by Jamie Rich | March 28, 2017
Fledglings: Music from a New Estefan
Miamian, Emily Estefan, with a famous name blazes her own soulful path with her debut album
Emily Estefan, 22, bears an iconic last name recognized across her home state of Florida and around the world. Acutely aware of the comparisons audiences will make to her famous parents, Emilio and Gloria Estefan, the young songstress embraces her musical heritage while decidedly forging her own “fusion” sound—equal parts funk, soul, jazz, Latin and pop. Influences like Erykah Badu, Amy Winehouse and her mother can be heard on her debut album, Take Whatever You Want, released in February. The ebullient Miamian writes her own music and plays drums, guitar and just about anything else put in front of her. Surprisingly, she only found her singing voice three years ago. During a short break from Berklee College of Music, she sang privately for her mother for the first time. “It was a horrible performance,” she says. “I was audibly shaking, but what it represented was big for both of us.” By the sound of her record (on vinyl to boot), the rising star has gotten over her nerves and is poised to take on stages as big as her family name.
What’s it like growing up with the Estefans as parents?
EE: They’ve always been Mom and Dad to me. When I was younger, I would be on the side of the stage and that would be normal for me because I didn’t know anything else. That’s just the family business. When I grew up a little bit more, I was frustrated because I didn’t understand why we couldn’t just go to the fair and walk around without being stopped for a picture. I went through that period where I would have answered your question a completely different way because I was angry. Now that I’m a musician, I see the importance of that part of the job, which is to have constant communication with the people who support you. It’s been a beautiful life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
What instruments did you study growing up?
EE: I went to college when I was 18, and I studied drum set. That’s my principle instrument that I’ve been playing since I was a kid. I feel very protected behind the drums. I was scared to sing, because I was like, “What if I sound just like her?” Or worse yet, “What if I have my own voice, but people don’t want to hear it because they want me to sound like her?”—which happens. But if you don’t like it, then move on.
How would you describe the music you make?
EE: Fusion. There is jazz, R&B, a little Latin because it’s in my blood. That’s why the album is called Take Whatever You Want, because when you’re sitting there listening to the music, I’m not there to tell you what it is. You’re there to decide.
Who have been your biggest musical influences, past and present?
EE: Obviously, my parents have been huge, and Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Prince. And now that I found my own stuff to listen to—Erykah [Badu], Hiatus Kaiyote and Snarky Puppy are my musical icons right now. These people are doing insane stuff with music. When I listen to music from the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s, it takes me somewhere else.
How has growing up in Miami shaped you?
EE: You can walk down the streets of Miami and hear five different languages in a three-block radius. It’s made me very aware of all the intricacies of culture and how you don’t need to be put in a box. It’s also about the American dream. My parents are a constant torch that remind me how hard they had to work to create this life for me. It’s always going to be home.
Tell us about your first band.
EE: I played all my teen life with The GrooveDogz, a local band. The head of the band, John Pantesco, went to my high school a super long time ago. In high school, I was in the band room all the time, hanging with music kids, and he was around. One day he was like, “Hey, do you want to come jam with my band?” I owe him a lot of my musical integrity because he really gave me a shot. My mom was like, “You guys look like ZZ Top and a 12-year-old girl.”
The “Rapuela” videos of your grandmother rapping in Spanish on Instagram are so popular. explain.
EE: “Rapuela” is a superstar. All jokes aside though, it is really sad to me how a lot of kids my age don’t appreciate their grandparents and how important it is to have them around. She is super-duper talented. It’s really important to nurture those relationships, and that’s really where
it came from, a natural love of hanging out and joking around. One day she was just rapping, and I was like, “Wait a minute! What?” For more info visit: theofficialemilyestefan.com