En Vogue’s Terry Ellis Talks New Importance of "Free Your Mind" and Upcoming Album
By Sydney Zuelke
En Vogue is one of the headlining acts of V101’s Throwback Holiday Jam taking place at Golden 1 Center. We recently caught up with Terry Ellis, one of the group’s leading members, to discuss a variety of topics ahead of tonight’s show.
Golden 1 Center: Your first album “Born To Sing” came out in 1990 and you now have a new album“Electric Café” coming out in 2017. How do you go about staying relevant with today’s music while still remaining true to yourselves?
Terry Ellis: I feel like R&B music is coming back around, and I think a lot of the music out there today has been borrowing from that era anyways. It was such a hot musical era, the ‘90s, so I don’t think we ever totally disappeared. We kept ourselves relevant by consistently working and being in the marketplace as far as our sound. We do what we do and we’ve never really tried to be or follow anyone else. We just get into the studio and thank God our fans have continued to support us.
Golden 1 Center: Can you describe what it is about ‘90s R&B that has remained a trend in today’s music?
Terry Ellis: I think it was a time where musicianship was so prevalent. It wasn’t so electronic, and you had that essence of the human experience merging with the machine, and so you got that soul. There were great producers back then too. Our producers and so many other producers changed the game with sound and musical vibes and genres – so much of it.
Golden 1 Center: If you were to sum up the new album “Electric Café” in three words, what would they be?
Terry Ellis: Fresh. Eclectic. Signature (Vogue).
Golden 1 Center: You were challenging prejudice and racism with your song “Free Your Mind” and the message still seems incredibly relevant. When you’re singing that song in particular, how does it make you feel?
Terry Ellis: When I’m singing it, we feel like we’re delivering a message. It’s a plea to humanity to respect each other. God created us equal; blood is blood, it’s the same color and our spirits and souls are connected in the same way. I believe that’s why it affects so many people, because so many can relate. In some form or fashion everyone has experienced some type of prejudice, in some type of way. The lyrics in that song were actually personal experiences we all had.
Golden 1 Center: Do you think the song perhaps means more now?
Terry Ellis: I definitely think (“Free Your Mind”) means even more now – the message of that song. Hopefully we can make people think and free their minds.
Golden 1 Center: Do any of the songs on your upcoming album deliver deeper messages like that?
Terry Ellis: We’ve always been pretty conscious of being able to be in the position that we’re in, and having the platform we have with the lyrics in our music. And we’ve always delivered real experiences – so quite a few songs on “Electric Café”. There’s “Life”, which is saying life is too short, don’t wallow out in trivialities, live life and be grateful. “A Thousand Times” is from our Lifetime Christmas movie (“An En Vogue Christmas”) and is about forgiveness. “So Serious” is all about female empowerment. It acknowledges the role that we play, and what we have to contribute to society as women. “Blue Skies” is basically coming out of darkness and understanding that there’s always going to be blue skies; listen to your inner voice and trust everything is going to be okay. Oh, and “I Love My Thangs” – we love to shop.
We also had a chance to work with Raphael Saadiq on the song “I’m Good”. It says, “You know, I’ve gone through some stuff, but I’m good.”
Golden 1 Center: V101 Holiday Jam featured some other big names of the era. Have you worked with any of these other artists before?
Terry Ellis: We’ve worked with Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Blackstreet – it was awesome.