It seems like just yesterday, I was singing along to Elle Varner's "Only Want To Give It To You" as it blared through the radio while cruising down the street. And let's not forget the countless times my girls and I blurted out the lyrics to "Refill" anytime we found ourselves at a restaurant. Varner's soulful voice and reflective yet catchy sounds undoubtedly provided a backdrop to some of my most memorable moments. And it's for that reason that I was excited to chat with her on a busy midweek afternoon, as she poetically and transparently spoke on life and love lessons she's learned over the last several years.
Like all of us, Elle wasn't and isn't exempt from let-downs and lessons that come with navigating the murky waters of love and relationships. And if her new EP, so aptly entitled Ellevation, is any indication of the growth she's undertaken, then fans are definitely in for a treat.
xoNecole got the chance to talk with Elle, where she dished on her musical evolution, personal boundaries, and what she needs to have in her next relationship. Here's what she had to say.
xoNecole: Your EP is called ‘Ellevation’ and for good reason, I’m sure. In what ways do you feel you’ve evolved both personally and musically?
Elle Varner: This, for me, was a big growth spurt and kind of an end of a chapter. I kind of liken it to a graduation, because when you come into the music industry professionally--it's a lot like being a freshman. Everything is exciting and new and then stuff gets hard, stuff gets challenging, tiring. But you have to push through those couple of years, then you're rewarded. You've not only completed this milestone, but you have all this knowledge and wisdom to take with you into the "real world". I definitely feel like I've graduated into that space as a woman, as an artist.
You mentioned in an Instagram post that this album had been a sort of healing agent for you. When you're going through a rough patch or combating self-doubt, what do you do to heal and get back to your highest self?
It's really about what's around you. You can't control certain life circumstances, but you can control the people you have around you, the types of food you intake, the type of energy you intake. So for me, one of those big changes was going to church on a regular basis and having a community in the church that really supported me. Reading books, watching TED Talks, all these things that feed you with nourishing uplifting experiences.
"This, for me, was a big growth spurt and kind of an end of a chapter... You've not only completed this milestone, but you have all this knowledge and wisdom to take with you into the 'real world'. I definitely feel like I've graduated into that space as a woman, as an artist."
Your song “Kinda Love” is pretty straightforward and honest on the type of love you seek now in this season as opposed to what you may have tolerated in the past. What did your last serious relationship teach you about love?
It pointed me in the direction more so of self-love. From my very first relationship in high school up until now, I would say that love doesn't have to be complicated or possessive or consuming. It can be a complement to your life, something that enriches your life, and adds value in certain ways. But it shouldn't be something that consumes you completely, or makes you afraid or holds you back.
What boundaries have you put in place now to ensure that your next relationship is as enriching and valuable as you'd want it to be?
I think I have to come first honestly. When you think of all the extraordinary circumstances of being a woman: we're able to give birth, we carry life in us for nine months, we have to menstruate every 20-something days. And we still go to work and do the things everyone else has to do. So it's not to say that women are better, but it's to say that I'm fully okay with the feeling that my needs have to be super met and that I am a queen and need to be treated as such. That's it. I used to think that somehow that was a bad thing, but no. And I also have to have the kind of dynamic where he understands that I'm fully committed to my work, that this is a lifestyle for me. It's not just a job. I'm giving to so many people, so I need to be fulfilled in a way where it allows me to do that or I just have to leave it alone, you know?
If you could describe your ideal relationship in three words what would they be and why?
"Fun", "love", and "trust". I'm pretty easygoing, a fun person. But I think trust and love are important because people have to really deal with themselves in a way that allows them to be in a relationship with someone else and give them their all when it comes to love. I've experienced things where the person holds back or they were just not able to correct themselves--because they haven't dealt with certain issues. You want to be with someone who's kind of already resolved their issues or is able to come into the relationship whole. And I say "trust" because, you have to keep it real. I don't want you to paint a picture or tell me what I want to hear. I want you to present your truth and I can take it or leave it.
When you do find that whole person, how would you like your man to cater to you?
Right now I'm so focused on my goals and aspirations, I don't know if I have a whole lot of space for that. And I'm really okay with that. That's just the place I'm in, but anyone who does come into my life has to understand my commitment level to my work and not try to compete with that or feel slighted. It's nothing personal, it's just what I do. I'm doing ten interviews a day, running a business. I'm building a legacy.
"This was God's way of reminding me of how I laughed at doubters and kept going. He was reminding me of the perseverance I always had as a child, how I always went against the grain, and the fighter I always was. Who I am. He was reminding me of who I really am."
What do you know now about yourself that you didn’t know before?
There's this scene in Lion King where Mufasa says, "Remember who you are." And I think that, sometimes it's not that we change--it's that we forget who we are and why we started. And being on a public platform, having a public image and a lot of influence can definitely affect how you think of yourself. It might heighten your self-image, then you create an identity around how people see you. But I'm really glad that a lot of things were, for lack of a better phrase, taken away because at first it felt like, "Oh my God, oh my God." But then I realized, this was God's way of reminding me of how I laughed at doubters and kept going. He was reminding me of the perseverance I always had as a child, how I always went against the grain, and the fighter I always was. Who I am. He was reminding me of who I really am.
Featured image by Jennifer Johnson/Elle Varner