Hailing from South Africa, Elaine, now 21, was introduced to R&B when she was only 6 years old. Fast forward to 2019 where she’ released her highly praised debut EP Elements — allowing her to go triple platinum with her single “You’re the One” — and sign with Columbia Records.
With a documentary under her belt, album preparation under way, and her new song “Right Now” out today, it’s clear that this year Elaine is on her way to reaching even more audiences with her music.
We had the pleasure of speaking with Elaine to talk about her love for R&B, new music, plans for the year, and more. Check out our interview below.
Let’s get started. You fell in love with R&B when you were 6? Was this the genre that you always knew you wanted to do for your own music or did you ever consider branching out to another genre?
Yeah, I was 6 years old. I have never considered anything but R&B. Ever since I was 6 years old, that’s all I’ve ever been in love with. To me, if someone says “music,” I immediately think R&B. So yeah, it’s a deep love, deep love for the genre.
I love that. I also heard that you write songs super quickly. Is this true?
It is, it is! It’s changed now because I’m paying so much more attention to the content that I’m writing. Before, I was just really writing so quick. But I think with growth comes paying more attention to your art [and] wanting to make it better. And yes, I’m not as fast as I used to be, but I definitely was in my bag back in the day. I say that like I’m so old!
I understand that feeling! When you’re writing, what are you most inspired by?
I’m always inspired by the beat, so the beat will probably control the narrative or the emotion that I’m feeling. But, it’s always based off of a real life experience or probably something that I’m going through or having a hard time expressing, or something that I’m afraid to share with other people. It’s always very circumstantial. But definitely the beat is my foundation when it comes to making music and writing.
Is there a topic that you’re always drawn to when you’re writing? For instance, “I really love, love. Let me talk about that.”
All the time. That’s me every time. That’s all I ever write about. But you know, love comes in different forms. Sometimes I write about bad experiences with love, experiences where I wish I did better, experiences that I wish I had cut shorter, you know. So it’s always based on my experiences with being engaging with people on an emotional level, or the lack thereof, really.
And of the songs that you’ve written, if you could pick one song to introduce yourself to new listeners, which song would you choose and why? This can be an old song or new one that’s coming up.
A new song that’s coming up. Can I use those?
Yeah, of course!
Oh, wow. I think where I’m at, there’s so many, but I think a song titled “Sorry.” Yeah, “Sorry” [is] not released yet but I think for me, that’s a song that best describes me. It’s very, very sincere, but still confident at the same time. So as much as I’m willing to meet someone halfway and accommodate them, I’m not willing to do so if it includes compromising myself, which is something that took me a very long time to figure out because to me, I used to think love means compromise and sometimes you compromise yourself. But now I’m at a stage in my life where I’m like, it really shouldn’t be that way. And if someone’s not adding to you in any way, shape or form, then it’s really not worth it for me.
Speaking of new music, is your upcoming album similar to the sound of your first EP or will it be a little bit different?
I think I’ve definitely grown. I think I’ve become more confident and content wise, I’m not afraid to explore other topics. I’m not afraid to express myself in different ways, so it definitely holds the same sentiments, but I can say that it’s more confident, there’s more attitude and it’s really just a true reflection of who I am. I think now I’ve had enough time to sort of find myself and to grow and figure out how I want to share my music with the world. And so I found better ways to express myself. It is pretty much the same foundation, but just expressed a bit differently.
Wow! If it’s anything like the first EP, I’m so excited for it!
Thank you so much!
And this is random but I saw on your Instagram a post of your law course grades. Are you in school right now or have you graduated?
Yeah, so I was in university. I’ve graduated from university — I got my undergrad degree but we haven’t officially had the graduation ceremony because of COVID. But usually it happens a year after [we graduate] because our academic year ends in December. So I don’t know where I’m going to have one or if I’m going to be able to attend because I’m moving to California. So you know, it’s kind of bittersweet. But I think at the end of the day, when everything is said and done, it’s going to be for a good cause. I’m just chasing my heart, chasing my dreams. And sometimes you can’t have everything at once, so it was sort of a bittersweet moment because I feel like I was also robbed of the real university experience and because I was in my final year, we had to do it all from home. So it’s been crazy. But I think at the end of it all, I’m just happy to have a qualification. As long as I’ve got a degree then I feel a lot better.
That’s so good to hear! Have you ever been inspired in one of your classes about a song idea?
I feel bad saying this, but that’s all I was doing in my classes because they were so boring. Like, the lectures were so boring — law lectures are horrible. I was just writing the whole time, making mood boards and vision boards and what I want to see happen. It was definitely quite an inspiring place but at the same time, it’s also a place where you need to be very sure of yourself because at that moment, I was like, “You know what, maybe I should just leave the music and focus on school.” You know, it’s crazy. But I was like, “No, I really enjoy writing and I enjoy making music. So I’m going to do both.” And having them all, having both areas of my life prosper has been a very rewarding feeling I must say.
Moving away from school, I heard that you’re working on a documentary about your hometown stardom in South Africa. Could you tell us more about this documentary? Why or who did you want to make this for?
It’s basically sort of like an introduction to who I am and where I’m from. And I’m just making it for the people that already know of me and support me and those that are still to join this journey with me. I think moving countries and leaving South Africa, signing with an international record label, and basically uprooting my entire life has been such a monumental part of my life, that I want to be able to document it not only for the people now and for everybody witnessing it and experiencing it, but for those that are going to come years later so that they can see that it wasn’t done overnight. You know, it wasn’t something that was cooked up overnight. It definitely took time, it took sacrifice and it took a lot of growth from my end as well. I mean, every time I’m home, I become so sad, because I’m just like, I have to go soon and I have to leave you guys and it’s not like I can hop on a plane and be there in a couple of hours — they’re on the other side of the world. So, it’s just something that I’m doing for everybody that’s part of the journey, that’s going to join the journey and for myself to just to look back and have this thing, this documentary, just motivating me and keeping me pushing just so I always have the vision alive, no matter what.
There’s always going to be ups and downs with being a musician, right?
Yeah, all the time, all the time. It’s just great having certain things or certain pieces of art that inspire you during or within the journey that you’re taking. You know, it helps, it makes it a little less painful sometimes. So it’s just me expressing myself and really just wanting people to know me on a personal level, because I feel like a lot of people know what’s going on but they really don’t know me on a personal level probably because I’m a very shy and introverted person. But I am trying to grow and I want people to know me for me, so I thought that that was the perfect starting point for it to happen.
Looking back at your career so far, even though it has just begun, what’s the moment that you’re most proud of?
Wow, the moment that I’m most proud of. I think it’s just the way that I’ve believed in myself from the get go. Like wow, it just shocks me that I really had no idea what I was doing and how it was gonna turn out. But just having that faith in myself and in my art has taken me so far and I can only imagine how much more further it can take me. And so that to me has just been a moment where I constantly thank myself like, “Girl, thanks for having so much faith. And thanks for never giving up” and just having everybody support me as much as they do and have them already, you know, ride for me. It’s been crazy. It’s been overwhelming. And I feel like sometimes I haven’t even really digested everything that’s happened and it’s probably going to hit me at a later stage. But I’m just trying to take it day by day and just be grateful for the little things and for the people that are involved and invested and working hard to make my vision come alive and keep the dream alive, essentially. That’s been the most rewarding part of all.
Are there any dream cities that you’d like to perform in?
Paris is my favorite city. So I think once that happens, I’ll be like, wow, that is a year. I love Paris. I love London. Las Vegas would be dope, there’s so many places. But I think Paris would be such a full-circle moment because I went there a few years ago, and I totally fell in love with the city. And I was like, “you know what, next time I come back here, I’m going to be a pretty big deal.” So fingers crossed, fingers crossed.
Amazing! And last question. What else can we expect from you in 2021? Is there anything that you want to accomplish this year or let your fans know?
Oh, wow. So besides my debut album, I think I just really want to become a fully rounded artist and find different ways to express myself, be it through TV and film and on the production side of things. I just really want to become one with my creativity and just see it grow beyond the music. I’m looking forward to just having this album out and having people absolutely love it because I’ve been working on it for so long. And it’s so sincere, and it’s so personal too and I just think that for me this year, is just seeing that my debut album prosper and just reach new heights and for it to be a global experience. I really want people all over the world to experience it. So that’s what I’m most looking forward to.
I’m so excited for that. Is there a time frame we can expect the album?