Ella Mai Keeps Serving, “HOW” does she do it?
In 2018 Ella Mai’s first single “Boo’d Up” broke the record for the most weeks at No. 1 of any song by a woman on the R&B/Hip-Hop Billboard Airplay chart and is now RIAA-Certified 7x Platinum. Her follow-up single, the 5x-Platinum “Trip,” peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100, and her debut album, Ella Mai, has almost 6 billion streams and is 2x Platinum. In addition to her chart-topping domination and success, Ella Mai has won a number of awards, including her first GRAMMY for Best R&B Song, 3 Billboard Music Awards including the coveted Top R&B Artist, 3 iHeartRadio awards including R&B Artist of the Year, 3 Soul Train Awards, an NAACP Image Award, and a BET Viewers Choice Award.
After 2 years of touring the world (including opening stints for Bruno Mars and Ariana Grande), as well as collaborating with artists such as Ed Sheeran and Wizkid, like many of us during the pandemic, Ella finally had time to reset and reflect on the incredible, whirlwind experience of the past few years. With the 2021 release of the track “Not Another Love Song,” to bridge projects, Ella kicked off her sophomore season with her single, “DFMU (Don’t F**k Me Up).”
Here at Galore we keeping asking ourselves, “how does Ella Mai keep doing it”? If the adage is true and history always repeats itself, get ready for Ella Mai to dominate the music and cultural zeitgeist once again with her latest album Heart On My Sleeve. For now we get to enjoy her latest single “HOW,” featuring Roddy Ricch, Mustard now available on all streaming platforms. To watch the music video, click here.
1. Can you talk a little about your writing process, was it different from your debut album?
Writing Heart On My Sleeve was definitely a very different process to writing my self titled debut. I dug a lot deeper on this album and expressed myself a lot more. At first I didn’t realise how much more vulnerable I was actually being because I was just going into the studio and speaking from my heart but once I listened back I realised. It felt like therapy.
2. You recently released your newest music video for “HOW,” can you walk about the creative process behind the visual narrative?
The creative process for HOW was definitely a process! We originally filmed the first video right before the album dropped and had plans of releasing the video right after, but we weren’t happy with the result so we had to start again. We went back to the drawing board and decided to make a storyline visual to match the storyline of the song. Although I am not someone who seeks revenge in real life, the character was very fun to play.
3. How did the pandemic affect the album process, if at all?
I feel like I was very lucky during my album process because I don’t feel like the pandemic affected me creatively at all. I am a creature of habit and a home body so being inside wasn’t a bad thing for me. The only way the pandemic did affect my process was because studios were sometimes open and sometimes closed so it was a little bit stop/start at times.
4. Tell us about the last 4 years and how those experiences shaped you as an artist. What have you learned, both personally and professionally?
The last 4 years have definitely been the most challenging for me both personally and professionally but I love a challenge. Growing and evolving as a person let alone an artist has been so eye opening and fulfilling for me because it has allowed me to find and know myself way more than I ever could have imagined. I have learned that even when things aren’t going the way you want, it is all a lesson.
5. It’s been said that this is your most vulnerable project to date, what does it feel like to share such personal experiences with the world?
Sharing personal experiences with anyone can be super scary, let alone with the world. I was skeptical at first to dive deeper into my personal feelings but all of the music I grew up listening to shared raw and real emotion so I felt like I owed it to myself and my fans to let people into my world a little bit more.
6. What was it like working with Lucky Daye, Roddy Ricch and Latto? Why did you feel they were the right fit for this album?
I am a big believer in working with people I am a fan of so it was important to me to collaborate with artists I love. Lucky Daye and I have known and worked together for years, so it was only right that we finally did a complete song together. Latto (in my head) is my alter ego and I knew she would say exactly what needed to be said on “Didn’t Say”. Roddy and I both work very closely with Mustard and I am a huge fan so it only made sense to have a Ella Mai x Roddy Ricch collab produced by Mustard.
7. How would you describe your sound? Are you trying new things vocally?
I would describe my sound as Contemporary R&B. I will always try new things vocally and sonically but R&B is definitely my comfort zone. I am very influenced by the 90’s & 2000’s R&B I grew up listening to.
8. Talk a bit about working with Mustard. How did it feel to be back in the studio with him again?
Everytime Mustard and I work together it feels fresh. We connect so well musically and really understand each other. One thing I really love about our time in the studio is that we are both extremely honest with each other. If either of us don’t like anything, we will say and not take it personally.
9. How did the Babyface feature come about and what was your experience being in the studio with him for his new single “Keeps On Fallin”?
The experience of being in the studio with Babyface was another unforgettable career moment for me.“Keeps On Fallin” came about very organically and we had a lot of fun discussing the different ways of falling in love and writing the song. When my manager told me Babyface wanted me to come to the studio I thought he was lying, so when it happened, I was in shock but felt super humbled and excited to work with such a legend!
10. You recently performed on a big stage again at the BET Awards, what was that like and how involved are you in the creative process?
The BET Awards was my first award show performance ever in 2018 on the side Coca Cola stage, so to come back and perform on the big stage was full circle for me. I like to be very involved in the creative process of all of what I do to make sure I am represented correctly and I feel comfortable and at home on stage. We had a week of rehearsal with all production just to make sure everything went smoothly. We had a great time.
11. You will be going on tour with Mary J Blige and Queen Naija in September, what cities are you most excited to visit? Any stories you can share working with Mary on your own album? Will the three of you share the stage to perform any songs together?
I am so excited and honoured at the thought of sharing a stage with one of my idols, Mary J Blige. When touring, New York is always one of my favourite stops as I lived there for 5 years so it somewhat feels like home. Mary came to the studio and gave me some life lessons in skit form for Heart On My Sleeve right before she performed at the SuperBowl. That studio session is one I will always hold dear to my heart.
12. How excited are you to be able to take the stage and connect with listeners again? What is your favorite part of touring?
Touring is one of, if not the most enjoyable part of what I do personally. I haven’t toured properly since 2019 so excited would be an understatement, I can’t wait, I am counting down the days. My favourite part of touring is being able to connect with so many different people all over the world.
13. If you could plan your own festival, what would be the name of the festival, where would it be located, and who would you want on the lineup?
If I were to plan my own festival, it’d be called MAIFEST and it would be in May. It is only right that MAIFEST would be held in London and I would have a female heavy line up, showcasing a lot of UK artists with a splash of international talent.
Creative Director/Photographer: Tyler Patrick Kenny @tylerpatrickkenny
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