I just sing. It’s what I do for a living.
I sing in a studio, I sing live on stage, I don’t mind where. I just like to sing, period. I like to sing good stuff, okay? I don’t care if it’s for an audience of one, or none, or a million. If I’m going to sing, I want to sing stuff that I love to sing. In the past, I’ve had to sing stuff that, shall we say, I didn’t love. I didn’t love ‘I Feel For You’, but it’s not just that one. There are 25 or 30 songs that I feel like that about. I didn’t pick it, and I’d have never picked it to be a single, but that’s why I’m not picking singles! In the era of big labels, I had to stick to a formula, which I didn’t really appreciate, so I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that crap anymore.
After I’ve done my vocals, I don’t want to be around – it’s as boring as anything.
On this album, how it worked is Sarah and Dave played me tracks, I picked the tracks I liked, we recorded my vocals, and then they did their mixing or whatever. I don’t really know how they put it together – they sort through the vocals and pick what’s going where, and it’s crazy: they’re building a song as opposed to singing a song. They find great excitement in that, but for me it’s all terribly boring. I just want to go in there and sing. So I put my vocals down and it turned out magical.
For me, all musicians and artists speak the same language.
It has nothing to do with where they’re born, you understand? Nothing to do with their country. We all speak that one language, the language of the angels, meaning I can sing pretty much anything! Obviously, I’m a multicultural singer: I’ve sung in German, in French, I’ve sung in many languages, but music is one common language. For example, I just finished a song for Gandhi’s birthday celebration, in Hindi, I think, or whatever language it was [it was in Gujarati]. Anyway, singing in Hindi is a totally different discipline – I felt like a spaceship had landed from a different planet – but the one common thread that I hung onto is that it was a prayer song, so that got me in the right mood. I had a singing coach with me for the correct pronunciation of the words, but it turned out beautifully.
I don’t listen to music at home, I don’t sing at home.
When I’m home and I’m off, I’m off. I don’t have a studio at my house, I just do the telly. Me and the telly, and family, that’s it. When I go on the road, I do music. When I have to – when it’s time, whenever the occasion insists – I go in and I put down music, but it’s my job, so I don’t overdo it, which keeps it fresh. I don’t want to get bored or tired of an art that is so unique and pure, or drag it in the dirt, know what I mean? Some people get the itch, and then lose the love and respect for a thing, and when that happens, everybody knows. But the way to remain in love with music is to abstain. I don’t have music at home, or go out to clubs and jam every night. I pay as much respect to the non-singer in me as I do to the singer.
Singing is not me putting on a mask.
It’s just me, I don’t put on any fake gloves or costumes or any fake anything. I’m the most realistic, real person – one of the most real that you’ll ever probably talk to. I’m all about truth – it’s at a premium these days and I’m all about honesty, and with the living I make, I’m like a carnival trying to bring honesty – honesty in a carnival setting. Sure, Chaka Khan is a stage name, and absolutely there’s a difference between Chaka and Yvette: Yvette’s the bass note, she’s the one who brought me through all the crap. She’s the strength, so when I go home, I hang Chaka Khan in the closet, and I become Nana, and Yvette.
I’ve been a Joni Mitchell fan since I was a teenager.
I’m drawn to her intelligence, number one; her lyrics are off the chart, she’s so honest and real, and she tells stories, paints pictures with her music. She’s a visual singer, and I love that. She’s the first songwriter that sent me to a dictionary – which says a lot, by the way – so I just respect the hell out of her. I love her choices, and her style, and her music, and I love the way she sings and plays guitar and piano. She’s remained true to herself musically, and not let anyone else influence her to the degree where it’s stressed out her music, or reshaped it or recoloured it into something that’s false or fake, or something that will appeal to the “popular ear”.