Esthero, the local chanteuse with Toronto roots, emerged in the late 1990s and has collaborated with the likes of DJ Krush, Ian Pooley and Kanye West. Her solo oeuvre includes everything from trip-hop to country, all with pop sensibilities and a unique vocal register (not to be confused with Nelly Furtado).
Her new album, Everything Is Expensive, out today, is an experiment in crowdsourced pledging, wherein fans can offer different levels of support.
We spoke with her on a recent rainy Thursday at the Bourgeois Pig in Hollywood.
How did this album happen?
Well, technically this record is coming out on Universal in Canada, but for the rest of the world, I'm independent. I know I wouldn't be interested in signing a traditional record deal ever again. We launched this PledgeMusic campaign [recently] and reached our goal. … If you make a $10 pledge, you get a digital download a few days before the record comes out. If you give more, we have created prints that I've commissioned with the artist Cyrcle that … all have unique elements.
What does one receive for higher levels of donating?
You can pledge to play Uno with me in a coffee shop. There's one where my friend Josh and I come over to your house and bring you milk and cookies and play Mario Kart with you before bed. And my favorite one is that, for $150,000, I'll tattoo your initials on my ass. No joke.
What do you think of the whole Amanda Palmer crowdsourcing/Kickstarter controversy?
My wish is that I could be the Amanda Palmer of pledge music.
On this record, you've got some tracks with strong country influences and then you've got one where you play around with AutoTune.
It's kind of an Americana record. I tried to create a little more space. There's vocal stacks on stuff, but it's more straightforward. As for the AutoTune, that was me deliberately fucking with jazz kids. … I was trying to do something jazzy/music-nerdy and add something so robotic over something organic. I wasn't using it to help my voice, but it was just a production effect.
What was it like working on 808s & Heartbreak with Kanye?
It was the best job in the world: Fly to Hawaii, swim with the dolphins, make music with Kanye, get some sun, come home. I did vocals and co-wrote some lyrics. With Kanye, it's a dream gig. He's such a proficient songwriter. He has a pretty great sense of arrangement. Prince has that same ability to improv with immediate structure.
Who exactly is 2004's “O.G. Bitch” about? There are rumors it's Nelly Furtado.
No! That was manufactured by someone else. Nelly's never hid that she appreciates me, and I appreciate her. She's an original. Someone [also] tried to create a beef between me and Fergie, which was funny.
I've skirted that question, because I like to be a shit. It's not about a woman! (laughs) And, also, that's me playing a character. It's really about numerous people at numerous times.
Esthero's new album, Everything Is Expensive, is out today.