Furtado introduced and rapidly cemented herself in the music world in 2000 with her debut album - grabbing imaginations with her idiosyncratic and catchy singles including 'I'm Like a Bird' and 'Turn Off the Light'. She stood out from her contemporaries at the time as no other artist in pop sounded like her - infusing pop, folk, hip-hop and world music while asserting herself as a singer-songwriter and producer.

Six years after her debut release, her Loose album catapulted her into a greater orbit of commercial success. Made alongside the company of Timbland and Danja, she amplified the dance, pop and R&B elements which seasoned its predecessors, making for the flirty 'Promiscuous' and the ferocious 'Maneater', which unanimously dominated radio and dancefloors internationally.

However, the pinnacle she found herself became dizzying following her fifth album in 2012. Professional and personal factors compounded that made her overwhelmed and burnt-out by the pace she was working; her marriage ended, she left a long-time time business partner (whom she has previously described as a father figure) and she harbored the responsibilities that came with setting up her own label and nurturing the careers of the artists she signed, as well as raising her daughter. "I totally flat-lined," she admits. "I got to a place where I was totally numb. My life was on fast-forward and I didn't even realize it. I got used to the overstimulation all the time. Between being a mother and having a career, at the time I was also married too, it felt like a lot. It was very hard to keep up with myself because I'm a very excitable person who wants to do everything at once. Slowing down my life was a really good exercise for me."

Today, she is in very different place in both her career and mindset. When I speak to her on the phone, during the UK promotional spin for new album, The Ride, I'm greeted by someone giddy, expressive and engaging. She punctuates our conversation at a few points, stating "I'm so happy and excited about the future", with an infectious joy.

Still, it's the hardships she sings of on her new album which makes her current circumstances as fulfilling. The Ride is an aural document of that period and how she managed through it; from the sobering realisation on 'Cold Hard Truth' to its life-affirming concluding ballad 'Phoenix'. Unlike any of the records she has made before; she has taken a new independent direction and sharpened her pop sensibilities to a fine point in the company of the record's executive producer, John Congleton. Furtado found Congleton through the inimitable production of St Vincent's self-titled 2014 album and knew immediately he was the person to work with if she wanted to start anew.

Nelly Furtado

"I really got into her last record. I met her at a summer festival and she introduced me to him because I asked her to. I became so obsessed with how her vocals sounded on that album - Everything sounded so human and alive! The way music is supposed to sound. He doesn't use any auto-tune or any tricks. He makes organic things sound very modern. I wanted to try an alternative producer and try different techniques with microphones and to have his vast knowledge of old-school production style and his modern taste too. I wanted to work with John before he started working with other pop artists. I wouldn't be surprised if John is producing some really big pop albums in the next five years".

It was this musical knowledge and approach to production which she felt was ideal for capturing the dynamic of her new songs and the complicated emotions they contained. "I wrote a lot of the music on guitar but then John would take the material and re-arrange it in a real interesting way - more from the punk world. Punk arrangements are totally different to pop. So, you had me writing these pop songs and John was flipping them upside down to make them more potent and dynamic. I never had musical interludes because you are taught in pop music to fill up every bar with singing, rapping, breaths and whispers! There were moments when he looked at me and said, "We're going to take this bridge out - I think the music should just jam here". It was about letting the music do the work".

While the songs stare her difficulties head-on, the musical arrangements, for the most part, are funky, joyous, almost celebratory. "There's got to be a tension - a quirk about it. I'm optimistic but then I'm also quite pensive. I don't often take things at face value. I might take a normal situation and look at it from an outside-the-box way. I think that's why some of the songs on this album sound optimistic despite their sobering content. It's a happy hangover. Life just beat me up but I feel so alive. When you get punched in the face you see stars, right?". I ask why the metaphor of a ride stood out as the album's title and were there any other contenders, but she points out it was Congleton who came up with the record's name. "Sometimes other people around you can see your reality before you can. It's just a great metaphor for life. The songs are about dealing with your real truth and the journey with yourself; the realness, the ugliness, the highs and the lows".

Our conversation turns to events leading up to the record's making. What becomes apparent when she details the experiences she launched herself into (including working in a record store and taking a playwriting class), she lived as if her success or fame never happened. The fundamental tool that enabled the new perspective she needed was, ironically, the reason why she had her success: songwriting. She travelled by herself to rural England to work with Mark Taylor's at his writing compound, the notable record producer and songwriter. "I didn't know what the hell I was doing" she admits. "I went to try and write some songs. All I had was songwriting, it's the only thing I've ever been to do well. I realised that's my thing." Furtado took this realisation and gave herself the most remarkable challenge - she conducted a songwriting installation at MoMa in New York, teaching complete strangers how to write a song.

Nelly Furtado

"It's something I piloted in Kenya doing charity work - I taught people how to write songs and then we'd sing them together and that would be it: the song would just exist for the moment. I wanted to take this into another realm and I wrote songs with 100 strangers over the course of three hours. I explored the compassion and seeds of songwriting. I would write songs with strangers who didn't even write songs. It was a very visceral experience; the next day I felt so wonderful and brave. I felt I put myself out there in a very soul-expanding experience. You want to prove that there's no end to a well of inspiration.

I suggest that the experience made such an impact on her because she stripped everything back to her craft. "Sometimes you forget that you have craft! When you base it all on exterior markers like charts and hits, you forget that you're an artist because you're an artist. You're not an artist because you professionally made a record, you're not an artist because you toured or you're not an artist because you had a number one hit. You're an artist because ever since you were little you had songs in your head and you felt an urge to express how you feel. I forgot all that when I started doing business things - having my own label, signing other artists and being responsible for other people's livelihoods. It really took me away from who I really am."

Ultimately, it's the changes she has made in her life which has enabled her to grab the reins back on her work and find a place of clarity. "I've definitely put a lot of investment into searching and becoming more at peace. I feel a lot less restless and more grounded. My priorities are now in the right place. It's so nice because I have a newfound confidence in my creativity. I'm just so excited to just be and see where my curiosities lead. I read a quote recently that said if you constantly feel busy then your life is too big for you. You have to downsize so we can live in our actual life and enjoy it".

The Ride is out now on Nelstar.