Soul music is cultural, and it should forever be enshrined as one of the world’s greatest forms of music. It is a people, a nation, and it is the rhythm of our lives and loves and losses and wins, our hopes and dreams and passions on parade.
Earlier this year DZI: The Voice predicted that 2011 will be the bellweather year that future music enthusiasts will look back on as the beginning of a major shift in the popular music zeitgeist. The public is ready to once again gravitate toward soul music, passing over the paint-by-numbers, computer-generated sound that has controlled the mainstream musical landscape since the emergence of Autotune. And one voice ready to help usher in a new era of renaissance for R&B/Soul is Milwaukee-born, New York City-breed songstress Esnavi.
Eclectic. Soulful. Natural. Authentic. Vivacious. Intriguing. These are the characteristics that embody the music, the fashion, and the personality of Esnavi, an indie artist that has wowed audiences at The Apollo, CBGB’s, The Village Underground, S.O.B.’s, and over 200,000 strong at the Taste Of Soul Music Festival in Los Angeles.
Esnavi’s first single, “Unexpected Love”, is already a Top 40 hit on the Urban Adult Contemporary Charts and it’s accompanying video is in rotation on VH1 Soul, Centric TV, and Music Choice Video On Demand. She recently performed her latest single, “Morning Dew”, on Fox 5’s Good Day New York, and is preparing for a headlining show at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on February 24. Get to know Soultracks’ nominee for New Artist of the Year (2011) and soul music’s newest champion, Esnavi.
EXIT E is a musical journey. It’s my stop on the music highway. When you listen to my album, you’re getting off on EXIT E and taking a ride with me through that journey.
Yohance: When did you first discover your voice as an artist?
Esnavi: In high school, but I began to develop my artistry in college.
Y: How would you describe your sound?
E: Eclectic Soul.
Y: What’s the meaning behind you album title, EXIT E?
E: EXIT E is a musical journey. It’s my stop on the music highway. When you listen to my album, you’re getting off on EXIT E and taking a ride with me through that journey. It parallels my life journey at the time. Every song takes you to a different place musically, lyrically and emotionally.
Y: And what about your lead single, “Unexpected Love”? What was your inspiration for that song?
E: “Unexpected Love” is a song I wrote about my experience of encountering an ‘Unexpected Love’. I was in a place in my life when I wasn’t looking for a relationship or love, and the love that came was totally unexpected.
Love is a beautiful thing. And I’m not just referring to the love between people, but my love for the most high, music, the universe, among other things.
Y: Your new single, “Morning Dew”, is a celebration of the happiness that love brings. What experiences in your life inspired you to write that song?
E: Real life experiences and true feelings. Love is a beautiful thing. And I’m not just referring to the love between people, but my love for the most high, music, the universe, among other things.
Y: On the flip side of the love experience, your song “Electric Fantasy” focuses on those confusing, sometimes troubling, parts of relationships. When sitting down to write, which side of love is easier for you to tap into, the joy or the pain?
E: Both because I write about whatever I’m experiencing or have experienced. That’s always the easiest thing to write about. I draw from the very moment I’m living in and the words come naturally as I explain the situation or what I’m feeling about the situation. The not so easy part is making those things poetic in song format.
Y: You’re an experienced stage performer. What’s your process when preparing for a show?
E: I start mentally preparing for a show the moment I’m booked. I think about the venue, the type of set I want to have, the type of ambience I want to create, and then I decide what I want to wear. After that I focus on rehearsing for it and visualizing what kind of performance I want to give.
Y: You’ve done stripped down, soulful covers of Rihanna’s “Only Girl” and Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy”. What other artists would you like to cover or work with in the future?
E: Too many artists to name. If I really like a song and the lyrics, I’d cover it. I recently covered “No Ordinary Love” by Sade at my Apollo show and I’m doing some new covers at my BAM show, so I like to keep it interesting. As far as artists I’d like to work with in the future, right now my radar is on The Roots and Robert Glasper. I’m ready to work on some hip-hop fusion music.
Y: Dance pop has been the dominating sound in mainstream music the last several years. What do you think it will take for R&B/Soul to breakthrough into the mainstream again?
E: Create good music that the mainstream can’t deny. Adele proved how that can happen.
Y: Do you think being an independent artist gives you more artistic freedom than you may have if you were on a major label?
E: Definitely. Major labels have too many opinions when it comes to the artistic side of music. I believe they don’t understand the artist side and they don’t allow them to just be who they are. Instead, they try to make the artist be what they feel the artist should be in order to make money and that’s not righteous in the grand scope of life.
Y: You’ve seemed to have fully embraced on-line publications and social media. How has using new media helped your career?
E: It’s helped my career immensely. Social media has been the major platform in raising awareness of my music.
Y: You’ve also embraced fashion. How is expressing yourself through fashion similar/different than expressing yourself through music?
E: They are both forms of art that I connect to. However, because I’m an artist, expressing myself through music is much more personal. It’s my release. I’m able to get out my thoughts and feelings. With fashion, since I’m not a designer, I’m able to express myself, but much more on a surface level. But if I were to design and make clothes, those expressions might both be on the same level.
Y: Are you interested in one day starting you own apparel line?
Y: What can we look forward to from Esnavi in the future?
E: More and more good music.
Esnavi will be performing at BAMcafé LIVE at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on February 24th. For more info click it.
For more info about Esnavi click it.
Check out videos of Esnavi: