REGGAE’s reigning sweet songbird Etana knows a thing or two about keeping it real. No wonder she has been able to successfully navigate a career in the shark-infested music industry at a time when many are quitting out of frustration or falling prey to the dispiriting global economy. With equal doses of sweetness and sass, the 24-year-old hasn’t disappointed her loyalists since we first fell for her sugary soprano. Buoyed by the success of her debut album, The Strong One, the former group member just keeps on stepping, inspiring fans and copping multiple awards along the way. Now, she’s ready for more. As she is about to embark on the opening leg of her overseas summer tour, the soulful siren talks to TALLAWAH about joy and respect, life and legacy and what people always get wrong about her.
BY TYRONE S REID
TALLAWAH: Congrats on the incredible success your music career has been experiencing. What did you make of the overwhelming response to your debut CD, The Strong One?
ETANA: It was just unbelievable. I never expected people all over the world to be so receptive. In
TALLAWAH: Recently, I watched the video for your uplifting single, Don’t Forget. What was the inspiration behind that song?
ETANA: To be truthful, Tarrus Riley called me one day and said he had an idea for a song about people staying true to who they are. We did the song in about one day. So that is basically what the song is talking about: people being true themselves no matter what.
TALLAWAH: On the subject of collaborations, you’ve teamed up with dancehall artiste Demarco for the new single, Can I. What was that like?
ETANA: It was great. Demarco is very cool and very funny but when time came to work, he got serious. We are both writers. He listens and I listen. It was just one of those working relationships that went well. I enjoyed it.
TALLAWAH: Only a handful of young artistes working in reggae today have matched the level of achievement you’ve attained since your debut single Wrong Address first entered the charts. Are you satisfied with the place your career has reached?
ETANA: I am grateful for all the support. Everywhere I go, across the world my songs are played on the radio, even some of the tracks I didn’t expect people to love as much. But I know I still have a long way to go. With the success of my first album, the expectations for the next one are great, so I have a lot of work to do.
TALLAWAH: Where are you right now in terms of putting stuff together for that next CD?
ETANA: We are actually looking at ideas right now for the album. We are planning to do some work with the producers who worked on the albums from Corinne Bailey Rae and Amy Winehouse. We also plan to work with some of our local young producers. We are not rushing. I want to give people time to get to know this first album before I release the next one. But hopefully, my second album will be out by the middle of next year.
TALLAWAH: Great! It’s good to have something to look forward to. You always deliver. Tell us, what have you realized are some of the biggest misconceptions folks have about you?
ETANA: I’ve traveled to places and people bring a bag of weed to me because they assume that I smoke. I do not smoke. I am not stuck-up either, and I wish people would understand that because I have heard such things about me. It’s the way I was raised. But when people really get to know me, they see the kind of person I really am. One thing I’m happy about is that I don’t have to fight for my stage time anymore. The level of respect has definitely grown.
TALLAWAH: It really is impossible to please everybody, but such is life. So what are you doing this summer?
ETANA: I will be on tour. I am leaving for LA this weekend and then I have to get ready for a tour of the US West Coast and
TALLAWAH: What’s the philosophy that guides your life?
ETANA: No matter what I’m going through, I always say just ‘live and love life’.
TALLAWAH: Nice. What do you hope your legacy will be?
ETANA: My main goal is to be a positive light in the minds of the young ones. I believe there has to be a balance in the music, everywhere, across the world. So, for my part, if I could be a positive influence on how people live their lives, it would mean a lot. If I could that, it would be a great accomplishment for me.