Exclusive Interview : Vanessa Elisha is Burning Up the R&B Charts in Australia and LA Bound
After the extraordinary success of her single “Down for This”, Australian R&B starlet-in-the-making Vanessa Elisha returns with her new single “Latency”, which is the first offering from her upcoming EP “Good Ones”. The track, featuring Vanessa’s brother CVIRO is almost an ode to classic 90s male/female duets.
Produced by long-time collaborator, GXNXVS, “Latency” seamlessly blends hazy hip hop, soul and smoky electro pop in conjunction with the rich R&B vocals cultivated by Vanessa and CVIRO.
The last 12 months have proved to be a breakout year for the singer/songwriter, with the likes of Complex, Hypetrak, The Fader and Pigeons and Planes now counted amongst her most vocal supporters, capturing a #2 spot on the Billboard’s Emerging Artist charts. CVIRO & GXNXVS have also been making waves with their latest single “Sober” reaching #5 on Spotify’s Global Viral charts.
In addition to past collaborations with XXYYXX “Unknown”, J.Louis (Soulection) “Ocean” and salute “Real Cool”, Vanessa continues to build up an exciting resume with the best yet to come.
Recorded across both sides of the Pacific Ocean, “Good Ones” is the first output after almost a year of studio sessions with the likes of Paces, Golden Features, XXYYXX, JMSN, GXNXVS, Styalz Fuego, Dave Luxe and more.
Australian fans can also catch Vanessa as the opening act for Jhene Aiko’s solo show in Sydney.
Q. What is the R&B scene like in Australia?
A. I think right now is a great time to be doing R&B in any country, people have really fallen back in love with the sound. It’s an exciting time for R&B in Australia, there are emerging artists doing some big things, like Chet Faker, George Maple and Thelma Plum. There hasn’t traditionally been a great R&B scene here, but we’re getting there! The Australian music community is just now starting to catch on to my music which feels amazing.
Q. Who are you most influenced by musically?
A. I love 90’s girl groups right now, it’s all I listen to, SWV, Kut Close, Destiny’s Child, Total, 702, and then there’s Missy, Aaliyah, Ginuwine, Lauryn Hill, Jon B, to Drake, Jhene and Floetry… I’ve really gone back to what I was listening to as a kid and it’s inspiring me like crazy, I’ve also discovered a lot of 90’s music that I missed out on which is cool.
Q. Who would you like to work with?
A. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some crazy talented artists like XXYYXX, Golden Features, JMSN, Stylaz Fuego, Andrea, salute… and there are still so many on my list! Noah 40, Galamatias, Kaytranada, SBTRKT, Timbaland – I want to explore different sounds and see what new producers can inspire me to create. I’d love to write with Majid Jordan, Party Next Door, Tink, Anne-Marie, How to Dress Well – I feel like I’d learn a lot.
Q. Were you prepared for the success of your music? What was it like when you realized people were really responding to your sound?
A. Not at all. I’ve kind of done it all on my own. When I started, it was really a shot in the dark, I didn’t expect much at all, maybe a couple hundred plays from friends and family but the reaction completely overwhelmed me. I couldn’t believe people were tweeting my lyrics and telling me they were ‘fans’… I still feel uncomfortable using that word, it’s a very weird feeling.
Q. What was it like making the EP, was it pretty effortless or was it a lot of hours in the studio?
A. I wish I could say it was effortless, but it wasn’t. It’s all on me really, my mood, how I’m feeling when I’m writing and recording, because I do it all by myself. Sometimes its a struggle when you don’t have the right resources or beats to write to. But in the end I found all the right artists to work with and I’m extremely proud of what we made.
Q. So how did you and your brother become artists? Who got started making music first?
A. We both always knew we wanted to be in the music industry, it’s what our lives always centred around. He used to make beats and I would sing on them. I’d say I was definitely singing first, but I was shy and awkward so I didn’t really know how to start. He was making beats and dj’ing and got into singing a little later. I think the fact that we were both doing it made it easier. You know at the end of the day that your sibling is gonna say “this is wack” if it is or that is “good” when it is (laughs). So I will never release anything without his approval and vice versa.
Q. What’s it like working with your brother? You guys appear pretty close, but do you guys ever get competitive or have any sibling rivalry?
A. It can get a little annoying, we argue a lot (laughs) , but it’s all out of love and our passion to make the best music we can. I wouldn’t say its a rivalry so much as we want to reach a goal and then one up each other every time. I always hope that his music does better than the last thing I release and he always hopes my next release does better than his last… We use each other as stepping stones, trying to reach a new goal with each new project. His success means just as much to me as my own.
Q. What does your family think of you and your brother’s success at making music; I am sure they must be really proud….
A. I think the industry worries them, there’s definitely no guarantee in what we’re doing. But lately, with all that’s been happening, I think they’re getting more and more confident. They are extremely proud, even though they sometimes don’t understand what’s going on. A few weeks ago I burst into the house announcing that I’m opening for Jhene Aiko’s upcoming show in Sydney, my parents both acted very excited and then asked, “Who?”
Q. Your EP has been called an ode to classic 90’s R&B—you are young, what do you know about 90’s R&B? What drew you to that sound?
A. Yeah definitely, and I love that that comparison is drawn. The 90s definitely wasn’t my era, I grew up in the 00s where music was very pop-oriented, but my older cousins who were literally always at my house listened to the classics and we looked up to them. We never listened to what was on Australian radio. While everyone at school was listening to Britney Spears, we were listening to Keke Wyatt, Tupac, Lauryn Hill, Ginuwine, Ashanti – we were always a bit different.
Q. What song is closest to you on the EP and why?
A. There are a couple, but “Exposed”, which is an interlude, is a very emotional one for me. When I wrote it, it kind of poured out of me so naturally, I didn’t actually physically have to write the words down. I ended up keeping the original demo recording as it was… it evoked so much emotion and rawness. It is kind of imperfectly perfect in my eyes.
Q. I read that you are coming to LA in the near future, anything you can tell us about that? Can we look forward to catching you live somewhere?
A. There is a lot in the works for LA. Lots of studio sessions that are being kept quiet for now. I’ve been approached to do shows across the US its just a matter of the time being right. I hope to be playing somewhere near you soon!
Q. Are you working on new music?
A. I always am. I try to never stop creating. Sometimes I have creative lulls which is kind of depressing, but it always comes back. I’m working on a couple of exciting features right now, which is awesome.
Q. Where do you see yourself five years from now? Ten?
A. In 5 years I hope to be making a solid living from music; touring, releasing albums, writing with and for my dream artists around the world. I want to be doing everything and anything I can to be developing my voice, show and sound. In 10 years… that’s just a scary thought, I have no idea!
Q. You are beautiful! What are your secrets to staying in shape, having such a good complexion?
A. Oh, thank you so much. To be honest I looveee my chocolate and my Mama’s food. It’s actually been really hard for me as of late to keep my weight down, it’s the first time I’ve really struggled with it. I go through phases where I’m very health conscious and at the gym 4 or 5 times a week and other times where I’m just really not in the mood, I want to eat what I want and be lazy. I think consistency is key, and I’m still working on it! My complexion usually improves the healthier I eat, I go through stages where its very bright and clear and other times where its not… MAC foundation helps! (Wink)
Q. I read that you went through a live performance with the flu and having trouble breathing , pushed through the show and still nailed it—where do you get that drive from?
A. I never want to cancel a show or a performance. I try to push myself as hard as I can because I never want to lose out on any opportunity presented to me or disappoint anyone who is coming out to see me play. In saying that, the show was really hard for me, it was the first time that I truly struggled on stage. It’s the nightmare all artists know will happen at some point in their careers, I could barely breathe or hear myself, but the crowd was so supportive, they really got me through it.
Note: This interview was conducted before the Jhene Aiko show in Sydney.
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