In the first part of this interview, iconic Brazilian singer Thalma de Freitas speaks about Sorte!, serendipity, her inspirations and much more. Whether you discovered Thalma de Freitas’ mesmerizing voice on our playlist Bossa Lova , when she was nominated in the Grammy Best Latin Jazz category in 2020 or back in 2004 when she dropped her beautiful eponym album,  we know for sure that you fell in love with her music. Now it’s time to know more about her and journey.

Thalma de Freitas speaks about Sorte! being nominated for the 62nd Grammy Award in the Best Latin Jazz Album category

“At the time I was in Brazil and wondering if I should go back because it’s a difficult city to live in, Los Angeles. There’re many amazing aspects, but I still don’t feel like I belong somehow. Even though the city is so international and multicultural, I thought I didn’t have my own place and with this nomination, I could see clearly where I was mistaken. I had this very diverse life and I didn’t have a real focus. Here, because of a completely different environment, motherhood, being a foreigner and having a completely new lifestyle, I saw that my singing and my songwriting is enough to get me through it. So I finally found a place where I can identify myself as a songwriter, a lyricist, a melodist, a singer, a producer and I can also interpret.

For the longest time I thought I wouldn’t want to have a proper label. But the older I got the more I realized how useful it can be, at least for presentation of who I am especially for people who don’t know my work. This nomination put me on a map. It’s an honor and I know it’s been useful mainly to present myself as an artist internationally. Unfortunately this album is not very known, which is weird for me (laughs).”

On singing about serendipity

“This word came to me over 10 years ago. I had a project named Serendipitous Circle. It was pretty much improvisation with no particular style even though the musicians I was working with came up like a fusion of Brazilian jazz with also a bit of electronic music. We would basically go for concerts and say “the next song doesn’t exist yet”. We made plenty of amazing mistakes. Like the greatest big mistakes ever. While allowing the music to go through you with no filter, you have to figure it out at the same time and not be completely out of control. We have found some jams, some melodies,  some lyrics. We always found something. The concept was like a circle of serendipity. 

Serendipity is not just luck. It’s not just as simple as I made this and I took a chance and a chance found to me. You are intentionally researching something. Because you’re looking for something, this something starts looking for you. Then eventually it will find you. But it doesn’t find you if you’re not prepared for it. So in the Serendipitous Circle case, it was this. We’ve got all our talents and our skills and our experience that would jump into the abyss. And then the abyss lift us up. We know we’re going somewhere. We don’t really know how, but we know why and that is enough. I carried this for life. I found this word by accident and when I understood the concept, I embraced it completely.”

If you don’t love what you do, either you learn how to love what you’re doing or you let go and go find what you really want to do.”

Thalma de Freitas

Serendipity’s concepts as a frame in relationships and life

“All the relationships that we have with the world when we apply those serendipitous concepts as a frame are about going deep inside yourself, loving yourself and making sure that you do the things you love. If you don’t love what you do, either you learn how to love what you’re doing or you let go and go find what you really want to do.

In relationships, you have to be in love with yourself, because when we are in love with ourselves, we start glowing and we attract people. Then you have to love yourself so much that you’re not gonna be dazzled by the amount of people that you bring in. You’re still going to protect yourself to make sure that you’re surrounded by people who also love themselves. People who lift you up and not just somebody who is attracted by the light in yourself.

For all the relationships we have in life, you can apply this concept of being pragmatic in one way, and in the same way very brave and accepting the mystery of the universe. I like the concept of the intelligence of the universe. I feel it’s very alive and going through us in the album Sorte!. “ 

On how her father inspired her

“My father is my hero. He’s a pianist, composer and arranger and he’s very disciplined. He would do piano exercises every day for at least two hours. I grew up with it and didn’t even know that musicians don’t do that.  I got absolutely programmed to be able to listen to music and have a clear vision of harmonies and melodies and all the notes. It came from the training that my dad gave me unconsciously. 

There was the music he made and all the music that he listened to. We listened to a lot of Brazilian jazz or American jazz, very rich music because my dad is very obsessed with music. He can’t do anything else but music. Music became an entity that is part of home and this totally shaped me, even as an actress. When I was becoming a singer, he got me to study the lyrics on paper before singing. I’d give my own understanding of what it means and then I’d get up and sing. So the meaning of lyrics is also something my dad taught me. He’s my hero and I owe him everything I know. Both my parents raised me to the world, so I had very strong baggage when I got out of the house. I had a big backpack full of tricks.”

On what she listened to growing up

“All my parents’ friends. Elis Regina, João Donato, Elsa Soares, Emilio Santiago. There’s also Gal Costa, I would listen to Johnny Alf, big bands, Arthur Moreira-Lima, a pianist my dad used to make arrangements for. It was pretty broad, I also liked the radio. I loved Michael Jackson, Madonna and Menudo. I would listen to everything that comes in my ears.”

On Brazilla Music Collective

“When I moved to L.A., I needed to do something, create my own job. I saw the scene of Brazilian musicians in L.A. and because my husband has this audiovisual company named Mochilla, I said I’m going to make a Brazilla Music Collective. Basically, it’s Brazilians who live in Los Angeles, and because of our heritage we are naturally a collective. It started as this idea and didn’t go through as a collective, but became like an agency that will somehow make connections and represent Brazilian culture in L.A. All these people have their own career but somehow I wanted to be part of it by being a facilitator as a representative of the culture.”

On being part of Ava Duvernay’s ArrayNow maverick team

“This is a side thing that I do as a photographer. My husband is a photographer. He gave me a camera when I moved here. It was 2012 and Brian, my husband worked with Ava DuVernay. As soon as I could, I signed up as a volunteer to work in her distribution company. It works basically with films from the diaspora, films of women or people of color. It was great to see it growing from a small business to a whole editing crew. I wanted to be part of something that I believed in. I’m very proud to be one of them.”

In the second part of our interview with Thalma de Freitas, we talk about being Black in US vs in Brazil, imperialism and more. Also, the Brazilian singer gives us her best advice to have a carrer as long as hers. You don’t want to miss it!