In a recent conversation with the budding Grammy-nominated soulstress, Elle Varner, I discovered a young woman on the brink of a lasting career who hopes for her music to become synonymous with a ‘beauty from the inside-out’ perspective.
Born Gabrielle Serene Varner, the ‘au naturel’ Los Angeles native was born into a life of music inspiration. Her parents are Mikelyn Roderick and Jimmy Varner, music songwriters and publishers with credits that include work with music aficionados like the late Barry White, Gerald Alston, Kool & the Gang and Will Downing.
After years of professional music education and training, Elle Varner released her debut album, “Perfectly Imperfect” (RCA Records), in August 2012. The album hit number four on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, selling 33,000 copies in the first week of release. Varner co-wrote and produced the music for the album. Not bad for a teen trained under NYU’s Clive Davis Program of Recorded Music.
While she is now an adult artist working to spread her own wings in the music industry, Varner still relies on the expertise of her parents, who are included as background vocalists on her first album. She’s gained a fan base in a range of generations, with the most prominent being the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, with first daughters Sasha and Malia.
In a recent branding partnership, Varner has come together with Clear Scalp & Hair Beauty Therapy Ultra Shea. Prior to the 2013 Grammy Awards, Varner invited her fans to vote on her hairstyles prior to music’s biggest night on television. The singer shared a few candid shots of her behind-the-scenes process along with black celebrity stylist Oscar James. Varner also recently embarked upon a college tour which included HBCUs in the Atlanta University Center and Washington D.C.
Here’s my Q & A with Elle Varner:
Q: Tell us a little bit about your background. Where you’re from and, you know, all that good stuff?
A: I’m from Los Angeles, by way of Brooklyn. I live in Brooklyn now. I grew up in a musical household. I play a few instruments and I went to NYU to study music and music industry. And here I am now, really just a professional in my field that I wanted to do and enjoying that and sharing my music with the world.
Q: Let’s talk about your music and also the fact that you did grow up in a household full of music. Your debut album, “Perfectly Imperfect”, an adorable title. It was backed by your parents; they did some production and some background vocals. Talk to me about the evolution of “Perfectly Imperfect”.
A: “Perfectly Imperfect” is really my coming of age story. It’s like how I navigated through being a girl that was bullied a lot and picked on growing up in high school and not a lot of people believed in me, but I was very ambitious and I always went for what ever was the hardest thing that I could do was what I went for. And my parents just always encouraged me to go after whatever I wanted, no matter how crazy it was, how big it was. And to have them working on the album was just…really it kinda tied everything together. They’re such a big part of my life and so a part of my music as well.
Q: [Your music is] complex and you know you have a very eloquent voice. It’s soulful, but it’s relaxing. Those are just my adjectives for it. Can you describe your music in your own words?
A: My music is full of soul, it is thoughtful. It’s a little sarcastic. It’s honest. It’s playful and believable. That’s how I describe it.
Q: Ok, let’s talk about the songs, “Refill”, and “I Don’t Care.” Can you go inside the lyrics? I know there’s a cute story behind “Refill.”