Elaine has been a star since age 6, and By 15, she won a gold medal at the 2014 World Choir Games. While studying towards her law degree, she self-released her first EP, Elements, in September 2019. The masterpiece was nominated for Best R&B/ Soul album at the 26th South African Music Awards. Elaine became the first independent female artist to simultaneously have a No.1 album on Apple Music and iTunes charts.
Last year Elaine signed to Columbia Records making her the first African artist to ever do so. “Signing to Columbia is such a monumental part of my career. It’s definitely the first step in me reaching my dream. I’m trying to bridge the gap between Africa and become a global success. My relationship with Columbia has been amazing. They understand and respect my vision. They are so accommodating in helping me bring my vision to life”.
Elaine definitely lives up to the meaning of her name, “shining star” with a bright future ahead.
“There’s a special type of power that comes with being undermined and overlooked for a long time“Elaine – The Shining Star Documentary
Q & A With Elaine
How crazy is it that you’ve just turned 22 and you’ve achieved your music dream?
Elaine: It’s been such a humbling experience above everything else. The way everything unfolded for me and the way my journey has been set out has been absolutely humbling. I really didn’t expect the love I’ve been receiving from people. All South Africans routing for me, It has been so heart-warming. I’m done with University so it’s a precious experience. I don’t need to cut myself in half to do the things I want. I can really commit to the music and my career, so it really is just an amazing thing to experience.
You are very self-aware and confident, would you say that has helped you on your journey of “becoming”? And what are some of your values?
Elaine: I think everybody is born with confidence and self-awareness. I realized as I was growing up that I can’t let anybody take anything away from me. There’s nothing to be insecure about, we’re all human. There are moments where I feel like I’m not confident but I remind myself that I was born for this. Honestly, if God is for you, no one can be against you. I have a very supportive and close family, we pray and talk about things openly. It’s a safe space! I can definitely give them so much credit for the woman that I am today.
After releasing your EP independently, what type of team would you prefer to make it work?
Elaine: For me, it’s work ethic, passion, and respect. If we got those three, I believe we can really put out the best product. Especially since I’m such a perfectionist. It’s really important for me to work with black creatives and bridge the gap. However, I think before putting together a team, you need to know what it is that you want to achieve. Be aware of your goals and objectives. It took a lot of trial and error before I met the right ones.
Your breakout single “You’re The One” has reached 6.2 Million views on YouTube. Tell us about the moment you wrote the song. Did you imagine it breaking the internet?
Elaine: Funny story about the video, I shot it 3 times with different people. That just shows the kind of perfectionist I am. I was still independent and never shot a music video before. I didn’t have a budget, first of all, I’d use my pocket money and ask my parents for money. The first 2 times were unsuccessful. The third time I collaborated with Sharla (sp), it became successful. That’s the video that’s up now with 6.2 Million views.
If you’ve got the vision for what you want, you don’t have to settle just for anything. It was tiring but I’m happy with what we were able to do at the time. Now I look at it like “Mmmh this is so cringing”! For the young girl I was back then it makes me so proud that I was able to achieve that.
Life at Columbia Records
Let’s talk Columbia Records. You’re the first African artist to be signed. Has it sunk in yet? How has the experience and journey been so far?
Elaine: To be honest with you, nothing has sunk in. It feels like an out-of-body experience most of the time. Sometimes it’s really hard to comprehend everything that’s happened over the past year. Columbia has been really supportive especially with the pandemic, we’ve mostly had a very long-distance relationship but they’ve been very supportive of the situation. I’m so grateful and humbled to have this platform and opportunity.
How it happened is I went to California in February 2020 with my mom and we were just going to label after label. My mom tapped me at every single record label that we went to. That also showed me how dedicated she is. She was missing work and my dad wanted to be there but he couldn’t because of work. It was a hectic time but I’m grateful for the support I had.
You recently released a short documentary The Shining Star tell us more about the documentary.
Elaine: I shot it last October, My team and I were just waiting for the right time to release it so that it would make sense. It was a very personal piece of work. There are people who think I was just this star overnight so I just wanted people to know the real me and to see that I’ve been working on this my whole life.
I’m very careful when it comes to what I put out, Putting my family and friends on the documentary was a very big deal for me and after I released it I felt like a weight had been lifted because the world knows who I am now. Also, My new single is about to drop, so I felt that it was fitting for it to drop the documentary at this time.
How important has it been for you to work with South African director – Nape Pasha? What value has he added to your career?
Elaine: Oh wow! Working with Nape has been amazing. I met him over a year ago on the set of “You’re the One”, He was part of that team. From there, our working relationship really started to blossom. He knew me before I became “Elaine signed to Columbia” So he really knows how to keep me in check sometimes.
Nape understands my vision, when I struggle to put my vision into words he’s always there to lend a helping hand. We have an understanding and respect for one another, It’s been really great working with him, I’m really grateful he’s in my corner.
So finally we’re receiving new music. Please tell us about your new single “Right Now”. Are we getting visuals as well?
Elaine: The song is the starting point of my career. I feel like with Elements I really wasn’t expecting things to happen. I sort of had to adapt to the situation real quick and make do with what I had. Now I’m prepared, I’ve had time and we really been putting in the work. “Right Now” is a song that I wrote to myself, women like myself. Women of color, in music, chasing their dreams and success. It’s just me breaking out of my box! I am saying that you know what, this is me, and this is what I do.
I want people to see my growth and confidence. Also, see how unapologetic I am. It’s about who I am and where I’m from. I love being a black woman, I love seeing black women win so I know this single will resonate with so many women that look like me. The visuals for the single are shot in South Africa, with a team of black creatives that I put together.
What word of advice would you give musicians who want to go the R&B route in South Africa? And what does it take to break out globally as an independent artist?
Elaine: Stay true to yourself! While I was putting my EP together, so many people told me R&B wasn’t going to work in South Africa. “Just do Amapiano, just be a vocalist, give vocals to DJs” – that was the standard. I stayed true to myself and my vision. Confide in people that you trust. It’s so important to have a circle that you can trust. In moments when you feel in doubt, they should be the ones that are there to support you. Definitely stay true to yourself.
There’s so much music available in the world. So many different artists, so the least you can do is just be yourself. I released In the year of Amapiano and still had the biggest song in the country, that is proof of staying true! You need a lot of patience, Sometimes it can get very brutal but Just as much as you feel like nothing’s happening, things are happening for you. God and the universe are working on your behalf. So as long as you do your portion, things will fall into place.
What can we expect from Elaine x Columbia in the future?
Elaine: I’m moving to California! I’m hoping to take my whole team with me by the end of this year. I’ve got such big dreams but I think for now the one thing that I’m praying my all into is my debut album. Everybody has been putting in so much effort and time so that’s the one thing that I’m excited to share with the world. I can’t say when but definitely this year. There are going to be a couple of features on the album as well which I’m really excited about. I can’t share names yet but I know you guys are going to love them.
I’m also focused on branching out and exploring myself as an artist outside of music. I love music and songwriting so I’m trying to write for other artists as well. I’m just growing, finding myself, and trying to be the best version of myself. So you can expect a lot of growth! A lot of music! And a lot of breaking out of my shell. I’m breaking out of my shell this year, I’m tired of being scared and conservative. I’m about to live unapologetically.