EXCLUSIVE: Nelly Furtado on New Album 'The Ride' and Appreciating Latino Culture

EXCLUSIVE: Nelly Furtado on New Album 'The Ride' and Appreciating Latino Culture

Nelly Furtado needed time for herself. As any artist, she’s inspired by life yet while you’re a multiplatinum musician it’s sometimes hard to stop and take it all in.

Well, she did and now she’s back with its byproduct — her album, The Ride (out March 31). It doesn’t take much to engage with the Canadian and Portuguese artist. Just press play.

MORE: Nelly Furtado on Singing in Portuguese 

What was your goal for The Ride? What was the vibe you wanted to put out there?

It kind of came from a time of transition, a time of breaking into a new paradigm. Like breaking out of a paradigm, into a new one. I had kind of done a lot of things in life kind of like on a fast forward. Without too much time to reflect, so I just kind of went through a lot of transitions and albums, the main reason it sounds like the way it does is because I used this one producer named John Congleton, and he had produced some of my favorite albums of the last couple years. I got to meet him, and I got to do the whole album with him, using a lot of live instruments. Which is a very more traditional way of I think of creating music in a way that I hadn’t worked before. I wrote a lot of the songs on guitar, on piano, a lot of solitary time to do that. In general, I think the songs reflect change and also kind of being able to have a perspective, where like a little more, it’s a bit more like a sobering album, to call it kind of almost a hangover kind of album. When you maybe go out and have a good night, maybe drink a little too much or something like that, you wake up the next morning and although you may feel super tired, you might also feel, depending on if you had a good time, kind of alive. Kind of like you lived a little.

You feel like, “All right, I got some stuff to deal with, but the poetry is beautiful,” because I do think the uglier aspects of life can be the most poetic. For instance, I was kind of depressed because an 18-year business relationship had ended, and I had walked away from this 18-year, father-figure type business relationship to move forward with different. I was managing myself for a while. I wanted to strip away all the pieces of my life that got away from the art. For me it was kind of like okay. For instance, if you tour with a big band and a crew and this and that, after a while, although it’s a great blessing, you also feel very responsible, and you end up put more of a business hat than a creative hat. Likewise, I had a label where I was signing artists and developing them, and when that was all done, I felt like I was way less in touch with my creative side than my business side. So, the writers are like a reflection of me just becoming an artist again. I just wanna write a song in my living room, on the piano. I also was doing stuff like taking playwriting classes at the university a couple blocks from my house. I was taking sewing classes and like ceramics classes, just doing a lot of tactile artistic things. I don’t know. I feel like that’s why the album feels relatable cause it’s just like living my life and just trying to tap into that initial, creative impulse we all have, and honoring that a little bit more. It’s okay to be quiet.

You’ve always appreciated Latino culture and even done a full length Spanish language album. Did anyone ever accuse you of taking advantage of their culture?

No, because on the American census form, Hispanic includes Portuguese people, so I never thought that. I also just always spoke Spanish and Portuguese growing up. Same with the Latin Grammys, they honor Italian artists, Portuguese, you know what I mean? The message is that it’s all Latin music.

OK. You’ve adapted to the way music is now — streaming, YouTube, etc. How can other artists follow in your footsteps?

The Internet is a great platform for art, especially social media because you can clarify things very quickly, be your own voice. I think we’ve only scratched the surface of sort of how fans can directly connect. I’d like to experiment more with that, with creativity and technology. I did a really low-fi collaborative project where I wrote songs with like 100 strings at this museum called MoMA PS1 in Queens. The whole point was to get away from the branding of creativity and more into the empathic aspects of the art. So, the idea that the collective unconscious is a thing where we all feel each other as humans. We walk by a stranger on the street, we feel them on a psychic level. So, writing songs about people that I didn’t know and some of whom did not even know how to write a poem or they did not know how to play an instrument kind of to me is proof of empathy between humans. I still believe that music can change the world, save the world, that art is the medium for change. So, I think the Internet only amplified that in a positive way. I purposely didn’t record it. I’d like to move more in that direction as my career progresses. I’d like to move into more performance art. I don’t know, just continuing to ask those questions of myself.