Estelle has become the template for transatlantic music success. In 2004, the West London-born singer-songwriter burst onto the British R&B scene with "1980" and "Free" from her debut album The 18th Day. After winning the MOBO for "Best Newcomer" and a number of other awards, Estelle gradually managed to slightly repackage her distinctive sound for American audiences. Signed to John Legend's HomeSchool, produced by Will.i.am and featuring a guest vocal by Kanye West, Estelle's 2008 US breakthrough hit "American Boy" earned her a Grammy Award. Quite impressive.
Now based in America, Estelle is getting her freak on with the David Guetta-produced "Freak"—the video is fierce and Estelle gives a special shout-out to Rod 2.0—the first single from her forthcoming album All of Me. "We're looking at a late August or early September release," Estelle tells Rod 2.0. "And another single or two as well."
So the same wholesome London girl who sweetly sung about American boys is now singing ... "Kiss him, slap him, pull his hair"? We discussed this, as well as Estelle's new video, ballroom voguing and "the kids" over an extended phone call last Friday. At times it was a little difficult to follow because of her accent—which is very lovely—but she was a doll.
ROD 2.0: Love, love, love "Freak. " But why do you want to slap the man? Was this Tiger Woods you were singing about?
ESTELLE: No, no. (LAUGHS) This was just a different part of me. I want to do an album that is a little schizophrenic ... sweet, sad, upbeat, freaky. All the different parts of me. I wanted to do an album with my different personalities, all 20 of them. I think everybody has it in them or at least the potential. People are either surprised by it, they love it or they don't get it.
R20: The video is high concept—the space suit, voguing and runway. How many wardrobe changes did you have?
ESTELLE: Wow .. at least four or five. My back was in pain from all the outfits and the bubble suit ... it was sooo heavy. And the director had me leaning against that guy for so long. I was standing there so long, I was about to freak him. (LAUGHS)
R20: You should have,
he was hot. (LAUGHS) That necklace you were wearing is hot. Is it Paloma Picaso?
R20: Good luck with that. The jewelry, outfits and Naomi Campbell walk was fierce. You were giving us the Latex Ball in New York Part 2.
ESTELLE: Ohmygod, I never had so much fun. I've been here for three years and always wanted to attend the balls. So many of my friends are gay and hang at the balls and I finally went. So much fun. Those kids are so talented and creative—they taught me to walk. Absolutely! I never had so much fun. Some of those kids were dipping and dropping so hard, pure fun. I love the balls.
Estelle talks her new CD, gay audiences stateside vs London plus watch the new "Freak" video AFTER THE JUMP ....
R20: I know that you also performed at London's G-A-Y. What's biggest difference between gay audiences in London and stateside?
ESTELLE: G-A-Y and London clubs are much more integrated than in the States. Even in New York City, the gay and straight clubs are not integrated, they are segregated by race. But either way I have pure fun. This being America, it was just very surprising.
R20: Oh absolutely. The gay nightlife and much of the community is segregated.
ESTELLE: Now I know . I was somewhat unprepared because when I would go out with a group of gay friends the black ones wanted to go to this club and the white ones wanted to go to that club. Oh and the black gay kids, darling they will GO IN! (LAUGHS)
R20: The children carry on....
ESTELLE: The children carry on, yes, yes! I love all my fans and all my gay fans. But I have never had so much fun as at some of the black gay clubs carrying on with the kids. They were dipping and prancing ... pure fun. I have never had so much fun unless I am with my friends and we are super drunk (LAUGHS) The white gay boys have major fun too—it's a different type. But I love clubbing with the gay boys, pure fun, pure enjoyment.
R20: Last week you were in Minneapolis? You're touring?
ESTELLE: Oh yes, we've been every where, just for listening. It's been a great reception. People are saying this is so different from "American Boy" but it really isn't. If you came to my shows, you'd see. We're already working on the next single "Fall in Love." It will go much harder. So many people can identify with falling in love and heartbreak. I know I can.
R20: Another single already?
ESTELLE: All of Me is scheduled for an August or September release. But we don't want it to be just the one single and the other tracks ... not very interesting. I want people to be able to have at least two or three or more singles. I want people to be able to get into the whole album, all of me, all of what I can offer.
R20: What's it like working with David Guetta? I hear that he does everything on a Mac —
ESTELLE: Yes! And is super-fast! I once gave him the lyrics to a song, he took his Mac outside and boom! Returned in 20 minutes with it fully mixed. Fully. I love David Guetta and he loves working with me. In fact I was the only one he specifically requested for his album.
R20: Canadian rapper Kardinal Offishall is featured on "Freak" Are you friends?
ESTELLE: He's like my big brother, he just doesn't realize it yet but he is! (LAUGHS) When I want to get away, I will take a trip to Toronto and just hang with him and no one will recognize me. It's great. And he will do the same here. He actually stole a track from my computer and remixed it for me! What a sweetheart. And he says I'm the only person he will wear super-tight pants for. The only one, so you would have to ask me!
On Twitter: @EstelleDarlings