At first glance,
Whoa, Nelly! seemed to be just another pop album.
It was released at the height of the teen pop
craze, in which Nelly later called, "the
worst time ever, it was the climax of pop. There
was loads of skepticism."
But after listening to the album, the critics
changed their minds. The reviews were extremely
positive; helping the album reach double platinum
status in the US. The songs Nelly wrote on her
guitar came to life with the help of Gerald Eaton
and Brian West to form an eclectic mix of music
that defies genres.
The international success of her debut album is
a sign of things to come.
Man”: It’s a big pop song
and kind of rocking now because we went back to
the demo version of it. It’s just guitar,
bass and a Kronos Quartet string sample in the
chorus. Brian West, one of my producers, had their
Pieces Of Africa CD, and he wanted something distinct
to happen in the chorus. So he chopped up “White
Man Sleeps” by The Kronos Quartet. It’s
On The Radio (Remember The Days)”:
I wrote that all in one go. It’s about me
feeling insecure about my popness and wanting
to hide in some underground kind of circle just
to fit in with my musical peers. I could try to
be cool and whatever, but why do I have to try?
Why can’t I just be myself? The moment you
make that step and say, “I want to make
pop music” is a big thing. But no matter
what happens to me there’ll always be someone
going, “Oh, her music sucks now because
everyone likes it.” I feel that song a lot.
“Baby Girl”: Baby
Girl was written in Toronto. I had a rebirth of
feeling good about writing R&B hooks and R&B
songs – because it’s a part of who
I am. So that’s all it is, an R&B song,
with maybe a little bit deeper lyrics. I love
the energy and the attitude. “Baby Girl”
is going to be really fun to perform live
“Legend”: I wanted
to do an English bossa nova song. It just kind
of starts and ends. What I’m discovering
is, I’m more into the music; the lyrics
to this mean something, but the music means a
bit more. One of my favorite lyrics is “Will
you open the door for me/ If you believe in chivalry?”
I like that line.
Like A Bird”: “I’m
Like A Bird” is my newest song. There’s
a simplicity about it that I love. It’s
my freedom song. “I’m like a bird/
I’ll only fly away/ I don’t know where
my soul is/ I don’t know where my home is.”
Off The Light”: That’s a
real song. That was inspired by a Big Sugar song.
Big Sugar’s a Canadian band. Though I may
seem so independent and stuff, blah, blah, blah,
when I turn out the light at night I can get lonely
just like everybody else. Maybe that’s why
it’s such a good song and everyone is responding
to it – because it’s real. Just a
song with a fun, hooky chorus.
Finda Way”: This song is my Beat
poet song; it is inspired by the Jack Kerouac
novel “On The Road” and has a stream-of-consciousness,
Alan Ginsburg vibe, thus the lyric “I left
my heart in San Francisco” (which I probably
did do in another lifetime, although I had never
actually been to San Francisco when I wrote this
song). I used a part of the first verse in an
older song of mine called “Post No Bills.”
The chorus came when I was in my room with my
guitar. Most of the lyrics, verse-wise, were written
in this stream-of-consciousness thing I had while
cleaning a hotel room. I was chambermaiding, and
thus the lyrics: “I’m talking to the
mirror again/ But it’s not listening.”
You know what I would use to write on? There were
these little guest survey sheets: How was your
stay? Any suggestions? And I’d have them
in my cart, so I’d grab them and, like,
write on them when I needed to write. I still
Well”: This song came to me one
evening just as my head was hitting the pillow,
so I quickly got up, turned on the light and wrote
it out. It captures a feeling of … Nellyness!
It’s a typical Nelly song, the ubiquitous
Nelly song. It’s short … like me!
Love Grows Deeper (Part I)”: This
song was the first track on my demo tape. It was
the first song that [co-producer] Gerald [Eaton],
Brian and I wrote together. I think I wrote the
hooks while driving back from college class one
day. I had to pull over and write down the lyrics.
The chorus was inspired by a Portishead song from
their album Dummy called “Wandering Star.”
Will Make U Cry”: I’m on
that borderline where the melodic stuff just doesn’t
excite me sometimes, and you just can’t
say enough in a pop song. I don’t fit in
the singer-songwriter role, and I’m not
a rapper, so I kind of created this thing where
I can do both. So in that song I sing-rap. That’s
why I like hip-hop, because you can say so much
in a rhyme.
“Scared Of You”:
It’s a live jam thing with a well-known
Portuguese guitarra player, Nuno Cristo. It’s
half Portuguese and I think it has a kind of Cesaria
Evora vibe to it. After I did that session I was
like, “Damn, this is another place where
I want to head.” I want to do Portuguese
music because that’s the other side of me.
There’s this urban, fun side and then there’s
the deep, emotional Portuguese singer side of
me. I really want to make a Portuguese-language
album in the next couple of years.