Esmee Denters: Outta Sight
With her early home-made videos (which featured her singing R&B covers) having racked up over 133 million views - in turn impressively making her the Most-Subscribed-To Musician in the history of YouTube - Dutch internet sensation Esmee Denters also now boasts being the first signing to US pop/R&B superstar Justin Timberlake’s newly-formed label Tennman Records.
Indeed, with her catchy upbeat debut single ‘Outta Here’ having spent four weeks in the UK Pop Top Ten last summer, the former pancake waitress from Holland this month significantly releases her eagerly-anticipated debut LP. Also titled ‘Outta Here’, the 12-track set’s accessible musical moods range from the punchy retro-funk of its current single ‘Admit It’ and anthemic pop/soul of ‘Bigger Than The World’; to the beat-driven female assertion of ‘Victim’ and string-laden, surging urban ballad ‘Gravity’. Executive-produced (and largely co-produced) by Timberlake himself with Esmee co-penning many of the tracks, said album additionally sees input from such other currently-in-vogue producer/writers as Polow Da Don (Usher/Fergie); Ryan Tedder (Leona Lewis/Jordin Sparks); and StarGate (Rihanna/Ne-Yo).
All of which provides ideal conversation fodder, as a talkative Ms. Denters begins her chat with Pete Lewis by explaining her reasons for titling said album after her aforementioned Top 10 single: “I called it ‘Outta Here’, because to me that one song in itself actually encapsulates what the album in its entirety is about. You know, it’s a pop song, it has a bit of an R&B feel, it has some rock in it, a little bit of dance... So, because I thought that mixture of styles was just so representative of the record as a whole, I decided to name the album after it.”
“I mean, I wanted my record to represent exactly who I am”, she continues in American-tinged English: “Because I’m a 20 year old girl, sometimes I just wanna go out and have fun with my girls. So that side of me naturally appears on the record. But then there’s also a DEEPER side to me that’s in there too, where I talk about relationships, getting your heart broken, feeling betrayed… So yeah, I guess I basically just wanted to vent all my personal issues on the record, while at the same time giving people songs that they can relate to.”
Predictably, Esmee is openly gushing about her megastar label-boss. Who - incredibly! - made her step onstage for her first-ever live performances as the opening act on the European leg of his 2007 Future Sex/Love Show Tour! The first night of which found the girl who’d previously only sung for her webcam suddenly performing to nearly 70,000 people at Holland’s prestigious Amsterdam Arena!
“Well, he’s really been like a mentor and big brother to me. You know, to have somebody like Justin Timberlake - whose work I’ve always admired - oversee you as an artist is just INCREDIBLE! I first met him after one of his shows in Chicago. And, once I told him that I wanted to write my own songs, he straightaway let me work with all these amazing producers and songwriters to try and DEVELOP that.”
“Then, once we’d both listened back to the songs I’d written with all those people, he was like ‘Well, I’d choose THIS’ or ‘I’d do the song THIS way’”, she adds: “And from there he and I went into the studio together as a team! He started producing and co-writing with me on songs like ‘Casanova’ and ‘Gravity’. And to have such a big, huge artist listen to me in that way and really respect my own input was just UNBELIEVABLE!”
All of which certainly seems a far cry from the little Dutch girl who fell in love with her father’s vinyl Stevie Wonder albums as a child. Indeed, it wasn’t until she was 17 that Esmee began posting videos of herself on You Tube singing her favourite hits by the likes of Beyonce and Alicia Keys , all of which she recorded in the bedroom of her suburban home in Oosterbeek in The Netherlands. Following which - with the videos becoming an instant hit and viewers starting to make requests - she began posting several clips a week and, within nine months had already racked-up 21 million views - ultimately leading to her becoming the Number One Most-Subscribed-To Musician in the history of the popular video-sharing website and, in turn, to the aforementioned Mr. Timberlake seeking her out.
“Oh, it was really crazy!”, recalls Esmee with a laugh: “I was just sitting in my room, I saw that my sister had this old webcam that wasn’t being used… And all of a sudden I discovered YouTube! You know, I was like ‘Hey, this is cool! There are people on here posting their own videos, doing all sorts of fun stuff!’... And then I just got the idea of posting a video of me singing one of my favourite songs - TLC’s ‘Waterfalls’ - just to see what people thought of my voice.”
“Because, although friends and family had told me they liked my singing, I was curious just to get STRANGERS’ opinions and criticism - because music really was what I wanted to do... And all of a sudden it turned out to be this huge, huge thing!”, she remembers with pride: “Record labels started contacting my house, asking me to come over to America and saying they wanted to sign me... And I was just literally sitting at home going ‘WOW! I might actually have a shot at DOING something like this!’! So that’s when I decided to go over to the US to meet with some of the labels - one of them being Justin Timberlake’s Tennman Records... And a month after that I was SIGNED! So yeah, it’s just been a really crazy experience!”
Esmee’s album ‘Outta Here’ is released January 21. The single ‘Admit It’ is out now, both through Tennman/Interscope
Words PETE LEWIS