Nelly Furtado lives out a teenage dream

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Nelly Furtado divides her time between Toronto and Miami these days, but she’ll always be a West Coast girl at heart. Furtado was born and raised in Victoria, which is where she’s set to kick off a Canadian tour this week, the night before she hits Vancouver. Such is the esteem our provincial capital has for the singer that in 2007, the city declared March 21 to be Nelly Furtado Day. She will surely feel the love when she steps on-stage at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre, but that doesn’t mean Furtado won’t also feel a little extra pressure.

“It’s a little nerve-wracking,” she admits when she connects with the Straight during a break in tour rehearsals in T.O. “I find it really hard to play a show in front of my parents, for some reason. It’s not a racy show by any means. It’s just, you want to do your best, don’t you? Even as an adult you want to make your parents proud.”

The last time Furtado played a concert in her hometown was during the tour in support of Loose. That album came out in 2006, and the singer admits she has mostly been “off the pop radar” since then. “I think I was craving some time out of the spotlight, because I’d kind of been at it for a while,” she says. “You know, my first album came out in 2000. Then, at the end of Loose, it was like, ‘Whoa, I’ve been doing this for a while. Maybe I should take a break.’ And I took some time off, did some passion projects, started my own independent label, Nelstar Records, had some fun signing a band [Fritz Helder & the Phantoms], and then putting my Spanish album out on Nelstar, which was really cool—just having complete creative freedom that you can only have when you’re completely independent—and then signing the artist that’s opening for me on this tour, Dylan Murray, and working on his album.…All that stuff took a lot of time. And I didn’t have an interest in recording in English, either, which is probably the most important point.”

Instead, Furtado made that aforementioned Spanish-language album, Mi Plan, and toured the Latin world. Needless to say, however, she felt compelled to sing in English again, with the result being her latest LP, The Spirit Indestructible. As exemplified by singles such as “Big Hoops (Bigger the Better)” and “Waiting for the Night”, the album is largely characterized by exuberant dance-floor beats wrapped around pop melodies. Like much of The Spirit Indestructible, those tracks were cowritten and produced by Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins.

“Every time we were in the studio it felt like we were kids in the sandbox,” Furtado notes—and it didn’t hurt that she was working with the man who helped make major hits for the likes of Aaliyah, Mary J. Blige, and Brandy back in the ’90s.

“He produced a lot of the music that I was really into as a young teenager, and I think that’s why there’s a nostalgia vibe when you hear the album,” Furtado says. “I was kind of living out my 14-year-old dreams working with him in the studio. It was just a really heightened, inspired time that we shared together in the studio. It’s so precious, as a songwriter, when you can feel that inspired and passionate. It’s such a wonderful thing. It’s just so rare. You can’t really plan for that.” 

Nelly Furtado plays the Commodore Ballroom on Wednesday (January 9).

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