nelly furtado

Nelly Furtado

Photography
Sami Drasin
Styling
Jyotisha Bridges represented by The Only Agency
Hair
Kelly Araujo
Makeup
Susana Hong

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Nelly Furtado was a pivotal part of 2000s music. At a time when physical media was king and MTV was our source for discovering new music videos, she inked a major label deal in the late 1990s when the music scene was hot on manufactured pop and squeaky-clean teen idols. Furtado, however, was an anomaly and became the industry’s next breakout star to turn heads. Blending her love for trip-hop, worldbeat, folk, and Latin, she arrived at the turn of the millennium in her baggy jeans, tank tops, and Adidas sneakers with the multigenre album Whoa, Nelly!, which featured hits “Turn Off The Light” and “I’m Like A Bird,” the latter earning the Canadian powerhouse a Grammy Award. Serving as a bold introduction, the album was the first taste of an eccentric artist who would enjoy a career spanning more than two decades, but most importantly, an innovator who was all about experimentation and taking risks. 

nelly furtado

As her career evolved with albums such as the hip-hop-infused Loose, her first Spanish album Mi Plan, and the low-key indie release, and her most recent, The Ride, Furtado continued to leave fans gripped for where she might take her sound next. And because of that motive, her artistry has been able to leave a long-lasting impression. That said, after laying low for many years, and her last album released in 2017, many wondered when or if Furtado would ever return to the scene. Explaining that her absence from the spotlight was necessary for her well-being and that she needed a break from the industry side of things, Furtado notes that it was never music itself that she shied away from.

“Never music,” she says enthusiastically. Furtado talks to EUPHORIA. via a video call while at home in Canada. “Music is like my medicine, without sounding cliche. It’s just what I do. It was always my form of escape. As a child, we had a piano and I would sit there and just zone out and go to another world. It is healing for me to make music and it feels so good.”

Fans’ prayers for new material were answered in the spring of 2023 when Furtado began to exhibit her comeback with the gritty club banger, “Eat Your Man.” Collaborating with Dom Dolla for the track, the singer came to know of the Australian DJ and producer after she saw his name on the poster for her first festival booking in six years. “He was on this poster for Beyond The Valley in Australia and immediately the name struck me. I was like, ‘Oh, who’s Dom Dolla?’ Then I listened, I was on vacation at the time, to a couple of records, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I love this!’ Then I reached out for him to send me some music and the relationship was born,” Furtado says. 

nelly furtado
Dress: Valdrin Sahiti | Earrings: House of Emmanuel

While Furtado’s breakthrough song, “I’m Like A Bird,” came in the form of a folk-pop ballad, some might be unaware that her roots started in the electronic music sphere during the ‘90s. “I started off making a lot of electronic music when I was in my late teens,” she says. A hit song wasn’t the only thing that came out of the link-up with Dolla. The opportunity also opened her eyes to how much the genre has evolved. “I think Dom had a really big impression on me, just meeting him and being around him and seeing what DJs are doing today. We met in 2023, but I’m a fast student. First of all, Dom films everything. His videographers are with him 24 hours a day, they’re always creating these magical moments online because the magic is also happening in real-time.”

The immediacy of electronic and DJ culture has also heavily impacted Furtado’s mindset. “The fact that you can remix something and put it out tomorrow and play it during your show for 20,000 people. And guess what? If they like it, it’s already churning. I’ve been really inspired over the past 18 months by that,” she says.

Keeping things moving, Furtado arrived at the end of the summer with another joint effort. This time with close industry friends Timbaland and Justin Timberlake for the head-bopping “Keep Going Up.” The trio previously had fans in a chokehold when they dropped the diss track “Give It To Me” in 2007 and topped the charts globally. 16 years later, they were still able to capture the same allure listeners were hoping for. “He is one of my magical collaborators. We just vibe on a whole other level when we’re together,” Furtado says about Timbaland. “We really understand each other musically. Like our brains, it’s weird. We’re kind of cut from the same cloth on some frequency. It’s so beautiful when we’re together. It’s really elevated. And Justin, I’m so proud of. I’m really loving all the new music he’s putting out and it just feels really genuine and beautiful.” 

nelly furtado

Furtado’s latest single, out March 28, “Gala y Dali,” marks her first release of 2024 and sees her participate in another reunion with Latin star Juanes after they previously struck gold with the ballads “Fotografía” in 2002 and “Te Busque” in 2006. The third time’s a charm for Furtado and Juanes as nearly two decades later they team up again with a summery, sing-a-long song perfect for the beach. “We just have this remarkable history together and the first song we did together [‘Fotografía’] was so well received. It’s just such a loved song and I love putting it in my shows. Of course, we’ve performed it together several times, but it doesn’t end there. We’ve also performed other songs together live from his repertoire and then we did ‘Tu Busque’ and it just kind of took it to a whole other level,” she says. 

The origin of how “Gala y Dali” came to life is a fascinating story. Furtado reveals that Juanes had the song over 20 years ago but had previously lost it in a backpack and hadn’t heard it since. “A friend had his backpack sitting around at his house all these years and he finally gave it back to him. Inside the backpack was this brilliant song. It wasn’t completed, so he asked me to record on it,” she explains. After helping develop the song, the pair went into the studio to record. “We recorded it in the same studio that we recorded ‘Te Busque’ as well, so it was a bit like a time warp,” Furtado adds. “There’s just so much nostalgia. We reference ‘Fotografía’ in the song, so we’re self-referencing, which I’m having so much fun with.”

nelly furtado
Dress: Kilian Kerner | Earrings: Anna Karin Karlsson

Now, we know what you’re all thinking. After teasing listeners with three collaborations, when will fans finally get to hear Furtado’s long-awaited seventh studio album? The expected answer to that question is: Soon! But no, seriously. The lead single is said to be released in May while the cover art for the album is being shot next month. “That I’m excited about,” Furtado teases. “I can’t reveal too much, but it’s gonna be elevated.”

Having created over 200 songs for the project, Furtado is whittling down which will make the final cut. “We’re currently in the mixing space,” she says. Club bangers can be expected, as well as ballads. No stranger to a bilingual moment, Furtado will also be singing in Spanish. “This current version, it’s about 10 to 20 percent Spanish,” she insists. The motive she’s setting out this time around? Getting shit done. “We’re doing it right. We’re doing all the things,” Furtado says. “We have big plans and I’m so excited about it because I’m in a better head space than ever. I’ve never loved being an entertainer more. I feel like I’m really owning it.”

Her new-found admiration for the job has her enjoying every aspect that she may have previously doubted. “I’m a mom too, and so, as fun as it is being a mom, it can also be stressful. The moment you get to the studio, sometimes my kids come with me and it’s just so beautiful when you can be making music. Immediately, I feel more calm. I feel more myself. I realize that my brain makes so much more sense in the studio. I was officially diagnosed with ADHD a couple of years ago and in the studio, my ADHD feels like a superpower,” she says. The way the industry now navigates during the digital age is also something Furtado prefers. ”Art and commerce, they’ve never gone together,” she says before laughing. “I mean, we’ve done pretty well with it and we have come a long way. In today’s world, it’s all just one thing now.”

nelly furtado
Look: Retrofete | Shoes: Le Silla | Rings: Ivy Jewelry

Reflecting on her come-up, Furtado states that “the world was a different place back then.” She continues: “The way we promoted records, the way we marketed them, it’s almost like the way we market music now is much more suitable to my personality because it’s way more about just instant moments, you know? Because I have ADHD, it’s like, ‘Okay, great. That’s over. What’s next?’ It’s perfect for me. Before you had to kind of just pick how you were gonna bring your music to people and then stick with it. You couldn’t switch it up or pivot. We have so much more control over how we promote things, which is so cool.”

Long before opening the doors to a new era, Furtado’s career was already in legacy mode. Loud and proud about his love for the fellow Canadian, rapper Drake said Furtado’s music changed his life and invited her to perform at his OVO Presents All-Canadian North Stars event in 2022. British singer Dua Lipa credited Whoa, Nelly! as her musical awakening while Furtado’s US Billboard Hot 100 chart-topping single “Say It Right” from 2006 was referenced as an influence on Lorde’s modern-day masterpiece Melodrama. Not to mention, Furtado has recently been in the studio with Alessia Cara, Tove Lo, and SG Lewis as well as Indian musician Sid Sriram whom she reached out to via Instagram after discovering his Tiny Desk performance online. By all means, it’s pretty fair to say that Furtado has left an impact on the music stars who came after her. 

How does she feel about all the love? “Oh my god, it’s so cool. It makes me proud and happy,” she says. “I always remember going to my good friend’s birthday and he had very intentionally invited me because he wanted me to meet his good friend Dua Lipa. We finally got to meet and it was something we had been meaning to do for years. I get proud when I see somebody who’s told me, ‘Oh, you’ve influenced me.’ I literally just saw Dua’s Grammy performance and I was so proud. I was like, ‘This is fucking awesome!’ It’s a great feeling. I’m just grateful to be even in the conversation, to be totally honest.”

nelly furtado

In the same light, Furtado recognizes that she also wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the women who came before her, listing the likes of Madonna, Gwen Stefani, and Janet Jackson as early inspirations. Sharing a story she’s never told before, Furtado details the time Stefani turned up to the video shoot for her single “Turn Off The Light” and heavily impacted the fashion for the visual.

“We were both watching an artist play at Universal Amphitheater and we both work with Sophie Miller, the video director. I was a huge No Doubt fan! She was wearing a Juicy Couture sweater and I literally asked my stylist to get me the same type of sweater. That’s why I’m wearing an orange Juicy Couture sweater in the ‘Turn Off The Light’ video where Gwen Stefani came to visit me on set. It’s like, man, with queens like that, you do get influenced,” she says. “It makes me happy even to share that story. Like, it’s a small thing. It’s a sweater. But, it’s like, ‘Oh my God, I’ve never seen a fuzzy hoodie, I want one.’ And then not only do I get one, but I wear it in my video. So this is how culture is created. Culture is just what people are doing. It’s like a collage of influence.”

Referring to Stefani as “the homie,” Furtado recalls bumping into her at award shows where “she’d always hug me.” Furtado adds: “It sounds like such a cliche, but I’m gonna say it out loud. Queens recognize queens! You know what I’m saying? When I see younger artists killing it, I just get so inspired and happy and excited for them.”

One musician Furtado has her eyes firmly peeled on is the multitalented Victoria Monet, who recently won big at this year’s Grammy Awards following the release of her debut album, Jaguar II. “It’s just such a beautiful album because it has a truth in it. It has passion and uniqueness in it in a very special way. I love seeing her out there killing it, succeeding, you know?”, she says. Furtado also name-checks rapper Flo Milli as another star she’s into right now. “She came to town for a concert. We followed each other because she knew I was into her album and coming to the show. She came to the studio and we just hung out and talked for like three or four hours,” Furtado adds.

nelly furtado
Look: Retrofete

With a new album due in the forthcoming months, Furtado’s goals for 2024 are no different from what she’s previously set herself. “I just work my hardest at the dance studio, in the recording studio. I firmly feel if you’ve done the work and you’ve put the time into like a concert or a certain thing, it’s gonna come off how you want it to,” she says. “The rest you can’t control, but you can only control the work you put into your own craft. You have to really believe in yourself but also just chill and trust your instincts. That’s all I’m really focused on, to be honest.”

While Furtado has a history of taking her time between album releases, she insists that the new LP is just the stepping stone for what she has planned. “I’ve never stopped making music. I don’t see the album I’ll be putting out this year as the end-all. I feel like there’s gonna be part one, part two, part three, because I have so much more music lined up. I’ve never kind of been in a state of mind of understanding that my job and my craft is making music, but that doesn’t mean you stop when you finish an album. Like, what is finished? Like, what does that even mean? You just continue and perpetually make music. A lot of times that’s when you hit gold,” she says. As for that collaborative album with Timberlake and Timbaland that the latter previously announced, Furtado claims that “Keep Going Up” is all that has come out of their studio sessions. That said, she isn’t ruling anything out. “We need to pick up where we left off with that. We haven’t started on any new music, but I am open to that 100 percent. I would love to work with both of them and make at least an EP. Like, why not?” she adds.

As she continues to tease a busy year ahead, Furtado is keeping many secrets. “There’s lots of surprises in the pipeline,” she says.