Bebel Gilberto’s name may be synonymous with chilling out, but the singer herself has been doing anything but relaxing since she released 2000’s Tanto Tempo, which updated the breezy, bittersweet sound of bossa nova with electronica, and became the album to lounge to. Tempo was nominated for two Latin Grammys — and launched Gilberto into a four-year frenzy of touring and recording that has yet to abate.
”Before [Tempo], I had more time to be with my boyfriend and my family and my friends,” says Gilberto, 38. ”Now it’s like if I have a day off, I have so many other things to do it’s not really a day off.” Not that she’s complaining about being all travel, no leisure; she used the loneliness of the road as inspiration for her latest, Bebel Gilberto. Marius de Vries, a frequent Bjork collaborator, produced the disc, which brims with picturesque, cocktail-friendly melodies. The electronica elements that distinguished Tempo — and helped spawn more modern bossa nova compilations than you can shake a caipirinha at — are there, but so are some traditional sounds of Brazil, like rich string arrangements. It’s Gilberto at her most assured and distinct, leaving no doubt this daughter of legendary Brazilian guitarist Joao Gilberto and vocalist Miucha is very much her own artist.
Now all she needs is a proper vacation day. Gilberto knows she’s unlikely to get one anytime soon, but she can at least dress the part. As she’s doing this phone interview, she’s stationed herself on the terrace of her NYC apartment so she can tend her plants and soak up a bit of sun. ”I’m in a bikini, if you can believe it,” she laughs.