Esperanza Spalding Brings A Real Inner Child Into The Studio "My job is working for her," Spalding says of the namesake character on her new album, Emily's D+Evolution. The jazz bassist and singer wrote her latest music with her childhood self in mind.
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Esperanza Spalding Brings A Real Inner Child Into The Studio

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Esperanza Spalding Brings A Real Inner Child Into The Studio

Esperanza Spalding Brings A Real Inner Child Into The Studio

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Finally today, one more word about music, an artist you've probably heard about, Esperanza Spalding. A musical prodigy who taught herself how to play as a child, she grew up to become the first jazz artist to win a Grammy for Best New Artist when she took home that honor in 2011. She took a four-year break from releasing music. But now Esperanza Spalding is back with a new album inspired by a character that she says came to her in a sudden rush of inspiration. She's named Emily, and the album is called "Emily's D+Evolution."


ESPERANZA SPALDING: (Singing) Faded (unintelligible) dancing, singing, scripted delight. Every act ends in breakup, that same old boring story I've played too many nights.

MARTIN: Esperanza Spalding is with us now. Thank you so much for joining us. Welcome.

SPALDING: Thank you for having me. Good to be here.

MARTIN: So I know Emily is your middle name.

SPALDING: I think of Emily as my middle me, too. It's just like my middle name is there and - in my name, but I haven't used it since I was young. Emily is a middle me that's in there, but I haven't used her since I was young. And she's been growing as I've been growing and came knocking and said hey, there's some stuff I need to do right now. So you need to let me out and play. And I said oh, OK, and that's what's been happening since 2013 (laughter).


SPALDING: (Singing) We could change the whole story of love. Same old play I'm getting tired of. No more acting these predictable roles, just us living unconditional love. We could change the whole story of love. Same old play I'm getting tired of.

Emily is somebody who obviously comes from me. I'm not going to pretend like I'm possessed, but I definitely felt her knocking. And she came with a very strong vision and a very clear sound and direction and mode of being. And I have felt for the last two years - and I still feel that my job is working for her.

MARTIN: Did she come to you all at once or was it over - was it a process of...

SPALDING: It pretty much...

MARTIN: ...Days, weeks, months?

SPALDING: ...Dropped all at once the idea. And this sense that I was getting about the way that she would perform and the way that we would perform and the sound - the sound came sort of as a picture. So the way that Emily now relates to Emily me as a young person is in that I'm drawing on modes of expression that I haven't explored or really been focused on since I was a kid. So movement with the body, acting and poetry and staging - those were aspects of performance that I was really wild about when I was little. I feel like I'm reaching back and tapping into that dormant curiosity.


UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) The invisible beat of a drum...

SPALDING: (Singing) March in line.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) Even though you are (unintelligible)...

SPALDING: (Singing) For no reason, oh, I know, facing that dream about paradise pigging out. I want to break the rules with you and see the dream come true. What I need you to do is...

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) Funk the fear, live your life...

SPALDING: (Singing) Just like we came here to.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) Funk the fear, live your life...

SPALDING: (Singing) I want to do it with thee...

In the moment as you're creating what it is you're creating, these pieces are spontaneously erupting or emerging and finding their place into the hole of what you're working on.

MARTIN: Well, you talked about erupting and emerging, so I think that's a good place to play "Good Lava."

SPALDING: Yes, for sure.

MARTIN: Let's play that. Here it is.


SPALDING: (Singing) Lone Ranger, I see you like the view, wondering from a distance what my pretty pea can do. Come bring me...

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) See this pretty girl flow, watch this pretty girl flow.

SPALDING: (Singing) Don't march on.

MARTIN: And that totally rocks out. But now I want to go right into "One," just so people have a sense...


MARTIN: ...Of just how - how much range there is in this. Let's go right into "One."



SPALDING: (Singer) Gravity does burn inside me. I would orbit all who invite me. Oh, then again, there could be one so strong and it stops the world and my heart's spinning. One to prove what I've always known.

MARTIN: And that's delicious. And...

SPALDING: Thank you.

MARTIN: OK, let's go right into "Ebony And Ivy" just so - again, you hear - let's go right into it. Here.


SPALDING: (Singing) We want to knock and (unintelligible) of wisdoms and build our own hot breath kingdoms and make fuming passions rain down ash then hand out dirty white rules to wipe up and memorize then howl our own law hand-me-downs upon the class of masses and grin as each graduate passes on our synthesized words that sterilize natural awe.

Seeds grow on the mountain. You can dig it with a silver spoon.

MARTIN: I'm just floored by it. I just - I think the thing that stands out to a lot of people who've heard the album is the variety on it. Does that resonate with you?

SPALDING: When I walk down the street - like, I was walking down the street to get here today, somewhere in my brain I suppose I'm processing the diversity of the people that I pass on the street. But in the general sense as I put one foot in front of the other, not really paying that much attention to the diversity. I just accept it as a phenomenon of New York City. And that feels very representative of the reality we live in. It's diversity; it's international; it's global; it's cross-pollinated; it's intercultural. And I feel that it's inevitable that the work that I do will reflect the life that I live. And the life I live feels very diverse.


SPALDING: (Singing) But we're finally happy when the sage on the mountain now is a plant or animal.

MARTIN: Are you happy with it?

SPALDING: Hell yeah, I'm happy with it.

MARTIN: (Laughter) OK.

SPALDING: Yeah, I really - I love this project. I'm so grateful for that hit of inspiration. I'm so grateful for the function of Emily in my life right now. It's really stretching me as a performer and as a thinker. And I'm really excited about it. And I just - I think there's a lot of meat in the bones here, you know, to dig at and to get out. And I'm excited, yeah. I'm really proud of this project.


SPALDING: (Singing) We like you, oh, we like you, oh...

MARTIN: That's Esperanza Spalding. Her latest album is called release album is called "Emily's D+Evolution." And Esperanza Spalding joined us from New York. Esperanza Spalding, thanks so much for speaking with us. I really love talking with you.

SPALDING: Thank you. This was so fun. Thank you.


SPALDING: (Singing) Thought and strength and breath, ain't much else left. Better have your fill before you know. It's over, say the natural laws. And if the heavenly God should call, is it heaven at all? Sober. We like you, oh, we like you...

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