The Winehouse Mag

November 23rd, 2015
AUX Interview: Cherisha Etnel

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Cherisha Etnel tames her wild heart. (Originally published on AUX TV). 

The Dutch indie artist talks the ’90s R&B and wanderlust that influenced her latest EP. 

In 2009, singer Cherisha Etnel found herself alone and destitute in New York City. “I ran out of money and I was homeless,” the 24-year-old explains from her current home in London. “I was hopping from homeless shelter to homeless shelter and my mom was begging me to come back home. She said I needed another game plan and she was right because I wasn’t getting anywhere.”

Two gruelling years spent in the Big Apple was not what the singer/songwriter anticipated when she abruptly booked a flight from The Netherlands to NYC at age 18 after a dream told her that the iconic city was where she’d find herself. Reflecting on the experience now, she admits that her “wild heart” nature may have been better served with some mundane planning.

“I moved there thinking that my talent alone would get me signed. Boy was I wrong. I had to learn the hard way just like everyone else. I became an adult. I grew up fast,” she says. “What I do love is that that city inspired me to write some amazing material.”

Returning home, Etnel regrouped, buying time until she could make her next big move.

Born in Rotterdam to South American parents, Etnel was raised on a musical diet of Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, and later Destiny’s Child, Toni Braxton, Aaliyah, and Missy Elliot. Her vocal talents, which draw an instant comparison to Lauryn Hill, came easily, and her energetic nature kept her mother on a constant search for productive outlets. Ballet and tennis hit flat notes, but Etnel eventually became part of a successful hip hop dance crew that saw her competing across Europe and major US cities, beyond her small town where she never quite fit in. 

“I was very into my craft and most kids around me didn’t understand that after school I would rush to singing or piano classes and actually enjoy it,” she says. “My teacher once told me that singing was not really a career. I [was] a loner but I didn’t mind because I didn’t like to be surrounded by people who would remind me of what I couldn’t do. I just felt they didn’t teach us about the real world. I wanted to discover it for myself. I wasn’t going to find it in Rotterdam.”

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In 2013, Etnel released the track “Money Hungry” which quickly garnered buzz, and later that year her EP In God We Trust debuted. Her talk-sing style and rich, mature voice was distinct and bold.

“For a very long time I didn’t consider myself to be a rapper. I still don’t,” shares Etnel. “I talk-sing, that’s my style. That’s how I write. I can blow but I haven’t written many songs that allow me to fully show my vocal range. Hip hop has subconsciously but heavily influenced my writing and singing style.”

Etnel admits that it is only of late that she has a better grasp and appreciation of the artist she garners so many comparisons to “[As] a kid, I didn’t get Lauryn Hill. I think I was just too young to get that side of life — I had a very sheltered upbringing. But now that I’m a woman and I’ve had some life experiences I can relate. I love her.”

Jump to early 2015, Etnel, now in London after another impromptu move, independently dropped the five-track EP 1303. Standouts “Vivid,” “P.P. Power,” and “She Do” revel in lusty, mince-no-words bravado that are impossible to ignore. Etnel says it is a better reflection of her as an artist than her “Money Hungry” days, but she admits that a-la-Beyoncé’s Sasha Fierce, the brash, on-the-record girl is not necessarily the “guarded in love” one that lives behind the mic.

“I’m jealous of that girl who can say, ‘Hey look, I love you. I want you, be with me, not with her,’” she admits. “I have felt this way plenty of times. But that bold expressive woman in my songs is a character. The situations she talks about are my true emotions.”

Baring it all has resonated with fans and Etnel is now preparing to give them more of what they want with a new EP, Human Errors, scheduled to drop this fall.

Human Errors is an extension of 1303. But it touches more on my emotional side. I feel like 1303 was a ball of sin,” says Etnel with a laugh. “Lust, jealousy, greed, arrogance, fornication. But all [the] songs on both EPs are [about] emotions that were provoked by one thing: love. Whatever that is.”

Originally published on AUX TV

 

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