Esperanza Spalding is back with a new look and an alter-ego to match. The Grammy award-winning bassist who famously beat out Justin Bieber for “Best New Artist” in 2010 is using fashion to inspire her new music and stage identity.

Spalding says she’s never been fashion-obsessed, but now she’s using style as a tool to control her new narrative.

“Since I was never concerned with dressing up and looking fabulous, when I realized it [fashion] was going to be part of my life, I wanted to find a way to make it interesting to me,” she told the Washington Post.


Spalding chose costumes that offer context around her music. But don’t look for major designer brands on this artist’s back. Like Janelle Monae, her look is purposeful and it’s all about context.

On Saturday, Spalding performed at the DC Jazz Fest under the stage name “Emily,” her middle name she hasn’t used in 15 years. Spalding’s middle name informs her Emily’s D+Evolution Tour.

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The performer became synonymous with that bountiful, bouncing afro. On her formal look during her breakout 2010 album Chamber Music Society, Spalding shares, “I wanted to assume the persona of a buttoned-up person coming home and having a conversation musically.”


But Spalding’s alter-ego “Emily” has long twists down her back and wears vintage, retro-inspired colors and prints with nerdy-chic glasses. Spalding says, “Emily,” who’s a more “calmed-down version of Esperanza” takes her back to her childhood.

Jazz artists have long dressed classically conservative to compliment the music’s sophisticated culture. Men are in snazzy suits and ladies are in evening gowns—think Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn. But Spalding, at 30 years young, is challenging that tradition.


And no matter if audiences dig “Emily’s” style or not—we certainly do—Spalding doesn’t expect everyone to completely understand the meaning behind her tour. But says she’s hoping fashion will help concert goers experience something new.

“I hope people will be able to forget that we’re playing music.”

Check out “Emily” on stage now! Are you feeling Esperanza Spalding’s new look? Sound off!

What do you think?

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