Perception: the process of using the senses to acquire information about the surrounding environment or situation.
As I prepared for the feature this week, I thought about my life – from childhood into my adult years. Everyone reaches particular milestones in their lives, marked by certain birthdays throughout our lives. As we reach particular markers though, our view of life changes with the added years of experience. Many times my thoughts turn to events in my life some twenty-five years ago. However, things look a lot different today as my overall environment, and my life experiences have shaped changes in my perception. Every opportunity I have to feature an artist who has enjoyed at least a ten year career, I wonder about their view now compared to the start of their journey. This week I chose to examine the career of singer/songwriter Estelle.
Estelle Swaray was born and raised in West London, England. Ironically, on January 18, 2015, the date of publication of this post, Estelle will celebrate her thirty-fifth birthday. She has enjoyed a ten-plus year musical career. Like many of her contemporaries from the UK, she is the next in a long line of female vocalists I have had the privilege of featuring in Weekly Music Commentary. Not in any particular order, Adele, Emeli Sande, Lianne La Havas and Rebecca Ferguson are young artists I wrote about over the past few years. Estelle is the one UK female singer that I consider at the top of the list, if only because she has a few years head start over the others mentioned.
Estelle’s parents were very religious when she was growing up, and secular music wasn’t allowed in the family’s home. Instead, spiritual music—particularly American gospel—and traditional African music was what Estelle grew up listening to. Her mother was a massive reggae fan. Estelle was introduced to hip-hop by an uncle and by the time she was in her early 20s, she had decided on a music career.
Like many young, talented artists of our time, Estelle’s career took off like a rocket. After meeting Kanye West in a Los Angeles restaurant, and then asking for an introduction to John Legend, Estelle was forming some very powerful production help for future endeavors. When things happen very fast, usually we do not get an opportunity to reflect on all the details of events. Of course, I have heard Estelle relate the experience in interviews, but to look back upon the events surrounding her career start now may appear to be blurry. Most of us look back in life events and view particular marks. However, we actually lived the life day to day or even minute to minute.
Looking back at life events is quite easy. Looking ahead is almost impossible. Like many of you reading this blog, when I was in high school and college, I never really thought about what my life would be at fifty. Most of us possibly never thought we would reach fifty years old, or even thirty-five like Estelle. Thirty-five possibly looked very old to Estelle when she started her music career in her early twenties. Yet here she is and settled nicely in a successful music career.
Our time is very different from years past. Recording artists start very young in our time, mostly in their late teens. Those same artists now have careers that may last into their late fifties and further. Estelle is a perfect example of an entertainer who could easily give us another twenty years or more. As long as she avoids major illness or injury Estelle should easily continue with a similar performance schedule to her current pace. Her long journey could be much longer.
In just a few weeks Estelle will release her fourth studio album True Romance, which is available for pre-order right now. The one thing that might make this fourth album different than the others is Estelle’s experience with the process. Most entertainers are ready to produce better quality music at a similar career stage. In a recent interview she spoke about the music producers that she has lined up for this project, explaining that she does not really need many producers based on reputation. She knows at this point which producers will provide her with the best music, and that was her goal for True Romance.
Estelle now resides in New York US, but frequently goes back to the UK to visit family and friends. The Grammy award winning singer/songwriter in 2013 announced the launch of New London Records, an independent label in partnership with BMG, with whom she’s worked as a writer since 2003. “This is a new and exciting move for me,” Estelle said in a press release. “BMG has been an awesome partner throughout my career, and with New London we plan to continue bridging the gap between soul, R&B, London and New York — uniting them through music.” Still all part of Estelle’s long journey called life.