Estelle has never been one to bite her tongue when it comes to sharing her personal life through her music. On 2012’s All of Me, the striking English songstress—now a full-fledged stateside sensation—vividly tackled the heartache that comes along with weathering a breakup. On her latest album, True Romance, Estelle is done shedding tears and has fallen in love once again. But this time, the object of her affection is truly deserving of her devotion.
“It’s all about me. This album is about being okay with who I am. Nobody is gonna love you if you can’t love yourself,” says Estelle. True Romance introduces us to a confident Estelle Fanta Swaray who’s clearly ready to accept herself, flaws and all. On the first inspirational single, “Conqueror,” she croons about never giving up, no matter how many times you might fall on your face trying. The down-to-earth, relatable narratives on her new album tackle passion, courage, love and the b.s. that embodies all true romances. While Estelle may not be a fan of self-help books, True Romance is a serious confidence booster set to music.
EBONY.com caught up with Estelle to chat about her new album, her newfound confidence and her friend Kanye West’s Grammy Awards rant.
EBONY: You don’t shy away from painstakingly revealing yourself and your experiences with fans. Does it always come easy?
Estelle: I use my art kind of like a form of therapy where a lot of people keep things bottled up. I’m very much able to release these things, sometimes in a good or bad way, on my albums. I like the freedom of being able to do this in such a coherent way. The fact that people can relate to what I’m singing is a good thing. It’s really freeing.
EBONY: On True Romance, you’re writing a love letter to yourself.
Estelle: This album is about me being cool with myself and being in this single space. A lot of people spend the majority of their lives single. You spend a majority of your life figuring yourself out, even when you are in a relationship. That’s my whole approach. There is nothing wrong with being by yourself or figuring yourself out and trying to become a better person before you decide to get married or get involved in any relationship that demands your time. There is nothing wrong with some self-refection along the way.
EBONY: How was your journey to self-acceptance?
Estelle: It wasn’t easy at all. It was something I had to learn, but it was fun! I like to live according to what comes day by day. Inside, I’m a definite control freak. I think I hit a point a few years ago where I was like, “Whatever comes is gonna be good,” and that I have nothing to fear. That has landed me here, so it’s not that bad.
When you are happy with yourself and you remind yourself of that, it is healthy for your relationship. The other person has nothing to do but take you at your word and what you show them. A lot of people want to put on airs and decide to be everything their partner wants. When it blows up, you wonder why? It’s because you weren’t honest. You didn’t give that person a chance to fall in love with the real you. That’s why it failed.
You’ve got to fall in love with yourself before anyone else does. This album is about being happy being single, married or none of the above. You have the right to live your life the way you want.
EBONY: What songs on True Romance really define the album?
Estelle: I think the first and last record kinda puts it into perspective. “Conqueror,” the first single, is the last record I recorded. And it reminds you that no matter what happens, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep it moving. You should never give up. “All That Matters” is another record about what love should be. My mom and dad got married and they’ve been apart for almost 20 years and then got back together for 10 years and then decided to get married. You are gonna end up with who you should be with.
EBONY: Are you currently back on the dating scene?
Estelle: Yes, I am! I’m having a ball too. It’s nice to be taken out and shown things you might have not known about or seen. I’m on a fun ride right now.
EBONY: How do you think you’ve grown as an artist since your debut?
Estelle: I’ve grown a lot. I’ve had the opportunity to live the last 15 years singing about my life. That has to be the most awesome thing. You get to live and write about it. It’s like a dream really. The first album, things were black and white. Now it’s a bit more gray. I’m definitely more flexible today and open to trying new things.
EBONY: Some the R&B singers today at the top of the charts happen to be White. There’s been a lot of talk about the future of R&B.
Estelle: I don’t have an opinion on the future of R&B because I don’t classify myself as a strictly R&B artist. I do what I do and the music I love. If some of it is R&B and people want to buy it, that’s cool. If you want to celebrate R&B artists you want to see succeed, then they should do that. Don’t complain about what’s happening when you aren’t supporting. That’s my issue. Don’t complain when you don’t even own the album you wish was nominated. Don’t say sh*t and go buy the new album.
At the same time, some of these White artists have great voices and they can sing what they want to sing. If I want to go sing a pop song like “Conqueror,” which I consider a pop song and not R&B, I should be able to do it. Let me do what I want to do. Support music you love and that’s it.
EBONY: What did you make of Kanye’s latest Grammy rant over Beck winning Album of the Year?
Estelle: Kanye is always gonna have an opinion, and I’m not sure why we even question it. I mean, it’s his opinion, right? Let him have it. It has nothing to do with me or my life. It doesn’t change my perspective on either artist.
EBONY: What was your album of the year?
Estelle: I am loving D’Angelo’s new album, Black Messiah. It’s a late entry for album of the year. My favorite song is “The Door.” It’s simply wonderful.
Alexandra Phanor-Faury is a Haitian-American writer living in Brooklyn, New York with a slight (OK, major) addiction to fashion and pop culture. When she's not up in the middle of the night filling her online shopping carts and catching up on style blogs, she's writing about fashion and entertainment for a number of websites and magazines. Check out her work and blog at AlexandraPhanor.com.