After a long two year wait, Etana fans will be pleased to know that her new CD, “Free Expressions,” has arrived digitally and in stores. Three of her new hit songs, “Free,” “Mocking Bird,” and “Happy Heart” have all topped the charts.
“Free Expressions,” released on VP Records, marks a new milestone in this rising songstress’ career. Fresh, new vibes, a new recording style, and a new approach give her the freedom to express herself without constraints. The result is a well-crafted, fourteen-piece collection that solidifies Etana as a versatile and respected singer and a timely and sensitive songwriter.
This multi-talented artist has been taking reggae music to new horizons. As she states in her song, “Mocking Bird”, “Dem cyant catch me.”
I spoke to Etana prior to her new release to find out about who she is. She expounded on her songwriting approach, goals, aspirations and the parts that make up the whole. We started off talking about the concepts that made her sophomore release different from her debut.
ETANA: “We went into the first album (“The Strong One”) with the purpose of introducing Etana to the world. So we had a structure – certain songs – a purpose to get me out there. This project was less organized or planned. We just went into the studio and recorded the album with a different vibe. This made it easier for me – less pressure. It was not so anticipated with expected results. I wrote a lot of songs and it was hard to choose the final ones. There were two good message tracks that we had to leave off. Especially hard was a love song that took a lot of inner strength to record. But, I am happy the way it came out.”
Etana possesses great songwriting skills. She has the uncanny ability to string words together rhythmically and is very expressive. She paints descriptive pictures and presents life lessons without being excessively preachy. Her songs cover all subject matters with particular emphasis on women, youth and family. I was very interested in her songwriting process.
ETANA: “ My songs mostly come from inspiration which eventually leads to an organized process. I listened to the tracks to see if I could get some vibes. If nothing came, I took the tracks home to work on them later. I am reminded by a voice inside to remain true to my responsibility and myself. Over time I have developed this. All of us are born with truth inside. Sometimes it takes awhile to know this truth. I guess it’s a mixture of all.”
Etana came into the music business with good moral character and strong family values. I wanted to know more about her upbringing, influences and her journey to reach this pivotal stage in her life.
ETANA: “I was mainly influenced by the elders, especially my grandmother. She taught me that ‘Time is the master; all things in time.’ My guidance came from growing up and learning to listen early on in life. You have to live up as close as possible to the truth. I suppose I will always have my attitude and ‘fastiness.’ There was a time when I walked and talked a completely different way. Right now, my circle is very small – mainly my family and business associates.”
Etana is definitely a strong conscious woman who represents this time and generation. Reggae music has a history of being more difficult for female artists who are often subjected to different standards. The reggae music industry has always been male dominated with a few exceptions, like the members of Bob Marley’s I-Threes. Role models for her to emulate have been few and far in between. I wondered how difficult it has been for her and does she feel more responsibility for other sistren.
ETANA: “It has been an experience that I’m not too comfortable with yet. I still have a lot of growing to do. I find that you have to teach people how to treat you. I really don’t worry a lot about criticism. Everybody is different and we all have a different shape – some are round, some are tall. If you want respect in life, you have to give it as well. The way you live, the way you talk, the way you walk, defines who you are. I feel I have plenty of responsibility. Anyone born right now has the power to effect change. We have a responsibility to use that power wisely.”
Her life has changed radically in the last two years. Her daily routine is no longer the same. She has been recording, touring and traveling nonstop while establishing her image and career. She is constantly doing interviews and making personal appearances.
ETANA: “Yes, my life has changed in many ways. I have grown in this industry. I have learned how to deal with people, fans and the business. Basically, I have no regrets.”
Etana’s experience as a mother with a strong sense of family has always compelled her to reach out to the youth with special messages.
ETANA: “I feel it is important to reach out to the youth and introduce them to the world before they even get there. We need to warn them about certain things in life. People and kids need guidance and the best way is through music. You have to let them know that somebody else feels the same way as you do. We are all in this together.”
Understanding a little bit of the many facets of Etana helps us to get a deeper perception and appreciation of her music. One of her greatest strengths is the relevancy of her lyrics. Because she is so real, it’s easy to feel her music even before you get it. There is something for everyone on “Free Expressions.” Overall the production is excellent with input from a variety of producers.
She is constantly recording. Over the last two years she has been keeping her name out there by recording with various producers and releasing hit singles. She has done duets with Tarrus Riley and Romaine Virgo.
In addition to these singles, “Free Expressions” has romantic lovers’ rock tunes such as “Happy Heart” and “I Know You Love Me.” Hit-maker Kemar “Flava” McGregor produced both of these as well as the self-reflective “Free.” But there are also plenty of roots rock culture tunes to keep you moving, including the clever “People Talking,” “War,” and “Retribution.” She shows off her vocals on the soulful “I Got You” , produced by Specialist and Alborosie. Other producers making a contribution are Steven Stanley (“My Name Is”), and Curtis Lynch and Gussie Clark (“Heart Broken”). Lynch also innovates with a hip-hop tinged “Venting.”
As Etana glides into the next phase of her life, it is quite evident that she has a long career ahead of her.
ETANA: “As far as my goals are concerned, I will continue to do good music with meaning and raw soul. I leave everything up to the Most High.”