By Stephanie Amy Collazo
Photography Credit: Steven Gomillion and Dennis Leupold
Elle Varner is a multifaceted artist who has transplanted herself from L.A. to Brooklyn, N.Y. to pursue her music career. A graduate of NYU’s Clive Davis Program of Recorded Music combined with having grown up watching her parents struggle to make it in the industry, Varner knows what it takes to be a successful artist, honing skills as a singer, songwriter, producer and musician. In the past year, she has signed to J Records, which recently folded into its parent company RCA, and began work on her debut album that is set to release later this year. Before leaving on her first radio promotional tour, Varner caught up with YRB to give us the scoop on her journey.
YRB: When did you know this was what you wanted to do as a career? Elle: Very early on. I think it was when I sang a solo in church; I was [about] 9. The reaction from the crowd, I was like, “Wow, this is cool. I wanna be a singer.” [Laughs]
YRB: You are a part of MBK Entertainment, who’s known for establishing Alicia Keys. What does it mean for you to have them behind you? Is there any pressure on you to compare? Elle: Not at all. I think we’re two artists, that are also musicians. I think she’s incredible, but I’m not really [feeling pressure]. Having MBK behind me puts me at a certain level. That name says a lot – I can go places with that.
YRB: How does it feel to be dubbed an artist to watch for 2011 and beyond? Elle: It was so exciting! I feel like 2012 is my year. Two hundred twelve is my favorite number. I always look at the clock at 2:12 for some stupid reason. I’m so appreciative of it, and I believe it. I think I am the artist to watch for the next year. I’ve grown so much in just the last few months. I’m really ready for it.
YRB: Earlier this month you premiered your video, “Only Wanna Give It To You,” on BET’s 106 & Park, what was it like being on the show? Elle: It was surreal. I was really focused, and then as soon as I looked over [and saw] myself on the screen I just freaked out. I was like, “Oh my god, this is really happening. This so crazy!”
YRB: The track features J. Cole, how did you two connect for the project? Elle: I knew him from school. He had a friend that was my friend at NYU and we were just acquaintances. I didn’t see him until two years later at the Sony building. I asked him, “What are you doing here?” He was like, ‘I just signed to Roc Nation,’ and I was like, “I just signed to J Records.” It was crazy seeing him. When we thought of doing a feature he was the first person I thought of.
YRB: Being that you two have known each other from the past, and recently worked together, do you think you may collaborate in the future? Elle: Possibly, yeah I’d love to! Definitely wanna get out there and collaborate.
YRB: Have you set a release date for your debut album, Perfectly Imperfect? Elle: It’s winter, that’s it right now.
YRB: Other than J. Cole, have you collaborated with any other artists for this album? Elle: No.
YRB: You recently performed on Black Girls Rock, set to air next month, what was that experience like? Elle: It was incredible. I will say I actually fell while performing. I got up so fast and did a dance move and I just kept rocking. It surprisingly was more exhilarating and just [more] human than anything else. The audience was just so supportive. I guess [they were] impressed by the fact that I could’ve cried, but I was just whatever! And they let me do it again. So the second time I killed it even better because I had already done it and I already fell, so what more can go wrong? [Laughs]