Elle Varner

Gabrielle Serene Varner (born February 12, 1989)[2][3] is an American singer-songwriter. Born into a musical family in Brooklyn, New York and raised in Los Angeles, Varner studied at New York University's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music. In October 2009, she signed with RCA Records along with a co-publishing agreement with Sony Music.[4]

Elle Varner
Varner performing in November 2011 in Brooklyn, New York for Sofar Sounds
Varner performing in November 2011 in Brooklyn, New York for Sofar Sounds
Background information
Birth nameGabrielle Varner[1]
Born (1989-02-12) February 12, 1989 (age 32)
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
OriginLos Angeles, California
Years active2009–present
Associated acts

Varner released her debut album, Perfectly Imperfect, in August 2012, preceded by the release of the single "Only Wanna Give It to You". The album debuted at number four on the US Billboard Hot 200.

Early lifeEdit

Varner is of Cape Verdean and African American descent[5][6] and the daughter of Mikelyn Roderick and Jimmy Varner, songwriters and publishers.[7] Roderick was a backup vocalist for Barry White; and has written and recorded with Tevin Campbell and Rahsaan Patterson. Roderick released an album on the Dome label in 2007.[8] Jimmy Varner is a songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist who has collaborated with Gerald Alston, Kool & the Gang, and Will Downing.[8] Her parents, together with Stan Sheppard, formed the group By All Means which was a minor success.

Varner spent most of her childhood sleeping on studio couches, running around green rooms, and watching her parents struggle to make a name in the industry. At age six she began to play musical instruments, beginning with the flute, and later she moved on to piano and guitar.[7] She attended several music programs including actress Wendy Raquel Robinson's Amazing Grace Conservatory starting at age 11 and Alexander Hamilton High School's Academy of Music's Vocal Jazz Group.[7] Varner then attended New York University’s Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music.[7]


2008-12: Perfectly ImperfectEdit

At age 16, Varner picked up a guitar for the first time. She dropped the guitar and became a part of Alexander Hamilton High School's Academy of Music's Vocal Jazz Group. Once there, she learned about the complexity of the voice, jazz music and talented jazz artists like Ella Fitzgerald. Varner was surprised to discover that she had been chosen to be a part of the Grammy in the Schools Mentoring Program. Through this program, she was taken weekly to the Fox Studio, where she met with mentor Kelly Burgos, and President of Fox Music, Robert Kraft. Soon after, Varner hesitantly applied to NYU with her C average and was surprisingly accepted. Not only did she get in, but also she was admitted into the second class of the Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music. Upon graduating, she was awarded "most likely to get signed" and "most likely to win a Grammy." Four years later she finds herself a well-rounded and cultured singer-songwriter.[7] In 2008 Varner graduated from NYU's renowned Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music.[7] In October 2009 she signed with MBK/J-RCA Records along with a co-publishing agreement with Sony Music.[9] After honing her skills even further, Varner became one of the first artists featured in BET's Music Matters campaign for 2010.

Varner's debut single "Only Wanna Give It to You" was released on August 6, 2011. The song, which serves as the lead single from her debut studio album Perfectly Imperfect (2012), features American rapper J. Cole. The song peaked at #20 on the US Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. In October 2011, she was listed as one of TheBoomBox's '15 Artists to Watch'[10] and was one of the artists featured in BET's Music Matters campaign.[11] On October 7, 2011, RCA Music Group announced it was disbanding J Records along with Arista Records and Jive Records. With the shutdown, Varner (and all other artists previously signed to these three labels) will release her future material on RCA Records.[12][13] In preparation for her debut studio album, Varner released a mixtape on January 23, 2012, titled Conversational Lush as promotion towards her debut.[14] The second single from Varner's debut album "Refill" was released to iTunes January 31, 2012, and debuted at #78 on the US Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. On February 11, 2012, Varner and The Roots gave a performance dedicated to Whitney Houston, for the Roots Pre-Grammy Jam Session at the House of Blues in Los Angeles.[15] When asked in an interview what is to be expected from her debut, Varner said in a statement: “a lot of color, a lot of range. There’s fun songs, emotional songs, deep songs, everything you could think about is on that album."[16]

Elle Varner's debut album, Perfectly Imperfect, was released on August 7, 2012 debuting at number four on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, with first-week sales of 33,000 copies in the United States.[17] It also debuted at number two on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.[18] As of October 20, 2012, Perfectly Imperfect has charted for ten weeks on the Billboard 200.[19] In September 2012, Varner was credited for co-writing the song "Use Me", for fellow American R&B singer Miguel, taken from his second album Kaleidoscope Dream.[20]

2013-2016: Four Letter WordEdit

For her second studio album, Varner has been working with producers including Pop & Oak, Eric Hudson, DJ Dahi, Da Internz, and Hit-Boy.[21] Varner stated that she has made her own genre while recording the album which she titles "trap jazz."[22] Varner described her second album as “definitely sexier,” than her previous, she later released the promotional single "Rover" featuring American rapper Wale.[23] After many pushbacks, Four Letter Word was eventually shelved and Elle was subsequently dropped from RCA Records.

2019-Present: EllevationEdit

In 2019 Varner released her debut EP Ellevation which marked Varner’s first work since Perfectly Imperfect in 2012. The 2019 version of the artist shows nuanced inspirations derived from alternative RnB, indie, and soul, with sprinklings of homages to Jill Scott and Erykah Badu.


"I'm definitely addressing feelings of the human experience, such as insecurity, jealousy, sexuality, sensuality, deep love, going out drinking there's just a kind of moment of a full spectrum."

— Varner, speaking on her musical topics.[24]

Varner's voice has been compared to that of British singer Adele containing "soul "with a touch of raspy seduction."[25] She is a mezzo-soprano[26] Varner's debut mixtape contained an "eclectic mix of pop, hip hop, and soul", that contained lyrical content regarding "relationship issues, girl power and fun" as well as being compared to Rihanna and Erykah Badu.[27]

Varner cites rapper Kanye West and soul singer Adele as two major influences noting that she wanted to combine both soul and hip-hop together saying "I only really wanted to combine the best of Hip-Hop and the best of that singer/songwriter soul. So I just picked those two as an example".[24] Elle also draws inspiration from her hometown of Los Angeles commenting on how Los Angeles influences her she said “For me, there’s a nostalgia about L.A., especially West Coast rap, like N.W.A will always be a part of me growing up.”[28] Varner also cites Mariah Carey, Brandy and Monica as influences.[29]

Varner counts Ella Fitzgerald as great influence on her musical style. Commenting on Fitzgerald, Varner said "I just would always listen to her voice and say “Oh my God, how does she do it?” You know it's like she has this enchanting, beautiful voice and I'm very enthused by her."[30]


Studio albums
  • Conversational Lush (2012)



  • The Ellevation Tour (2020)[31]


Awards and nominationsEdit

Grammy AwardsEdit

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2017 Chance the Rapper "Coloring Book" Best Rap Album[34] Songwriter Won
Year Nominee / work Award Result
2013 "Refill" Best R&B Song Nominated

BET AwardsEdit

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2013 Elle Varner Best R&B Female Artist[35] Nominated


  1. ^ All Music Elle Varner Bio. AllMusic, Retrieved on August 3, 2012
  2. ^ Okomilo, Osh (July 19, 2012). "One to Watch: Elle Varner". Guestlist.net. Retrieved March 26, 2020.
  3. ^ California Births, 1905 – 1995, Gabrielle Serene Varner, Familytreelegends.com
  4. ^ RCA's Peter Edge, Tom Corson on the Shuttering of Jive, J and Arista. Billboard.biz (October 7, 2011). Retrieved on 2012-05-24.
  5. ^ "Elle Varner « Elle Varner Website". Elle-varner.com. Archived from the original on November 12, 2012. Retrieved September 8, 2012.
  6. ^ [1][dead link]
  7. ^ a b c d e f Introducing Elle Varner. Mbkentertainment.com. Retrieved on May 24, 2012.
  8. ^ a b Itunes Elle Varner Bio. itunes.com Retrieved on July 30, 2012
  9. ^ "Elle Varner Signs to Sony Music Publishing". KOAR: The Kings of A&R. October 5, 2011. Retrieved October 7, 2011.
  10. ^ Elle Varner & J. Cole 'Settle Down' in New Video. Theboombox.com (October 4, 2011). Retrieved on 2012-05-24.
  11. ^ 10 Things You Should Know About Elle Varner. Bet.com. Retrieved on May 24, 2012.
  12. ^ "RCA's New Executive Team Named Under CEO Peter Edge Amid Layoffs (Update)". Billboard.biz. August 23, 2011. Retrieved November 24, 2011.
  13. ^ "Radio Industry News, Music Industry Updates, Arbitron Ratings, Music News and more!". FMQB. Retrieved November 24, 2011.
  14. ^ New Music: Elle Varner – ‘Conversational Lush’ [Mixtape]. Rap-Up.com (January 23, 2012). Retrieved on 2012-05-24.
  15. ^ "The Roots & Elle Varner's Whitney Houston Tribute (Video)". 2DopeBoyz. February 12, 2012. Retrieved March 10, 2012.
  16. ^ Elle Varner Lights Up ’106 & Park’. Rap-Up.com (March 29, 2012). Retrieved on 2012-05-24.
  17. ^ Caulfield, Keith (August 15, 2012). "'Now 43' Tops Billboard 200; 16th No. 1 for Series". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved September 9, 2012.
  18. ^ Santiago, Karinah (August 17, 2012). "Chart Juice: Elle Varner Debuts at No. 2 on R&B/Hip-Hop Albums". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved September 9, 2012.
  19. ^ "Music Albums, Top 200 Albums & Music Album Charts". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved September 9, 2012.
  20. ^ Kaleidoscope Dream (CD liner). Miguel. RCA Records. 88725-47203-1.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  21. ^ "Elle Varner: 'My New Album Is Unbelievable'". Rap-up.com. Retrieved March 26, 2020.
  22. ^ "Elle Varner Announces New Genre... 'Trap Jazz' - That Grape Juice". Thatgrapejuice.net. Retrieved March 26, 2020.
  23. ^ "Elle Varner Talks Sexy New Album And Hollywood Dreams Of Playing A 'Crack Whore'". Vibe.com. February 18, 2014. Retrieved March 26, 2020.
  24. ^ a b "Elle Varner: StoryTeller". Singersroom.com. November 3, 2011.
  25. ^ "10 Questions for Elle Varner". Rap-up.com. Retrieved March 26, 2020.
  26. ^ "Vocal Range/Profile : Elle Varner". Divadevotee.com. Retrieved March 26, 2020.
  27. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on February 26, 2012. Retrieved July 31, 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  28. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on February 9, 2014. Retrieved August 8, 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  29. ^ "Elle Varner | News, Music Performances and Show Video Clips | MTV". Mtv.com. Retrieved March 26, 2020.
  30. ^ "V Exclusive! Elle Varner on How She Was Discovered, Mixtape and Upcoming Debut Album". Vibe.com. January 25, 2012. Retrieved March 26, 2020.
  31. ^ "Elle Varner". Ellevarner.com. Retrieved March 26, 2020.
  32. ^ [2][dead link]
  33. ^ "Marsha Ambrosius Takes Her Baby NYLA On The Road". December 19, 2018.
  34. ^ "ESSENCE Fest Spotlight: Elle Varner Talks Winning A Grammy With Chance The Rapper, New Music & More". Essence.com. Retrieved March 26, 2020.
  35. ^ "Drake Leads BET Awards 2013 Nominations". Rap-up.com. Retrieved March 26, 2020.

External linksEdit