Three years ago, Nelly Furtado was just a woman named Kim in a playwriting class at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies.
“Only the teacher knew my other life as a singer,” says the award-winning singer/songwriter, whose sixth album, The Ride, marks her long-awaited return to pop. “My name was just Kim, which is my middle name.”
And no one recognized her?
Furtado shakes her head. “No, not until the end. I had a couple of really good friends by the end – and they were, like, ‘We didn’t know it was you!’”
Today, Furtado’s long dark hair has been shorn in a pixie cut. She appears shy, rarely making eye contact, turning her small hands over in her lap. She speaks about her music in a meek, awkward way, as if it’s a new boyfriend whose affection she remains unsure of. There’s little of the bold confidence one might expect from one of Canada’s greatest singing talents. The artist who has sold more than 40 million records worldwide has been struggling with an existential crisis, questioning what her life was about and what she wanted next. “I was in search of personal autonomy,” she says. “It was about me finding a more simplified version of myself.”
Sounds as if it’s a premature midlife crisis by most standards. Furtado is young – 38 years old. But it’s understandable. Everything in her life has been accelerated.