(AllHipHop Features) Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Elle Varner is back and better than ever. Since dropping her debut Perfectly Imperfect in 2012, Elle has been making great music the combines R&B, Soul, Hip-Hop, and even Folk in a style that is uniquely her own. After many delays to her sophomore project, dealing with label politics, Elle is excited to bring her fans all the of music they have waiting for. We caught up with Elle and talked writing about real-life situations, the current state of R&B/Soul, working with Chance The Rapper, Wale, and Rapsody, and her new project, ElleVation, that drops on July 12th.
AllHipHop: Let me start with this one: Tell me how was it growing up in your household being surrounded by so much music?
Elle Varner: Music was all over our house**.** It’s like a fish never needs to know it’s in water. It’s its natural habitat. It was it was just a natural thing for me to be listening to Sergio Mendes, Bill Withers, Anita Baker or my parents. High quality music always was always being played.
AllHipHop: Is that what led you to the guitar?
Elle Varner: It wasn’t my first instrument but it’s my favorite. My first instrument was the flute. Before you start thinking anything, I’m no Lizzo (Laughs out loud). I really fell absolutely in love with the guitar. I played the piano as well. But once I got past that initial stage with the guitar because it's hard to play down on the strings but once I got it, I was joined at the hip.
AllHipHop: Your debut is Perfectly Imperfect is still one of my favorites. Take us back to when you were on the grind creating that.
Elle Varner: You know, I made up in my mind that I was gonna get to on a major label. I know I could have gotten in the industry as a songwriter or maybe be an intern, or some other ways. But I decided that it I was going to make it happen. It didn't happen overnight but when it actually happened, it was just amazing.
Those early experiences and being a student at NYU really helped shaped me and prepared me for that album. I had songs I had written in the car and everywhere else. It was a matter of finding the right production and planning to sign this crazy marriage of Hip-Hop and R&B/Soul with some Folk in there. It’s a recipe for my gumbo.
AllHipHop: What would you say are some of the challenges of for up and coming R&B/Soul artists in the music industry today?
Elle Varner: One of the things I'll say that a lot of artists don't get the chance to have is artist development. It's a much quicker process. It's about getting a hit and getting you out there. Popping on social media is great but having a chance to work with different producers, like Salaam Remi, working with some of my friends from school, and just a wide range of different experiences I had, most new artists don’t get a chance for all that
AllHipHop: All your fans have been anxiously waiting for a full-length project since your debut. What changes have you gone through during all this time?
Elle Varner: Wow. A lot has happened. I transitioned from RCA to my current partnership with 4/4 Sound/Entertainment One. I was working on my sophomore album 4 Letter Word and it keep getting delayed for so many different reasons. That was so frustrating, but I kept working and releasing songs like “Little Do You Know”, “See Me Tonight,” and “F*** It All.” But I will say that those songs had so much pain and sadness that I’m kinda glad that the album didn’t come out. It not that I’m against ballads because I love them. But I want my music to be uplifting as well.
AllHipHop: During that time, you won your very first Grammy for your work with Chance The Rapper on Coloring Book. Tell us about that experience.
Ell Varner: Well, I've been working with Chance The Rapper for a couple years now. He's just one of those genius people I've come across and you know hopefully we’ll work some more coming years. Working with him and Drum was incredible. We went up to Rick Rubin’s house, we were free-styling, and everything just came out great. The next Grammy I win; I’m going on stage to get it!
AllHipHop: Your songs deal a lot with the complexity of relationships. Is that from personal experience? Anyone in particular you want to tell us about?
Elle Varner: HA! I can’t give you all that information! But I will say this: A lot of women are going through some crazy things out here. It’s a mess out here. I want to sing about our truths as women. I want to tell our stories.
AllHipHop: How was working with Wale on “Pour Me?” It’s a banger for sure but how did you convince him to be in the video with that python?
Ell Varner: We had a great time! I love nature and I grew up a nerdy science kid, so I love animals. Wale was with it which surprised me. It’s a great song and he’s one of my favorites.
AllHipHop: You address some of that in your newest track “Kinda Love”.
Elle Varner: Yes! In try to sing and write about real-life situations that people go through.
AllHipHop: What can your fans expect from ElleVation?
Elle Varner: Yes! I’m so excited for everyone to hear ElleVation! It drops on July 12th. It’s a 9-song EP so it’s a generous EP. I already have another album that’s already finished that's going to be following it right away. Over the years, with mixtapes taking on a life of its own, people have whole mixtapes that are projects. So, I get to give yall a tape to vibe off and I’m following it right away.
I have Rapsody on the album. She’s such an amazing artist and lyricist, but she's also an amazing person. We've just kept in contact over the years and for so long wanted to work together and we finally made it happen. I’m on here project and she’s one mine. We have something special to show that the ladies are doing it up.