Nelly Furtado Biography

Nelly Furtado Biography on Monsters and Critics


" Nelly Kim Furtado" (born November 2, 1978) is a Portuguese-Canadian,singer-songwriter, record producer, and actress. She has sold over 18 million albums worldwide and currently resides in Toronto. Furtado grew up in Victoria, BC, Canada.

Furtado came to fame in 2000 with the release of her debut album "Whoa, Nelly!", which featured her breakthrough Grammy Award-winning single 'I'm Like a Bird'. After becoming a mother and releasing the less commercially successful "Folklore" (2003), she returned to prominence in 2006 with the release of "Loose" and its hit singles 'Promiscuous', 'Maneater', 'All Good Things (Come to an End)', and 'Say It Right'.

Furtado is known for experimenting with different instruments, sounds, genres, vocal styles and languages. This diversity has been influenced by her wide-ranging musical taste and her interest in different cultures.

Early life

Furtado was born December 2, 1978 in the Canadian city of Victoria, British Columbia to Portuguese parents, Maria Manuela and António José Furtado, both immigrants from the Portuguese Azores archipelago. Her parents were born on São Miguel Island and immigrated to Canada in the late 1960s. Furtado has a strong connection with Portuguese culture. At age four she began performing and singing in Portuguese. She was named after Soviet gymnast Nellie Kim. Raised in a Roman Catholic home, Furtado first sang at the age of four when she performed a duet with her mother at a church on Portugal Day. Although remaining unclear about her religious beliefs, she still affirms a belief in God, the Ten Commandments, and in avoiding the Seven Sins. She began playing instruments at the age of nine, learning the trombone, ukulele and, in later years, the guitar and keyboards. At the age of twelve, she began writing songs, and as a teenager, she performed in a Portuguese marching band. Furtado has acknowledged her family as the source of her strong work ethic; she spent eight summers working as a chambermaid with her mother, who was a housekeeper in Victoria. She has stated that coming from a working class background has shaped her identity in a positive way.

Musical career

The first musicians Furtado interacted with were underground rappers and DJs. During a visit to Toronto the summer after eleventh grade, Furtado met Tallis Newkirk, member of the hip hop group Plains of Fascination. She contributed vocals to their 1996 album, "Join the Ranks", on the track 'Waitin' 4 the Streets'. After graduating from Mount Douglas Secondary School in 1996, she moved to Toronto. The following year, she formed Nelstar, a trip hop duo with Newkirk. Ultimately, Furtado felt the trip-hop style of the duo was 'too segregated' and believed it did not represent her personality or allow her to showcase her vocal ability. She left the group and planned to move back home.

Before moving, however, she performed at the 1997 Honey Jam, an 'all-female urban' talent show. Her performance attracted the attention of The Philosopher Kings singer Gerald Eaton (aka Jarvis Church), who then approached her to write with him. He and fellow Kings member Brian West helped Furtado produce a demo. She left Toronto, but returned again to record more material with Eaton and West. The material recorded during these sessions led to her 1999 record deal with DreamWorks Records, where she was signed by A&R executive Beth Halper, partner of Garbage drummer and record producer Butch Vig. Furtado's first single, 'Party's Just Begun (Again)', was released that year on the "Brokedown Palace: Music from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack".

2000-2002: "Whoa, Nelly!"

Furtado continued the collaboration with Eaton and West, who co-produced her debut album, "Whoa, Nelly!" which was released in October 2000.

Following the release of the album, Furtado headlined the 'Burn in the Spotlight Tour' and also appeared on Moby's "Area:One" tour.

The album was an international success, supported by three international singles: 'I'm like a Bird', 'Turn off the Light', and '...On the Radio (Remember the Days)'. It received four Grammy Award nominations in 2002, and her debut single won for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Furtado's work was also critically acclaimed for her innovative mixture of various genres and sounds. "Slant Magazine" called the album 'a delightful and refreshing antidote to the army of 'pop princesses' and rap-metal bands that had taken over popular music at the turn of the millennium'.

The sound of the album was strongly influenced by musicians who had traversed cultures and 'the challenge of making heartfelt, emotional music that's upbeat and hopeful'. According to "Maclean's" magazine, "Whoa, Nelly!" had sold five million copies worldwide as of August 2006.

The song 'Scared of You' has portions of the song in Portuguese, while 'Onde Estás' is entirely in Portuguese, reflecting Furtado's Portuguese heritage. The International Release of 'Whoa Nelly' featured fellow Canadian Esthero on the song titled 'I Feel You'.

In 2002, Furtado appeared on the song "Thin Line", on underground hip hop group Jurassic 5's album "Power in Numbers". The same year, Furtado provided her vocals to the Paul Oakenfold's song "The Harder They Come" from the album "Bunkka" and also made the song ' These words are my own'.She also had a collaboration with Colombian artist Juanes, in the song 'Fotografia' where she showed her diversity of yet another language.

2003-2005: "Folklore"

Furtado's second album, "Folklore", was released in November 2003. The final track on the album, 'Childhood Dreams', was dedicated to her daughter, Nevis. The album includes the single 'Força' (meaning 'strength' or 'carry on' in Portuguese), the official anthem of the 2004 European Football Championship. Furtado performed this song in Lisbon at the championship's final, in which the Portugal national team played. The lead single is 'Powerless (Say What You Want)' and the second single is the ballad 'Try'. The album was not as successful as her debut, partly due to the album's less 'poppy' sound, as well as underpromotion from her label DreamWorks Records. DreamWorks had just been sold to Universal Music Group. In 2005, DreamWorks Records, along with many of its artists including Furtado, was absorbed into Geffen Records.

'Powerless (Say What You Want)' was later remixed, featuring Colombian rocker Juanes, who had previously worked with Furtado on his track 'Fotografía' ('Photograph'). The two would collaborate again on 'Te Busqué' ('I Found You'), a single from Furtado's 2006 album Loose.

2006-2008: "Loose"

Furtado's third album, "Loose", was released in June 2006. She named it after the spontaneous, creative decisions she made while creating the album. Some have labeled her a "sellout" for seemingly abandoning her folk and rock roots in favour of hip hop and R&B, while others have accused her of attempting to 'sex up' her music and appearance to sell more records. In this album, primarily produced by Timbaland, Furtado experiments with sounds from R&B, hip hop, and 1980s music. Furtado herself describes the album's sound as "punk-hop", described as 'modern, poppy, spooky' and as having 'a mysterious, after-midnight vibe... extremely visceral'. She attributed the youthful sound of the album to the presence of her two-year-old daughter. The album received generally positive reviews from critics, with some citing the 'revitalising' effect of Timbaland on Furtado's music, and others calling it 'slick, smart and surprising'.

Nelly performing at in 2006

"Loose" has become the most successful album of Furtado's career so far, as it reached number one not only in Canada and the United States, but also several countries worldwide. The album produced her first number-one hit in the United States, 'Promiscuous', as well as her first number-one hit in the United Kingdom, 'Maneater'. The single 'Say It Right' eventually became Furtado's most successful song worldwide, due to its huge success in Europe and in the United States, where it became her second number-one hit. 'All Good Things (Come to an End)' became her most successful song in Europe, topping single charts in numerous countries there.

On February 16, 2007, Furtado embarked on the 'Get Loose Tour'. She returned in March 2007 to her hometown of Victoria to perform a concert at the Save-On Foods Memorial Centre. In honour of her visit, local leaders officially proclaimed March 21, 2007, the first day of spring, as Nelly Furtado Day. After the tour, she released her first live DVD/CD named "Loose the Concert". On April 1, 2007, Furtado was a performer at and host of the 2007 Juno Awards in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. She won all five awards for which she was nominated, including Album of the Year and Single of the Year. She also appeared on stage at the Concert for Diana at Wembley Stadium in London on July 1, 2007, where she performed 'Say It Right', 'Maneater', and 'I'm like a Bird'.

In 2007, Furtado and Justin Timberlake were featured on Timbaland's single 'Give It to Me', which became her third number-one single in the U.S. and second in the UK. In late 2008, Furtado collaborated with James Morrison on a song called 'Broken Strings' for his album 'Songs for You, Truths for Me'. The single was released on December 8 and peaked at #2 on the UK Singles Chart in early January.

In 2007, Furtado leaked plans to "Flare" regarding a song she was set to duet for Kylie Minogue's return. However, the song was not featured on her album "X" but Minogue says the aforementioned song 'is still outstanding' and has plans to pursue it. She said 'I am looking forward to getting in the studio and doing it because I know Nelly and I would have a great time together'.

2009-present: "Mi Plan" and Fifth Studio Album

On December 31, 2008 El Diario La Prensa posted an article that Furtado is planning on recording songs in English and Spanish for her upcoming album and that it is 'expected to launch on September 15, 2009.

Furtado made a guest appearance on Flo Rida's new album, "R.O.O.T.S.", which was released on March 31, 2009. The track is titled 'Jump'. Furtado has also made a guest appearance on Divine Brown's Love Chronicles, co-writing and singing on the background of the song 'Sunglasses'.

In early March, a song called 'Gotta Know' leaked in the internet and was said to be Nelly's. As response, on March 4, 2009, Furtado stated on her MySpace blog that the song is not hers and that she is recording two new albums: one in Spanish, and the other in Portuguese. According to Billboard, Nelly will release a new Spanish album on September 29th. According to Nelly Furtado via the Perez Hilton blog, the Spanish album will be titled "Mi Plan" and the first single titled 'Manos Al Aire' (in Spanish, meaning 'Hands Up').

The album will have twelve new songs, all in spanish, as stated by Nelly in a message left in her official website

The second single ' (Más) ' was released on July 21st, as it was announced on Nelly's official myspace. The third single 'Mi Plan' (ft. Aléx Cuba) was released on iTunes on August 11th, 2009 and 'Bajo Otra Luz' (ft. Julieta Venegas and La Mala Rodriguez) is the fourth and final countdown single and is set to be released on September 1st, 2009. She also invited the Mexican star Alejandro Fernandez to sing a duet song named 'Sueños' ('Dreams').

The release of the album Mi Plan was moved up to September 15th. The videoclip for 'Manos Al Aire' premiered on July 29th on the Alex Chung Show.

In a recent video Nelly said 'I'm also writing an English album,' she says 'Timbaland and I hooked up in the studio about three months ago and we wrote 20 songs in two days. It was really inspired. I think maybe some of that material will be on my English album.'

Nelly Furtado will make a guest appearance on Tiësto's single 'Who Wants To Be Alone' on his new album "Kaleidoscope" which will be released on October 6, 2009. She also made a guest appearance on Canadian singer k-os's new album Yes!, collaborating alongside Saukrates on the song 'I Wish I Knew Natalie Portman,' released in early July 2009.

Record Label

She has formed her own record label, Nelstar, in conjunction with Canadian independent label group Last Gang Labels. The first act signed to Nelstar is Fritz Helder & the Phantoms. Furtado released her first Spanish single 'Manos Al Aire' on the new label.

Music influences

During her pre-teenage to teenage years, Furtado embraced many musical genres, listening heavily to mainstream R&B, hip hop, alternative hip hop, drum and bass, trip hop, world music (including Portuguese fado, Brazilian bossa nova and Indian music), and a variety of others. Her influences have included Jeff Buckley, Portishead, Janet Jackson, Oasis, Caetano Veloso, Esthero, Amalia Rodrigues, Björk, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Cornershop, TLC, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Digable Planets, De La Soul, Radiohead, Madonna, The Smashing Pumpkins, The Verve, U2, Enya and Beck.

Furtado's music has also been influenced by her current residence, Toronto, which she calls 'the most multicultural city in the entire world' and a place where she 'can be any culture'. Regarding Toronto's cultural diversity, she has said that she did not have to wait for the Internet revolution to learn about world music; she began listening to it at the age of five and continues to discover new genres.

Personal life

On September 20, 2003, in Toronto, Furtado gave birth to a daughter, Nevis, whose father is DJ Jasper Gahunia. Furtado and Gahunia, who had been good friends for several years, remained together for four years until their breakup in 2005. Furtado told "Blender" magazine that they continue to be good friends and jointly share responsibility of raising Nevis.

In June 2006, in an interview with "Genre" magazine, when asked if she had 'ever felt an attraction to women', Furtado replied 'Absolutely. Women are beautiful and sexy'. Some considered this an announcement of bisexuality, but in August 2006, she stated that she was 'straight, but very open-minded'. In November 2006, Furtado revealed that she once turned down US$ 500,000 to pose fully-clothed in "Playboy".

On July 2007, it was reported that Furtado is engaged to Cuban sound engineer Demacio 'Demo' Castellón. He worked with her on "Loose". On October 17, 2008, it was reported in "People Magazine" that Furtado and Castellón have been married since July 19, 2008. Furtado confirmed to "Entertainment Tonight" that she married Castellón on July 19, 2008.Furtado Is Promoting a new line of Henna Tattoo's In 2009.


For World AIDS Day in 2006, Furtado, Enrique Iglesias, Kanye West, Kelly Rowland, Snoop Dogg and Kelly Clarkson teamed up with MTV, BET, and Nike to perform at an AIDS awareness concert in South Africa. Furtado also hosted a program about AIDS on MTV, which also featured celebrity guests Alicia Keys and Justin Timberlake.


English Studio albums

2000: "Whoa, Nelly!"

2003: "Folklore"

2006: "Loose"

Spanish Studio Albums

2009: "Mi Plan"

Other albums

2004: "Sessions@AOL"

2007: "Loose: The Concert"


2006: "Loose Mini DVD"

2007: "Loose: The Concert"

Number-one singles

*Received a digital download only release

External links

(Nelly Furtado Interview) at


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