THESE are exciting times for Etana. The folksy singer/songwriter gave birth to her second child days ago, one month after completing production on Better Tomorrow, her third and highly-anticipated album.
Produced by Shane Brown, Better Tomorrow is scheduled to be released February 19 by VP Records. The New York company also distributed her debut The Strong One which was released in 2008 and 2011's Free Expressions.
Following the success of The Strong One which yielded hit songs in Wrong Address and Warrior Love, there was great expectation for Free Expressions which some critics panned.
In an interview with the Jamaica Observer from her South Florida home, Etana admits the record company were not pleased with some aspects of her follow-up set.
"They didn't agree with the image I chose for the jacket which was different than the first album. The music was also different, it was more reggae, not like the first which was a fusion," she said.
For Better Tomorrow, Etana says she "didn't think about pleasing anyone". She believes it is a return to the roots sound that announced her five years ago with Wrong Address, a song that tackled social prejudice.
"The songs are totally live, even the background vocals were done at the same time. There was a different energy when we were recording, it was like one big stage show," she explained.
Production for Better Tomorrow started in February at Tuff Gong studios in Kingston, where most of the set was recorded. Etana is backed by some in-demand musicians, such as drummer Kirk Bennett, guitarist Lamont Savory and bassist Aeion Hoilett of the C Sharp band as well as veteran saxophonist Dean Fraser.
As part of its promotional campaign, VP issued the EP Reggae on November 13. While hit songs are good, Etana hopes her latest album will introduce her to a more diverse demographic, especially in the United States.
"We're putting together the shows right now and it's a lot of work because we really want to get into different areas. I'd like to play the folk and blues venues because people there are big into roots music," she said.
Since dancehall broke in the US 20 years ago, that market has warmed to outrageous female acts like Patra and Lady Saw. Diana King made it big as a pop singer with her Think Like a Girl album while the talented Tanya Stephens, hailed as a singer/songwriter for her Gangsta Blues and Rebelution albums, has been absent from the scene for some time.
After disappointing returns from albums by high-profile artistes like Mavado and Gyptian in the last two years, VP banked on Sean Paul's Tomahawk Technique and Reggae Music Again by Busy Signal, this year. Those have also not performed as well as expected.
Etana is looking to break that trend of sluggish sales with Better Tomorrow. She is scheduled to kick off a US tour in January with dates in New York.