Talking With En Vogue: The Iconic Group Shares Secrets To 35 Years Of Success

    "We love entertaining and being on stage and I think that when you still have a passion for doing something it just helps carry you to continue on"

    Many statements can be made, but one statement that will always ring true is that En Vogue changed R&B groups forever.

    En Vogue are not just the pioneers of R&B groups, but girl groups across genres that we see today. When they launched in 1989 they changed the game. The days are gone where you could just be “the dancer” in the group or just  “the backing vocals”. A new bar had been set and now each member of the group had to be able to sing with the ability of a solo artist that can marry well with two or three other strong vocalists. 

    Four members of En Vogue posing, wearing white tops, with their names: Dawn Robinson, Terry Ellis, Cindy Herron, Maxine Jones

    Without En Vogue, Destiny’s Child would have never existed. Without En Vogue, Xscape wouldn’t have existed. Without En Vogue, even Little Mix’s best X Factor performance wouldn’t have shown the world what they were really capable of. En Vogue is the blueprint. This summer they will be performing at Cross The Tracks in London, but beforehand we got the opportunity to speak to members Terry and Cindy about the legacy of the group and what's to come

    Four performers on stage wearing leopard print tops with black fringe skirts, raising arms in a dance pose

    Birthing the modern-day, not only female but male singing groups, is a heavy crown to hold, but many groups have credited you for just that. Many groups today use you for inspiration but looking back at when you started who was your inspiration? 

    Terry Ellis: First of all, we were the brainchild of Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy. Myself, Cindy, Dawn, and Maxine didn't know (the plan) at first but we did know that our producers had an idea of creating a girl group. But of course, we had so many trailblazers before us, so we had the Supremes in mind.

    Cindy Herron: The Pointer Sisters.

    Terry: And The Emotions. I would credit our producers for their idea, however, originally when they formed the group only wanted three girls, but once they heard us four singing together and the blend that the four of us had, they decided to choose four members. We were the first to have four members as well as just having a group where there are all lead singers. So that was the first time for something like that. And then after that, the rest is history.

    Four women at an event wearing vibrant traditional African-inspired attire

    And a great history it is, I can’t even begin to run through the catalogue that changed what R&B is today, you can’t be a backing singer in a group, you have to have the ability to hold your own. The industry has changed so much since you started in 1989, is there anything you look back at fondly that you would not have changed?

    Cindy: Obviously, the tools that we have at our disposal now to help promote our music is great. There's a lot that you can do yourself, and it takes a lot of that work out of the record label and gives the artist a lot more control. 

    However, as much as I stream music and I do appreciate that you can stream music, I do wish that you couldn't stream music for free, because that in a way hurts the artist. It has allowed the record labels to re-figure out how can we make money. So oftentimes when they're signing artists, they're signing these 360 deals where their hand is in the pocket of the artist taking their touring revenue. Now the artist isn't making a lot of revenue selling records because you can stream everything for free. But now their bread and butter relies on the touring industry and the record company now has to get their cut. It really hurts the artist, it hurts the record labels too, but it hurts the artist more. 

    Terry: I miss the process of vinyl making and having all of the credits that we used to have to write out. You know when you could go on the back and all the lyrics to every song on the album were there. I missed that part. But that's about it.  

    I think we're stepping into an age where people are appreciating physical media again. I too miss opening a CD and seeing the different artwork you'd get. A whole different photoshoot, to show a different story or perspective. It was an art form. That was another and you got to know the artist more because you can really see what the vision was for the album.

    Four women at an awards show podium, smiling and one speaking into the microphone, wearing elegant dresses

    In your career, you've collaborated with so many amazing artists, from doing backing vocals for Madonna to collaborating with the likes of Elton John or Prince or even TLC and I think even collaborating with Bowie at some point. Is there anybody now you would love to collaborate with?

    Cindy: Well, Terry, Terry, you know, Terry, you have said a collaboration with El DeBarge would be great. We really love El DeBarge. Terry has said that in the past and we could see that.

    Terry: I think it would be really cool to do something with Tony! Toni! Toné! just because we're both groups that originated from the Bay Area and those guys are just amazing. We were kind of under the same umbrella, so I think it would be something really cool and hip to do something, like a brother and sisters project or something.

    I would pay good money to see that. You're still thinking about new collaborations after a 35-year-long career. What does it take to sustain a successful music career and still continue to build a new fanbase while speaking to your original?

    Cindy: First of all we love doing what we do but second of all, our fans still come out and support us. They still support us if we come and do shows, and without them, there would be no En Vogue. We love to interact and engage with our audience because it's a give and take you know.

    We love entertaining and being on stage and I think that when you still have a passion for doing something it just helps carry you to continue on.

    How do you make sure you continuously nurture that passion? You're doing something you love but it is your work, so how do you make sure you're nurturing that and remembering why you started singing and performing?

    Cindy: We make sure to always upgrade our show. We make changes to the choreography or change the music, we add different things like our digital screens behind us, and add new intros. Every year we go in and give it a little facelift to make it fresh and fun for us. This is what makes it continue to be interesting for us.

    Three women smiling, holding music awards plaques, dressed in formal attire

    That is something that is definitely applauded with En Vogue, not being afraid to evolve and try new things. As we see artists flex between genres and try new avenues that could have never been predicted, have you ever considered tapping into a whole new genre or collaborating with artists that could get you to tap into a new sound?

    Terry:  Yes, that's what we've always been known for, trying new things and pushing the envelope. It usually comes out when we're in the studio brainstorming, but we're definitely open to trying new things and different genres. As a group, we all love different types of music. Even just yesterday, and Cindy I was actually gonna call you, I was in a bookstore I went to the clerk to ask them what radio station was paying because it was all big band music. I can't remember who was singing, maybe Ella Fitzgerald, but whoever was singing took me there and I was like I could imagine us doing a big band album. 

    Cindy: Me too!

    Terry: It would be so amazing and I was going to call you to tell you but I forgot. So, thanks for asking that question, Ada.

    Oh, I would LOVE that. I can fully envision that. Your strong voices with big brass horns, we need it. You should do one of those one-night-only Vegas shows, Great Gatbsy themes high glam night, let’s put that into the universe and manifest it.

    Terry: That would great.

    Cindy: YES!

    Three women posing in elegant feathered and fringe dresses

    As icons in the industry, I’m sure you’re always keeping your eyes and ears on the new artists that are coming out. As you’re coming to the UK for Cross The Tracks are there any new UK artists you’re excited for?

    Terry: One thing about UK music, you guys have a different level of appreciation for R&B, than we do over here. There hasn't been a UK artist that I haven't heard that I just did not fall in love with and I have a whole list of them on my playlist. Their music is so full and rich and how it used to be back in the day. The music we grew up on is how UK artists record, how they perform and I love it.

    I'm incredibly excited to see you perform at Cross The Tracks, but what does the future look like for En Vogue? I’m hoping for this big band one night in Vegas performance...

    Terry: Haha yes!

    Should we be expecting a collaboration with Tony Tony Tone, a mini tour, or a new album?

    Cindy: We're ready for anything.

    Terry:  And everything.

    Cindy: Our short-term plan is to continue doing live shows and touring, but we also want to get back into the recording studio. We're not sure if we would record a whole album just because of the way the things are and the way that artists release music now, but it might be an EP. It's just a matter of finding the right song and music that we all agree on. We've have recorded music, but we all don't always necessarily agree that this is the right song for us. So we all have to  agree and decide "OK, this is one we can keep." That's in our near future goal for sure

    En Vogue will be performing at Cross The Tracks this May!