GFM Spotlight Interview: Elle Varner Talks Ellevation & Evolution as an Artist

Elle Varner emerged onto the music scene in 2011 as a free-spirited 22-year-old artist. She unveiled her first studio album titled Perfectly Imperfect in 2012, which debuted at #2 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Chart and at #4 on the Billboard Top 200 chart. The album produced the hit singles “Only Wanna Give It to You” featuring J. Cole and “Refill”. Both reached the top 20 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart and the top 10 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, respectively. 

After some single releases intermittently over the years since that time, Elle Varner has a new EP called Ellevation-- a play on her name of course, but once could glean from the tracks that this "raw Elle Varner project" expresses a musical movement of levels too. Read and enjoy our interview below.

GFM: The biggest question that a lot of people have is we haven't seen you for a while. Where have you been?

EV: I've been making music, living life... really just creating the content that's put into this EP and the next album that's coming right afterward. 

GFM: I know you've kind of been on a bit of a journey with the record label... changing record labels and then becoming independent. Can you talk about that journey?

EV: Thank God I'm in place where I can appreciate the journey. At first it definitely was tough 'cause you have these specific ideas of how you think things should be or how you want things to be and then you don't realize the blessing in disguise.  Not only am I able really to have my own vision, execute my vision [and] explore different things that I want to explore, I'm completely free to make the music I wanna make-- to have the career that I wanna have. That's really important. You see a lot of artists get burnt out... get used up 'til there's nothing left. It literally is something that people's lives are lost over and that's very sad, but I never have to be in that position.  

GFM: When I hear some of the tracks on Ellevation, to me, the EP plays out like that story of a woman who got into a relationship that completely turned her upside down. Is that a fair assessment? Talk about the journey and the story of Ellevation.

EV: I think it's different layers. For example, [the song] "Wishing Well".  A lot of people think that song is about a relationship. That song is actually about my experience in the industry and some of the people I've dealt with and grown apart from. That's just really telling that story that you know, 'It hurt, but it's okay. I still wish you well. I wish the best for you and the best for me. No love lost.' 


  1. "Coffee On The Roof"
  2. "Pour Me" (feat. Wale)
  3. "1 to 10"
  4. "Wishing Well" (feat. Rapsody)
  5. "Number One Song"
  6. "Loving U Blind"
  7. "Kinda Love"
  8. "Casanova"
  9. "Be Encouraged"

GFM: You have some features. How did Wale get involve with your project?

EV: This is our second song together. We did a song called "Rover". We actually did a remix of "Refill" back in the day, so we've been long time collaborators and friends. It's always great to have him contribute. We just mix so well together in terms of hip hop and R&B.

GFM: Earlier this year you got to do some tour dates with Marsha Ambrosius who is also a singer-songwriter. During that time were you able to vibe with her or sit down with her and get any gems from her? 

EV: We've been friends for years. She's just an amazing artist all across the board. [She is] an amazing songwriter [and] someone who just continues to grow and expand and breathe new life into different projects and just execute her vision how she sees it. She's a true artist and I have so much respect and admiration for her. 

GFM: I read that you describe your music as trap jazz. Is that true? Explain trap jazz. 

EV: I grew up with a love for hip hop and a love for jazz music equally. I would go from Ella Fitzgerald to the Ying Yang Twins. That was just my taste. One of my favorite groups is A Tribe Called Quest. Although it wasn't trap it was definitely this jazz fusion hip hop. It just naturally evolved into my sound as a artist. 

GFM: Speaking of evolution, what do you think the evolution has been since you came on the scene to where you are now with Ellevation and going forward?

EV: I think what's important about this project for me as an artist is I that was able to kind of take the gloves off and just be real and raw and just put it all out there versus earlier in my songwriting journey everything was a metaphor. Everything was pretty polished and cute and sweet. I think I really touched on some heavier subjects and got right to the point.  I'll always be happy with the project because of it. Wherever I go next will be that, but for this-- this is like that raw Elle Varner project. 

GFM: What is your definition of Grown Folks Music? 

EV:  Grown folks music ranges. It ranges from the stuff my mom would play cleaning the house on Saturdays to anything that has somewhat of a timeless quality to it. A lot of meat and potatoes. It has an element of substance. 

Check out "Kinda Love" the latest single and video from the Ellevation EP.

Now Playing: Elle Varner: "Pour Me" Feat. Wale

Grammy-award winner Elle Varner kicks off 2019 with a brand-new single-- “Pour Me” featuring Wale. “Pour Me”, produced by Nascent and Jimmy Varner, is a laid back, R&B groove with a touch of jazz that has Elle reminiscing about a lost love. The track will be featured on her new mixtape to be released this spring. In fall 2018 Elle released the warm-up single “Loving U Blind”, the heartfelt ballad about avoiding the pitfalls of loving too fast. That single not only showcased her versatility as an artist but her vulnerability as well.

Click on "Pour Me" and let us know if has juice.

Catch Elle Varner performing on select dates for Marsha Ambrosious' NYLA Tour which starts in a few days in San Francisco, CA.

Elle Varner Loving U Blind

Now Playing/Visuals: Elle Varner: "Loving U Blind"

It's been a while, years actually, since we've heard from Elle Varner. She's back with new music that has a much different feel than what we've heard from her before. Check out singer-songwriter side of Elle Varner on "Loving U Blind".

Elle Varner unveiled her first studio album titled Perfectly Imperfect in 2012, which debuted at #2 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Chart and at #4 on the Billboard Top 200 chart. The album also produced hit singles "Only Wanna Give It to You" featuring J. Cole and “Refill,” with both reaching the top 20 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart and the top 10 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, respectively. Varner won her first Grammy in 2017 for her work with Chance the Rapper on his hit album Coloring Book.

You Make The Call: Elle Varner - F**k It All (Explicit Version)

Ok fam we had a round about at GFM HQ about this one yesterday... some yea, some nay but a great convo all around on this latest from Elle Varner. I will say this(without giving anything away): I believe there was a consensus re: the ending. Weigh-in on the discussion and yes as the title states this one is def. NSFW.


New Music Video: Elle Varner: "I Don't Care"

Check out the video for Elle Varner's '90s-vibe jam, "I Don't Care". Reminiscent of Alicia Keys' "Unthinkable" video, it portrays young couples that are helplessly in love while battling various forms of discrimination.





New Music: Elle Varner: "I Don't Care"

Diggin' this one... While Elle Varner's voice is an acquired taste at times, like in the case of "Refill", she's doing her thing on "I Don't Care". But the part that is attention grabbing is the late '80s/early '90s feel to the music on track that makes me want to check the liner notes to see if Al B. Sure! and Kyle West had anything to do with the production. Well done--this song is a bridge for the "Grown Folks" to walk over and discover this young artist.

Official Video: Elle Varner: "Refill"

There was a bit of discussion about this track 'round the GFM headquarters about the production heaviness of this track with that fiddle loop and all, and the way Elle Varner sings the hook, but there's some good stuff to be found here. The lyrics are metaphoric and imaginative. Elle is completely dressed and the video actually tells a story and keeps the viewer engaged. Enjoy.


New Music: Elle Varner feat. Karina Pasian: "Luv Me Tomorrow"

It seems that some of the new, younger, R&B artists are running from the production-heavy sound all over the radio today and taking a page from the old school. Such is the case here and it's a good look. "Luv Me Tomorrow" sounds a little like someone put the needle on the record and at the same time a little like '90s hip-hop soul. It sounds familiar, yet still fresh. "Luv Me Tomorrow", by Elle Varner featuring Karina Pasian. Produced by The Force.

Elle Varner Refill

Elle Varner - "Refill" Mini-Review

Ok so of course I have to start this post with one small caveat and that is that my love for the sound of Elle Varner has been documented on these very pages. If you want to check out that particular love fest go here.

Now granted I don't know if "Refill" is an official single release or if it is just something that Elle's team is testing the waters of the interwebs with... I know it arrived in the inbox last evening and of course it got the immediate open and push play because of the aforementioned love fest. Again, I must confess that I realize that I am probably not the target demo for Elle. I must say though, that I did feel somewhat hip when back in August I was rebuffed by my teenager daughter when I tried to put her on to "Only Wanna Give It To You" only to be ignored and then lo and behold who happens to playing the song about three months later when I walked by the room but I digress...Read more

Elle Varner Only Wanna Give It To You

Elle Varner Featuring J. Cole - Only Wanna Give It To You (Official Video)

About a month or so ago we posted this great track from Elle Varner featuring J. Cole now they're back with some video goodness.

From the press release...

Up-and-coming singer, “soulwriter” and musician Elle Varner premieres the video for her buzzed about debut single, “Only Wanna Give It To You” featuring J. Cole, today- October 4th. Elle is stopping by BET’s 106 & Park tonight for the exclusive television premiere. The vibrant Orson Whales-directed video features a cameo by “Mr. Nice Watch” himself, J. Cole.

“Only Wanna Give It To You,” written by Elle Varner and J. Cole and produced by Pop & Oak, was included in Entertainment Weekly’s “The Bullseye” as a must-download of the week. Since its release in August, the track has caught the attention of critics and fans alike, dubbing the free-spirited 22 year-old as THE artist to watch for 2011 and beyond.

Elle’s unparalleled sound is a combination of funk and meticulous rhythm with an added quirkiness as showcased throughout her forthcoming debut album, Perfectly Imperfect, dropping this fall on MBK Entertainment/RCA Records.

(Photo by Brad Barket/PictureGroup)