An Enduring Voice

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“It’s a spirit thing,” says award-winning singer-songwriter Estelle. “It’s a connection thing.”

She’s describing the power of music — which for her is power, period. For decades now, Estelle has been making music that connects her audience to a feeling, rather than a time or a place. From her perspective, it is more valuable to wrap listeners in a sound that can speak to our collective experiences. The end result is music that endures long after the trends and charts have moved on.

“You don’t want to be a flash in the pan,” Estelle says. “One great record is great, but ten or fifteen records is even better.”

Music captivated Estelle from a young age. Looking back on her choir days as a girl, Estelle remembers that “music was the one thing that made me fully beam from the inside out.” Acting on her mother’s advice to pursue something that made her happy, Estelle chased the elation she felt when singing. It has carried her on a soaring ride, to the top of the charts, sharing the stage with collaborators who could only be considered iconic. It has brought her awards that musicians spend entire careers trying to claim. But even after reaching these heights, Estelle isn’t ready to stop. It’s still, after all the success, about that feeling.

To that end, Estelle is meticulous about the music she makes — and more specifically, about the stories she tells through her lyrics. Fans have approached her bearing their own deeply personal stories, sharing how her songs have helped them through challenges large and small. These interactions serve to remind her of the impact of her work. “It has reminded me to stay focused and write words with meaning, words that could stand the test of time, not just come and go,” Estelle says.

As a result, Estelle has cultivated a musical style that cannot be defined by a single genre.. As a child, she sang along to her parents’ reggae records, and the R&B and pop that played on the radio. Later on, she developed an affinity for punk and disco. “I’m used to being open and hearing everything all the time, instead of just one type of music,” Estelle says.

This unreserved approach corresponds naturally to her songwriting process, which is guided primarily by intuition. “It starts with a melody,” Estelle says. “And after that, it’s whatever flows.”

On a drive in the Continental, Estelle previewed her new track, “Be in Luv,” in which she sings a universal message — one of love — over a reggae beat. It’s an echo back to her days spent listening to reggae on vinyl in her parents’ London home — a track that feels like a homecoming of sorts, as she explains it.

“I live in that space of reggae music; I grew up in it,” Estelle says. “I feel like I have to do it justice.”

That nostalgia has made Estelle more determined than ever to create a sound that can resonate. “When you’ve grown up your entire life doing this, you can’t cheat yourself,” says Estelle. That means staying true to the original goal she began chasing all those years ago as a little girl in London who thrilled at the sound of crackling vinyl and the euphoria of singing in the choir: A feeling, and one that can be shared with the entire world.

Explore the other artists in our First Listen series and our commitment to sound by visiting this page. To learn more about That’s Continental, please visit us here.

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