On The Record: Estee

Hey Estee, tell our readers something about yourself that they might not know otherwise. 

I grew up on Folly Beach, South Carolina, which is kind of this hippie beach town in the middle of the South. Lots of transplants from other areas and lots of partying. I think the natural inclination is to think of a beach in the South as this stereotype of coastal southern culture but this beach is very different. There’s a surf community and a skate community and it’s way more Venice Beach than Myrtle Beach. As with everything in life there is always a flip side and there are all of these juxtapositions and this push and pull of opposites. In the summer its hot as f**k and sunny and CROWDED. And then in the winter its grey and peaceful and lonely and so beautiful.  

Like many artists, I associate the sounds and moods of my songs with colours. I also begin envisioning the music videos for each song almost immediately upon beginning the writing process. It shouldn’t be work to get those visuals churning, it should just happen. A lyric doesn’t make the cut unless is prompts a visual. The colours I see, the treatments I’ve written for the music videos, and a lot of the sounds colouring the album evoke thoughts of the ocean or reference bodies of water. I realised that so much of my new album is coloured by the deeply rooted influence of being surrounded by the water, whether the subject matter is pleasant or morose.

Some of them have the stark loneliness emblematic of those grey winter days and then others feel like green waves crashing in front of a warm summer sunset. It’s interesting because I have read of other artists who have grown up in areas like Arizona and Nevada say that they feel like the landscape of their surroundings have influenced their sound and you can almost hear the desert when you listen to their music. I didn’t realise it until we were halfway through the album but the landscape of my surroundings has greatly influenced the sound of my music and you can hear that on my upcoming album. 

How did the new single evolve in the studio?

We recorded Blind two years ago in a storage space in downtown Charleston. It was this amazing space that was kind of hidden in the middle of the city and a lot of amazing projects had been recorded there so there was a lot of creative energy kind of downloaded into this space. And there were always a ton of musicians coming in and out of the studio. When I came in to start the upcoming album I came in with a batch of songs and some half-songs that I had been working on for at least a year and I just played through so my producer, Wolfgang, could pick one that he was vibing with. But I had this song that I had just written a few days before and I was so excited about it.

There’s this joke amongst songwriters that we always think the last song we wrote is the best thing we’ve ever done and all of times it’s not that great and it’s just the excitement of the newness of it. But there was just a lot of energy flowing towards this song and I felt really inspired so I pushed for us to start with my newest song and we rolled with it and that song ended up becoming Blind. It was fully arranged when I came in but the lyrics needed work so Wolfgang pushed me to dig deeper and kept pushing me until I came up with something that we were proud to record. I think I was scratching the surface and I was scared to dig really deep and be completely candid. Once I did though, I felt so liberated. That experience set the bar for the rest of the writing process and changed me as a writer forever.

The musical composition is mostly Wolfgang and I but we did have some help from some really great musicians – Corey Campbell (who plays in the bands SUSTO and Babe Club) and Bo Farish who played in a band with me for a few years prior to starting this project. Bo played a lot of the atmospheric guitar you hear on the track as well as the lead guitar which was inspired by Sweetest Taboo by Sade and Corey added bass and some atmospheric guitar sounds as well. It’s interesting because it’s not often that the first song you record for a project ends up making the finished album, much less becoming the first single, but this song came together really quickly and made us really excited about the rest of the album. It has been the song that has kind of grounded us and pushed us in a certain direction sound-wise throughout the process of recording. And we have been sitting on it for a long time so of course we are excited to get it out there and let people hear it. 

What does it draw on, in terms of subject matter?

Blind is about the universe aligning to create a circumstance that feels destined. It’s about the concept of fate and what it might feel like to find a soulmate. I believe that soulmates come into our lives to teach us lessons and that, while we have free will and power to manifest things in our lives, every person that enters our lives is there for a reason. Sometimes only for a season. This song is about when the stars align to bring two people together. There’s a line in the chorus that says “I can’t hide from all the stars surrounding.” Sometimes we can’t deny what the Universe places in front of us.

Blind is also about submitting yourself completely to another person – maybe in some circumstances to a point of it being unhealthy and maybe in others it’s lovely and beautiful and true. It’s about the circle of life, learning how to love, and treating this person with the utmost care and protection. I want people to hear Blind and make their own personal connection with it. Maybe it reminds them of a past love, maybe it makes them excited for the future, or maybe it relates to the love they are experiencing now. 

Is it the direction you feel you’ll be taking with subsequent releases?

Blind is definitely representative of the direction of the upcoming album. It grounds the album because it has synth elements, it has some very 80’s guitar parts, and then it has guitars and live drums and some almost indie rock elements. Some of the songs on my new album have more guitars than others, there is a whole batch that are very 80’s R&B, and all of them have lots of synth and a mix of electronic percussion and live drums. You will definitely hear the new album go much further into the synth-R&B direction than this release but this first single is a great introduction to the new album. When I started recording this album I was just beginning a journey to leave an abusive relationship and that led me to start slowly connecting with my spirituality. The result ended up being a lot of references to the ocean and the cosmos on this song and much of the upcoming album.

What’s next for Estee?

The Blind single release will be followed by an official video in a few weeks. A follow-up single will arrive sometime in October. Then we’ll be gearing up for the album release at the start of the year and a subsequent tour in support of the album. There are also a few collaborations brewing with other artists. And you can expect at least two EPs following the full-length release next year – one of which will be a B-Sides release of the songs that didn’t make the album. 


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