At the hair salon, there’s nothing like catching up on gossip or seeking advice for some of our own personal dramas. Songstress Elle Varner opened up that vulnerable space for an “Under the Dryer” intimate girl talk with some of her most loyal fans at Miss Jessie’s swanky Soho salon in downtown Manhattan last Friday.
Varner is known for allowing her pen to interpret her heart through relatable lyrics, and hits like “Only Wanna Give It to You” and “Refill” are fan favorites. The soul and sincerity of her voice help inspire listeners to push through rough times. One international fan gave a tear-jerking story of how the Varner’s “So Fly” helped her through the hardships of adjusting to America. After regaining her composure, Varner graciously thanked everyone for connecting with her through music.
Last month, Varner released her edgy “F**k It All” from her upcoming full-length album, Four Letter Word. Varner admits that the record deals with her heartbreak within the past year, but also how she’s evolved and become a better woman because of it. Four Letter Word has no firm release date just yet, but it’s sure to be worth the wait. The 25-year-old singer gave EBONY a candid heart-to-heart on her new music, hair care tips, and even her thoughts on the latest Grammy-nominated Kendrick Lamar single.
EBONY: What do you want listeners to take away from Four Letter Word?
Elle Varner: The album is speaking on some of my life experiences in the last year or so, one of them being a break-up. I thought it was all about that at first. I thought that was what everything was about. I think when we go through things like that, we think the whole world is ending. I’ve just come to find a stronger, more confident version of myself through it all. Love, loss, life, they’re all four letter words. I picked that title because it’s open. Wherever you are in life is going to be what you get from the music. I’m just giving you a page from my diary.
EBONY: What is currently your favorite song on your album right now?
Varner: I don’t think I wrote it yet. It will be about “everything will be okay.” That was one thing that when I was making this album I truly did not feel. I felt like, “f*ck it all.” Even though I said in those lyrics: I won’t let this rob me of my joy/I gotta reinstall. I said that, but I wasn’t able to do it. Now, I’ve learned that time truly heals all wounds.
EBONY: Everyone loves your curls. What are some of your hair-care secrets?
Varner: The main thing that I have learned having natural hair is that if you touch it while it’s wet, that’s when it frizzes up. It’s tedious. I had to wake up at like 8:30am to be able to leave by noon because I have to wet it, comb it out wet, and then let it air dry for like three hours. I use Miss Jessie’s Quick Curls on the surface. If you towel dry it, if you touch it, anything you do to it while it’s wet will cause it to frizz. What you do is you allow it to dry and then you pull it apart and fluff it out. It’s huge hair.
EBONY: What do you think about the current state of soul music? The Grammys nominated the Kendrick Lamar’s single “i” for Best Rap Performance but people are saying it sounds pop. It’s an Isley Brothers sample and more soul if anything.
Varner: Honestly, I would love for that to be pop on the charts. If Kendrick Lamar’s song could be pop, that would make a huge statement. Right now, soul for a White R&B artist is considered pop, but if you’re Black, you’re considered urban adult contemporary. That’s not fair. I’m tired of it. I’ve sat back and I’ve played the political role. I’ve kept my cool and have tried not to alienate anybody. The only way I can turn it into a positive is that it puts a challenge against myself. I’m like, okay, either you’re going to lie down or you’re going to fight this and overcome it. “Pop soul” or “pop R&B” isn’t really an option for me.
LaParis Hawkins is a freelance writer and natural hair contributor for EBONY.com based in Brooklyn. Follow her on Instagram for all things natural and fabulous @TailoredPieces.