Neneh Cherry at Tauron Nowa Muzyka 2014 in Katowice, Poland
|Birth name||Neneh Mariann Karlsson|
10 March 1964 |
Both my parents were working-class and had dreams of making the world a better place. It's pretty powerful, being able to reflect back their beliefs.
To me, a song is a song when you can sit in a room and just sing it from end to end.
I was a punk when I was 15 – I was definitely into it in a big way and loved it – but I came to London when punk was maybe where you'd say punk is dead.
When me and my brother Eagle-Eye were kids, life was about hitting the road, getting on the bus. We loved it.
There's been a lot of coming home in the early mornings after funny nights out, having bizarre sandwiches in bed.
I'm not an amazingly trained soul singer, so with me it's about feeling and energy and spontaneity – that's a really big part of who I am.
I try not to be superstitious, but, you know, we never put any shoes on the table. That's totally against the law in our house. And I always salute when I see one magpie.
Rhythm, that's an essential part of cooking. The sound of a lovely song and the smell of some dish in the oven are equally evocative.
Rip Rig + Panic that I joined, they were really influenced by jazz and blues and punk. So I think what happened from punk, which was kind of DIY, was that it created a kind of creative place that was kind of without limits, in a way.
I think I've grown up in a mixed environment, and maybe a lot of the time I haven't really belonged anywhere in the way I've dreamt of belonging to, you know, living on the street and playing to all the kids on the street, growing up together. I suppose 'Raw Like Sushi' was a place where all of those things could come together.
I don't think you can cover a song unless you love it and have a relationship with it. With 'Golden Heart' I felt a sense of responsibility. And when we were recording it in the studio, it felt almost dream-like. Something you might hear if you were in Senegal, with someone singing from the mosque in the morning just as the sun's coming up.
When I'm singing or on stage, I become complete all of a sudden. I'm whole. I don't think I've really had that in so many other things in my life.
I have absorbed my life now. I am ready for my music to unfold. I know time flies, but before the end of this year, the album will be out. Even if it kills me.
We'd boil this whisky because we thought that would make it stronger. So we thought we were getting drunk, but in fact there'd be no alcohol left in it.
Being a grandmother is one of the least strange things in my life. It makes more sense than a lot of things… like photo shoots!
When I was going to school, I just wanted to be like everybody else. I would pull at my hair to try and get it to lie straight. America was where I would consume and absorb black culture, buy Ultra Sheen and watch 'Soul Train,' but I still had that weird in-between thing.
I am not super-ambitious. I am not a classically amazing singer or anything.
I think I've always been slightly addicted to not repeating myself. When you're doing something the first time around, it's often the best time. I think 'Blank Project' is about carrying on. Its that thing where you're making something because you have to, but you don't know how or why.
I've always worked with my partner, my husband, Cameron, since 'Raw Like Sushi,' and in a way, I feel very free with what I do, but he also has an amazing insight in having intuitions that tend to be right a lot of the time, about where we should go next.
I've always looked to other women for inspiration and kicks. When a woman stands up and does her thing, it never ceases to excite and inspire me.
You come to these thresholds in your life where you need to remember why you do what you do, to reconnect with yourself. When I look back at something like 'Raw Like Sushi,' I think I was very much in the right place at the right time.
I haven't lived in Sweden since I was a teenager. We lived in southern Sweden, about two hours north of Copenhagen, where my family's home base has been since 1970. Our parents bought a schoolhouse in preparation for self-sufficient living. They wanted to create a place to do all the things they believed in.
I'm quite a particular singer, and I need to feel like I can bite into the song, in a way, to make it my own. You want the challenge of the songs having some attitude.
I love collard greens and sweet potatoes. But like, traveling, I'm always just looking for that thing where you feel like there's love in the food. Like one of the best things, in Brazil it's feijoada. I was in Tobago in the winter, and I had the best roti I've ever had, with curry goat.
I admire someone like Beyonce. She has amazing commitment. I needed to accept that I probably did not fit into that forum. Doing that 'The Cherry Thing' record was a big part of finding that place where I belong, where I may shine, but I never doubted it was there.
For me, making music is about my whole life. The basics, the components, simple things – family, living, just going to the market and getting new fruit and veg. That's what keeps my blood flowing.
I love Robyn, not just because we've worked together. I mean, that's why we've worked together – because I love her.
The race is your face. Obviously, I come from a mixed background. Who I am and how I look and being black.
Everyone in Sweden has great hair and teeth and is clean-cut and organised.
A lot of young musicians in Stockholm are about keeping tradition alive and moving it forward at the same time.
I was on tour with Little Dragon with the Gorillaz. She's got an amazing voice and is a lovely girl. Her vibe is fresh pressed and harmless fun with a tinge of the dark side if you look in the right bits of the tunes.
What's sometimes really overwhelming in Sweden is the uniformity. People kind of disappear by all looking the same and wearing the same clothes. There are a lot of great individuals, but it can become a very blank and bleak picture.
I've never really thought of my real life – you know, the one I wake up to and fall asleep to at night – as being a pop star's life.
My kids love Ibiza and we feel committed to it because we keep coming back to the same area. People recognise us in shops now and we have a social life here. We cook at home and have friends around.
When 'Raw Like Sushi' came out in the U.S., I wasn't considered to be black enough. They didn't really know where to put me. The music wasn't 'black black' sounding. It wasn't R&B; it wasn't straight up hip-hop, although obviously in that dimension and world.
Rip Rig & Panic was a milestone for me, and I've always been really thankful that I did that when I was 16. It saved me for when I suddenly became really successful later on. So even when my head's been spinning like a banshee, my feet still feel held down to the ground.
I've never really spent too much or put too much gravity or placed too much importance on being a pop star. It's like, OK, great, does that mean I don't have to do anything anymore except walk around and be a pop star?
I found my place when I moved to London, where I chose to live, making my own tribe who were all from different backgrounds and places. The class thing is very dominant there, but in the cultural cross-fertilization, I felt a sense of belonging.
Frank Ocean is our modern-day Marvin Gaye. In our house, we have nothing but respect for him.
I don't live my life through my kids, nor do I expect them to live theirs through mine. But of course, they're everything.
I like Kelela. I like Twigs. I love the more old school; I hate to say old school, but I love Peaches; I love Peaches, I love Cat Power. And there's constantly new things coming up. But there's something so beautifully powerful – for me being a woman, when there's a woman doing something, it really strikes a chord.
Some people might be groomed for success; I've just always thought I've got a hell of a lot of things to learn and places to go. Creatively, I couldn't stay on the same treadmill. I chose to be off-centre and do collaborative work.
I am not super-ambitious. I am not a classically amazing singer or anything.
I don't think I would have made 'Blank Project; if I hadn't made 'Cherry Thing.' I think that was a real rebirth in a way, and a remembrance of how I like to make music best, the most. Like being in a more chaotic place, maybe. Like a place of making and being creative where the mistakes can be left in.
When you lose a parent, you realize how vital they are to the foundation of your life. It's impossible to understand what it means until that curtain is pulled. You're an orphan. But then I think that life is kind of remarkable, and the thing that causes the biggest pain can also bring amazing energy.
When I found out I was pregnant, my mother said, 'Don't separate your life, the life that you're going to make with this child, from the things that you are and what you want to do.'