Shakira: Live In Your Living Room
by Brian Ives & C. Bottomley
You’re never really sure what to expect from Shakira, and she certainly proves that on her new DVD/CD combo Live and Off the Record. One minute she’s belting out a hit like “Whenever, Wherever” from her breakthrough album Laundry Service. Then she kicks fresh life into AC/DC’s “Back in Black.” Or plays the drums. Or reveals that she “feels nostalgia for things I have never lived.”
Can’t exactly say what that means, but one thing’s for sure: Shakira has personality to spare. Live and Off the Record accommodates her public and private sides. It’s both a concert film and a documentary that captures such off-the-cuff moments as writing in the studio with her band or canoodling with her fiancé. All of her live performances are also found on the accompanying CD.
The Latin singer took time out from recording Laundry Service’s follow-up in the Bahamas to explain why she sometimes feel like a truck driver onstage, and why the gift of a few chickens inspired her to become a vegetarian – at least for a little while.
VH1: So this is your first live DVD.
Shakira: It’s as live as it gets! It’s the first time I’ve documented my performance in front of an audience in 13 years of a career, so it’s pretty thrilling for me. I’ll show it to my kids when I’m all wrinkled and can barely move, and tell them, “This is your mom. This is what she used to do.” [Watch Clip]
VH1: Why was now the right time for a live disc?
Shakira: I consider the performing my strength. I deliver much more on a stage than in the recording studio. You know how there are actors who consider themselves more theatrical actors than film or TV actors? That’s sort of the same way I feel. Playing live is when I really connect to the people who are observing me and accompany me through this riot of emotions that I go through once I’m on the stage.
VH1: How do you decide how to balance out the material in your set?
Shakira: My live shows are a little bit of a ride. I’m like the driver of a big truck and my fans are all in the back. I’m driving them through different sensations. I pick my [set list] based on giving them variety – excitement and melancholy and also some introspection and confrontation. The ultimate purpose of an artist is to confront yourself and people through music, because music is like a mirror. I see my own reflection and I get to know myself a little better. [Watch Clip]
VH1: Why did you cover “Back in Black”?
Shakira: I’m a diehard AC/DC fan. I kill for ’80s music, especially AC/DC. I wanted to cover that song and it was a perfect opportunity to do it.
VH1: You play guitar and drums on the DVD. Is it important to show people you can play an instrument?
Shakira: When I was 10 years old, I started playing the guitar a little bit. I started playing the harmonica when I was in my teens. Then I went nuts about the drums. I’m not the greatest drummer, but it’s just fun. Why not to do it throughout the concert, to experience that?
VH1: What do you want the fans to get out of the documentary portion of Live & Off the Record?
Shakira: It’s funny that I let a camera crew hang out with me for so long, because I try to keep my private life away from gossip and sensationalist journalism and all that. The documentary is a window that I opened to my fans so they could get to understand me more. I think my fans are gonna get to experience and taste what it’s like to be on tour and be Shakira. And it’s exhausting to be Shakira, I tell you!
VH1: How do you stay fit enough to do a high-energy show like that?
Shakira: What keeps me really fit is moving around, dancing, and jumping up and down on the stage. But I’m very lazy about training or getting on a bicycle for an hour. I just don’t have the patience! So usually when I’m not on the road, I gain a little weight. You might notice that now! I also try not to eat so many carbs, especially at night. But I’m not always that good.
VH1: What’s your diet like?
Shakira: I always try to kind of eat in a balanced way. I became vegetarian not too long ago. But I quit! [Laughs] It only lasted two months.
VH1: Why did you decide to go vegan?
Shakira: Right after the tour was over, I spent a few months in Spain on a farm. The guy who sells the bread in the town next to my farm gave me three chickens and a rooster. I felt so attached to those chickens that I was thinking, “Oh my God, I’m never gonna eat chicken again! These chickens are my friends!” I gave them names and everything. Then I said, “OK, why eat chickens just because I don’t know them?”
VH1: So what happened?
Shakira: Well, I haven’t seen a chicken in a long time … I mean, alive. That’s why I’m not vegetarian any more.
VH1: How important is your sense of style to you as an artist?
Shakira: I don’t have so many costume changes as many pop artists do onstage, because I’m lazy! I’m not as interested in fashion as people might think. I’m actually going through a phase where I want to free myself from all the pressure that the media puts on you.
VH1: How are you going to do that?
Shakira: I feel that once I release this next album, it’s going to be a much smoother ride for me. I’m ready to be more authentic. When I first tried to crossover to America, I was a little nervous. I was like the new girl at school who wants to fit in. But I don’t feel like that anymore. I feel like the Americans gave me space and I want to continue occupying that space. I want to be myself. I’m trying to be as honest as I can.
Shakira: Woman Child in the Promised Land
Colombian superstar recounts her rise to the top of pop.
She’s hot, she’s talented, and she’s one of the few people ever to use the word “laundry” in an album title. But what’s it really like being Shakira? As VH1’s Being prepared to take a unique look at the Colombian crossover queen, Shakira
Isabel Mebarak Ripoll sat down to talk fame, family, and the process of learning English. As the chat demonstrates, there’s much more to this young songwriter than meets the eye.
VH1: So what’s it really like being Shakira?
Shakira: Sometimes I feel that Shakira is an old woman trapped in the body of a 24-year-old girl. Sometimes I feel that there’s a baby inside me that hasn’t grown up yet. So Shakira can be a very confusing character!
VH1: Why do you think you’re like an old woman inside a young woman’s body?
Shakira: Sometimes I feel full of theories. I don’t necessarily go through the experience of something, because I’ve already decided what the results are going to be. I don’t go out too much at night. I don’t visit too many clubs. I like to go out sometimes and just observe how people behave. When I was 15 years old I preferred dancing to watching. Now I’m on the other side.
VH1: So where do you get inspiration for your songs? By watching people?
Shakira: I’ve always been curious about the way humans react and live and behave. That’s why I like to observe others. It inspires me and [fuels] my songs. Imagination also plays an important role. All writers have a little bit of a liar or exaggerator in them. All women exaggerate, and I’m no exception. So when I write, I exaggerate a bit.
VH1: What is it that drives you to be a songwriter?
Shakira: I always felt a calling. Like there was some invisible hand behind me pushing me to write, dance, do things. When I was a child, I had the illusion of becoming a scientist, a writer, and a dancer. All three things combined! I remember doing my first poems at the age of four on everything that would surround me. I wrote one to my mom. It was called “The Rose of Crystal.” It was full of fantasy and daydreams. But I didn’t feel clearly that I wanted to be a musician. I started writing my first songs when I was 8 years old. I think my career as a songwriter started my career as a singer.
VH1: How would you describe your music?
Shakira: To me it’s pretty difficult to categorize. It’s just a reflection of what I am – and I am a cocktail! I’m an infusion of different cultures. I was born in Barranquilla, Columbia, and grew up listening to all kinds of typical music from my country. But I also had a great passion for Arabic music, because of my Lebanese background. During puberty I discovered the world of rock ‘n’ roll, and just gave myself up to it. I became a big fan of bands like the Beatles, the Police, the Cure. I guess my music is a reflection of all that.
VH1: What is it like for you to be a rock star?
Shakira: Sometimes I feel like I am a rock artist trapped in the body of a pop artist! I still need the approval of others. I still need to look pretty in my videos. That’s not exactly what represents a rock artist. But I feel rock ‘n’ roll in my veins. I breathe it and I listen to that music the whole time.
VH1: Was there a moment when you first realized, ‘Oh my God, I’m famous!’
Shakira: My encounter with fame has been very gradual, so it hasn’t been traumatic for me to become a popular artist. But I still get surprised when I see myself on something like Saturday Night Live. I’m like, “Is that me there? On American TV?” Sometimes it doesn’t make sense. It’s like a dream almost.
VH1: How is becoming a star in the United States different from the acceptance you received in Latin America?
Shakira: There’s not that much of a difference between Americans or Latinos now. I know that throughout history we’ve been trying to find differences. Like Latinos can move their hips and Americans eat Honey Mustard sauce. But in the end we all go through the same pains. Same suffering or same joys. We’re just flesh and bone.
VH1: Is there a difference between being an artist on your own terms and being a crossover success?
Shakira: Journalists ask me every time, “Shakira, how does it feel to be doing a crossover to America?” It’s a big thing. But I think it’s very natural. I hope at some point I am just considered an artist and not an alien. At the end of the day that is the purpose of art or music, to make us forget about differences in race and culture, and build new bridges.
VH1: Why was it so important for you to learn English?
Shakira: To me it was very important to understand the nature of the language and how it works in literature. I wanted to know how the English grammar works. Not only the conversational English that we use every day to order a pizza or call room service, but the English that’s related to what is actually on the paper. I had to read Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass in English just to understand the language a little more. It was too important to me to write my own material like I always did. I didn’t want to sacrifice anything that was part of my life before as an artist in order to do the crossover thing.
VH1: Would the meaning of your songs be lost if you wrote them and then had them translated into English?
Shakira: The first time we spoke about doing an album in English Gloria Estefan helped me with some translations of songs that already existed. She rescued the spirit of the songs in Spanish and translated them into English. But when I decided I wanted to do a record from zero, it was because I had the need and the urgency to express ideas, feelings, thoughts. I had to express all those experiences that I was going through in another language. It was quite a challenge and a little scary, but then it became an adventure, an interesting expedition to the unknown. At the end of the day I found a good record that I felt proud of.
VH1: What’s it like when you walk on stage?
Shakira: The stage never felt strange to me. It always seemed like my territory. Like the lion in the jungle. I’m the little lion of that wooden stage. I feel that I am the owner of that little stage for the minutes that I’m allowed to be on it. It always feels like it’s the first time, at least to me it does.
VH1: What about the audience?
Shakira: The audience that is in front of you is looking for something from you, so I wonder, “What do they need from me?” I try to give the best that is inside me, to share it with them. Just imagining all of those kids going home with smiles on their faces makes me happy. But there is a big responsibility with it.
VH1: What’s the best part of the job and what’s the worst part?
Shakira: There’s something really beautiful about entertaining. Somebody who works in an office from eight in the morning till nine o’clock every day can turn on the TV and find somebody singing a nice song that can touch his heart and bring some warmth to it. There’s something nice about it. The worst thing is that you fall in love too much with this. And it’s dangerous because it’s temporary. There’s a sunset and we all have to be prepared for it. Someday I’ll be wrinkled, full of cellulite and probably not that creative. I don’t know when is gonna be the last day I write a good song. But that day is gonna come. I’ve known many artists that I’ve admired for a long time who suddenly come up with something that is just like “What is this? This is not the genius he used to be.” That’s pretty scary, huh?
VH1: How do you keep yourself in check?
Shakira: I try to build my own boundaries. My boundaries are my family. They contain me. They are my ground. That’s why it’s so important for me to take them on the road and travel with them. They always remind me how vulnerable and clumsy I am, and how many mistakes I can make, because that’s what they love to do. Parents always like to remind you about the important things in life. They’re always trying too hard to make a good person out of you.