EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Paloma Ford burst onto the scene years ago as a YouTube sensation, and since that time she's worked with artists like Snoop Dogg, Meek Mill, and Dave East. As she readies her sophomore EP "X Tapes," Paloma speaks with us about molding her heartache into music, why she's a "Vibe Curator," and what artists inspire her to be a better performer.
This is a big day for Paloma Ford. The singer has been mapping out her road to success in the music industry for nearly a decade. After two of her singles made her a bit of a YouTube star, Paloma linked up with Meek Mill and was featured on his track "I Don't Know" back in 2014. It would take two years before she released her debut EP Nearly Civilized, and while the project helped solidify her as an R&B-pop singer, Paloma didn't feel as if she truly communicated who she was as both an artist and as a person.
On May 29, Paloma released her new single "Nights I Cry" from her forthcoming project X Tapes, and by the sound of things, she's laying it all on the line. We had the pleasure of speaking with Paloma recently about X Tapes, a record that's described as being about love, loss, and everything in-between. The 33-year-old singer told us that it's inspired by true-life heartache, so prepare yourself to hear R&B jams that hit close to home.
“I sent a link to a couple of people and a couple of guys, their reaction was like, ‘Who broke her heart?’” Paloma said with a chuckle. That’s just the response she expected, considering X Tapes is about her personal journey of falling in love only to suffer a devastating heartbreak. “I started writing this three years ago at the end of a relationship and I just felt like, my first project was a collection of cool songs that I had done over a period of time, but it didn’t really get to tap into Paloma. I didn’t get to share genuine experiences, per se.”
This new phase in Paloma's journey is more than making music that people will enjoy; it's about creating art that listeners can relate to. As we spoke with Paloma Ford about who she was during her Nearly Civilized phase, it was as if she was discussing another person altogether. That part of her life was long ago, and as she's grown into the X Tapes era, she's tapping into a space where she's taken the reigns on her career in an effort to expose areas of herself that have remained hidden.
“I have had a lot of growth in the past three years," said Paloma. “I’ve been recording the whole time. I got to work with Tory Lanez and a couple of other artists. I just went through that stage of, ‘Okay, what is the story that I want to tell now?’ I did records that were all uptempo and explored that side. That’s something that I had never done before. When it came down to it I was like, ‘Who is Paloma Ford?' And at the center and the foundation of me is R&B and that’s what I grew up on. So, I went back into the studio and I just worked until I felt really confident that I had a well-rounded project.”
Photo Credit: Edy Perez
Recently, Paloma shared her intimate live performance of "Chrome (In My Feelings)." The stripped-down delivery may have lacked the bells and whistles like a booming band or flashing lights, but the singer was able to connect with the musicians by her side to share a a heartfelt performance. Paloma told us that "Chrome" was initially slated to be a single, but just a week prior to its release, her plans were derailed when her team found themselves at odds over the beat. So, she took to the stage with her vocal coach and gave a live, filmed performance with a band she had never met before. What came of it was a "very fresh," authentic execution that proves that Paloma is ready for her turn. “I was really nervous but it was something that I really wanted to push myself into.”
While she has years of experience in the music industry under her belt, there are still people who aren't familiar with Palmoa Ford or her music. We wanted to know how she would describe herself to new listeners who aren't privy to her catalog. "Laid back, sultry, vibes," she began. "When I make music, every song I go into I’m like, ‘Okay, it has to be a vibe.’ When I say that I mean I want you to feel... I want it to take you to a place as soon as you hear the song. Before I even sing. That’s super important to me like, where is this taking you? What’s this vibe going to be? I would like to call myself a 'Vibe Curator.'”
It's clear that Paloma wants you to ride her vibe wave, but the "biggest point" she wants is for people to be drawn into her vulnerability. The ladies of this generation of music—whether it be rap, hip hop, or R&B—are dominating with their "savage" bars and "act up" attitudes, and while Paloma is down for girl power, she wants to make sure her sensitive side shines, as well. "I think that it was so important to me with [X Tapes] to show vulnerability because I think we’re in a time where the independent woman and City Girls—and don’t get it twisted, I’m about all of that. But I just want to be a woman," she said. "I want to feel like a woman. I want to feel like... I believe in love still and I want a man to take care of me as I take care of him. Be able to be a vulnerable woman. I feel like that is so lost. Like, it’s a lost art to be sensual and to be fragile."
As a single mother, Paloma shared that it's normal for her to wear all hats on the emotional spectrum as she's tough as nails on one end and soft as butter at the other. It's important for her to be able to show the more sensitive side of herself as she's regularly stepping up as a mother and a boss, navigating her career for the betterment of herself and her growing son. “I’m a huge lover, a healer, a mother, and a woman. I just really live my life as positive as possible. I have a great mother who is the most positive person and being a mom is a big responsibility so I just try to see the good in things," she told us. “I consider myself a super honest person. I think I even would consider myself an outspoken person, but I realize that it is difficult to be unfiltered and be vulnerable [and] not be afraid to go there," Paloma added. "I just always considered myself to be a person that’s just ‘bout that life [laugh] but when you really break it down, it’s like, no. It's hard to open yourself up and share things that might have hurt in the past.”
Through all that she has endured, the rising artist has learned that she's much more capable of what she originally thought. "You know, with my first project, I had my producing partners who also wrote my whole project with me. I wouldn’t really do music without them." Then, she was confronted with having a new team of creators to work with—an experience that was unfamiliar and uncomfortable. "It was a really scary time for a little while getting adjusted to working with new people, to not depend on anybody and to be able to go into the studio and sit down with the engineer and write a song from beginning to end with melodies and come up everything. I did ‘Rain’ all by myself [laugh] and you couldn’t have told me that I would be able to—not that I would not be able to do that, but make it a single. It might be a song on the project but I really surprised myself in how well I put this project together from arrangements to just everything. I’m pretty proud of myself for that.”
Photo Credit: Edy Perez
Of course, we had to know who Paloma was grooving to during the quarantine, so she shared who she has locked into her R&B playlist. "Definitely that new PartyNextDoor. He always comes through with a vibe," Paloma said. "I’m always listening to H.E.R. She holds it down for R&B. Jhené Aiko. She holds it down. I’m always listening to Brent Fiyaz. I think that he’s like... I’m just waiting for him to have his huge moment. He’s very, very dope. Summer Walker. I try to keep up with everybody. I listen to a lot of old stuff.”
The veteran entertainers are some of the singer's favorites, and she shared with us who she hopes to one day share a stage with. "I would definitely love, love, love to do some super R&B sh*t with Missy Elliott. She’s a huge inspiration. She’s so dope," Paloma revealed. "I love, love, love Mary J. Blige. The mother. Erykah Badu. Mother. Sade. She was also my mother. That’s what I stick to. I keep those vibes going in into some new wave then I’m doing my job my house. If I can capture even a bit of that essence and bring it then I’m doing my job.”
Listen to Paloma Ford's new single "Nights I Cry" below and watch her performance of "Chrome (In My Feelings)."