did that. I think every artist strives for a record that crosses all energy, lines, boundaries or languages or barriers. ‘American Boy’ did that for me coming out in London and the UK before I came here … I figure that if I have one or two or three of them on every album, it might work out. Also, I feel like I do so many varied shows. I hate to go to a show and people don’t quite understand what I’m singing. For instance, ‘Thank You’ was such a particular sound. As much as I was in my moment, I felt that people were like “I get it, but girl, what?” Some people were like, “I don’t feel that way.” Men were like, “Girl, no.” So I wanted something that people would just get. No thoughts, no thinking. This is what it is. And there’s a good few of them on the record.
Watch Estelle’s ‘Conquerer’ Video
Did anyone give you any great advice during that period where you felt kicked down?
Yeah, Erykah Badu, she said, “Let it go.” I think one time I cried during a live TV performance of ‘Thank You’ – it was a couple years ago – and Erykah was in the front row and she saw me and she came after the show, and I was leaving and she was like, “Girl, sometimes that’s all it is. Let it go. That’s all you need to do sometimes. Let it go … Go cry it out and then stop.” I was like, “You’re right! Not today though! I’m not going to stop today.” [Laughs] You know, I let it all go. After that, she was right. I was like cry, let it go and then stop. And that’s what I did.
Physically get it out of your system.
Literally! Physically get it out of your system. Don’t sit there trying to be strong for everybody.
That’s good advice. The fans are so excited for the upcoming album. Is there one lyric that really sums it up?
“I got something good” off of ‘Something Good.’ “I got something good for you, baby.” That song, in particular, was my reset record. You know, you’ll hear it in the words, “I was hurt for so long, doesn’t matter who’s right. Doesn’t matter who’s wrong. All that matters is I’m back where I belong.” Because prior to everything, when people first heard me with ‘Shine’ and ‘American Boy,’ I was in such a confident, ‘I know who the f— I am space,” and when I tell you my life then, the people around me then, throwing darts at me then was 50 times worse than now. So for me to have been that confident and that together with that environment, man, I’m good now. And this is way less people shooting darts at me. Oh, I’m straight, this is perfect! You just doubled up on my energy! This is good!
I love that! I feel like this album will be a confidence booster for those who listen to it.
It is! And I’m going to live this. Every person we wrote with, I said, “Don’t baby/sweetheart/ darling” this shit for me. I’m going to change the words if you do.” And I did on a lot of the records. It’s pretty literal. I don’t like, I’m not good at “sweethearts.” And [sings], “Baby….” I’m not good at that shit. What the f— is a “baby” for five bars? I don’t get that! What are you singing? You hear those records, like, ‘What? No, get out of here.’ And I say ‘Something Good’ is exactly what it is … It’s exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a literal, life moment in every record.
I mean, the actual album is called Estelle’s album so I’m on the album, but we have radio versions with other people coming. But we did do a lot with some brilliant producers. J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Keith Harris – he’s worked a lot with will.i.am and those guys – but also a producer on ‘American Boy.’ D.Smith, who produced ‘Make Her Say’ and ‘Something Good’ – amazing drum programmer – and a record called ‘Fight for It.’ Who else? Josiah Bell is another brilliant producer based in L.A. A lot of these people, again, they were in my space and in my moment, so I wasn’t walking into a session working with whoever just for the sake of it. I wanted people to listen to what I had to say. A lot of big whoever producers, they come with a song and they say “Sing this” and I’m not that girl. We went in and it wrote.