Esthero is one of those rare artists who can crossover into every genre, with her own music binding elements of soul and jazz to hip hop and electronica. Her 1998 debut, Breath from Another, became an instant classic of the super-sleek trip-hop genre and exposed the world to a unique and at times mysterious style. Since then she has released only one other full-length album, 2005’s Wikked Lil’ Grrls, but has contributed to an abundance of other material. Nicknamed “your favourite singer’s favourite singer,” she has made guest appearances on albums by artists such as Black Eyed Peas, DJ Krush, Nelly Furtado and Ian Pooley and was featured in Barrack Obama’s “Yes, We Can” video, which picked up an Emmy Award for new approaches in daytime entertainment.
Esthero’s new album, which is currently without a release date, sees the singer moving into even more diverse territory with elements of folk and country added to a soulful mix. The tracks are as elegant as they are heartbreaking, revealing an unafraid artist, maturing as a songwriter and woman.
Although a recent move to Los Angeles has afforded Esthero the opportunity to write songs for luminaries like Kanye West and Brandy, she is not very happy with the state of affairs in her adopted home of California. To be specific, she’s upset about the California Supreme Court decision upholding Proposition 8, which eliminated same-sex couples’ right to marry. She’s also not thrilled with a recent article in Toronto’s Eye magazine that questioned her qualification to perform at this year’s Pride festival. The writer argued that it’s worrisome that acts like Esthero who have “no immediate investment in Toronto’s queer community… made the cut.”
“Investment?” Esthero questions with a smile. “I’m not quite sure I understand her statement. Am I supposed to be personally sponsoring a local drag queen?” The singer laughs then gets serious. “What I am invested in is the human condition,” she says, “and equal rights for all in general. Therefore I am an invested member of not just the Torontonian queer community, but the global one.”
Esthero’s personal interest in human rights and their abuses is sometimes expressed on her blog at Estheroinprogress.com. The blog is a means for Esthero to both communicate with fans and to share thoughts and opinions. It was through this outlet that she recently gave a great deal of attention to a protest and march in LA attended by discharged gay US Army National Guard lieutenant Daniel Choi.
“Currently I live in California where there is a major civil rights issue at hand concerning the LGBT community,” she says. “The Supreme Court has sadly decided to uphold Prop 8. I attended the peaceful protest of that decision, and witnessed the incredible spirits of the people fighting on the frontlines. I was also lucky enough to march along with them. I will continue to upport gays and lesbians in whichever way I can until they are no longer treated as second-class citizens.
“And though I did not see the writer of the Eye Weekly article at this event,” she continues, “I would never assume it means she has nothing to contribute to that movement, even though she implied that my small visibility in this local community, due to geography, means that I may not be worthy of contributing when I can.”
While far from her first Pride, this one has special meaning for the T-Dot homegirl, and she will be marking a special occasion with a very special outfit.
“This is the first time I’ve been asked to play Pride in my hometown, the best city in the world, and I am giddy with excitement,” she says. “Not just because I am getting the opportunity to build the relationship, but because I will be playing the entire show in drag.
“Get ready to taste the rainbow, bitches.”