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Furtado on fire in the spotlight

Furtado: "Touring is a favorite part of what I do. I love connecting with the fans in that immediate way"  

By Shanon Cook

(CNN) -- With a headline tour under way, a Grammy gracing her piano and a hit debut album tucked under her belt, singer/songwriter Nelly Furtado is taking the world by storm.

Brought up in Victoria, British Columbia, with Portuguese roots, her combination of hip-hop, dance and world music has won praise on every continent and has produced one of the most refreshing debut albums in recent years.

Since its October 2000 release, "Whoa Nelly!" has catapulted tracks "I'm Like A Bird" and "Turn Off The Light" onto airwaves and into the Billboard charts.

Her win at the Grammy Awards in February for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for her first single, "I'm Like A Bird", has cemented Furtado as one of the hottest young artists of today.

Nevertheless, the 23-year-old, who got her first taste for singing to the masses when she was 4, insists her climb to stardom hasn't been as rapid as it might appear.

"It has kind of been a process for me over the last few years," she said in a recent interview. "So for me it's been slow. I'm kind of at that point where I'm taking everything in stride and it's pretty cool."

But don't take that to mean she's laying low and taking catnaps between autograph signings. Au contraire: Furtado, who's worked with The Roots, Paul Oakenfold, Missy Elliot and Timbaland, recently collaborated with Colombian hero Juanes on a new song called "Fotografias."

And when she's not showing up for sound checks, audiences and interviews, the songstress is testing out new material on her guitar for her next album.

Despite all the buzz, Furtado managed to squeeze in time away from her "Burn in the Spotlight" tour and enter The Music Room for a chat. Here's part of the conversation:


TMR: Do you find it easy to stay grounded when so much of your life is spent in the spotlight?

Nelly: Well, that's all you can do. About a year ago I realized the only way to stay grounded in this kind of lifestyle is to worry about two things; the music and your friends and family. And that's it. Once you really have that music tunnel vision, you just care about creativity and your immediate life and things become a lot simpler.

TMR: What did winning the Grammy mean to you?

Nelly: It just really propels your career onto this other kind of pedestal. Career-wise it's a beautiful thing. Exposure-wise it's the third most watched television program all year so it's a great thing to be a part of. We were honored. Even my co-producers Track and Field were nominated for best producers. It's the first record they've ever produced. They honored the musicality and the eclecticism of my album and that, to us, means the world.

TMR: What pressure are you feeling now?

Nelly: I feel positive pressure after winning the Grammy, musically, because when I released the album in October of 2000, some of the songs I wrote when I was 18 or 19 years old. I'm 23 now and by the time my next record comes out I'll be 24, 25. So I've grown a lot and through time I've gotten better. I'm not as worried about my next release 'cause I know it's going to be strong.

TMR: What can we expect from your next release?

Nelly: You're going to see a little bit of a change, lyrically. My last record was a little more shielded. It's kind of like my teen angst record. It's my tribute to kind of growing from a teen-ager to an adult and dealing with that whole dilemma. And for my next record you're going to see me emotionally just opening up a bit more and realizing that love and vulnerability is a beautiful thing (laughs).

TMR: How do you find time to write songs when you're bound to such a busy schedule?

Nelly: Basically for me, writing is a way of life. It has been since I was a young child. For me breathing, eating, drinking, singing, and writing -- it's all one thing. Lately, I have my guitar with me. I don't put too much pressure on myself to sit down and like, "you gotta write these great songs" because once I actually do sit and write more for this record, I know it's going to come to me. I've already written quite a bit, though. It's going to be good.

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