Lorely Rodriguez finds strength in vulnerability.
Starting in 2012 as a series of ethereal one-minute song snippets called “Colorminutes,” Rodriguez’ Empress Of project puts her voice — and the experiences that shaped her into the person she is today — front and center.
The songs on her debut album “Me” read as if they’re straight from a diary. “Everything Is You” is a delicate, off-kilter snapshot of a new relationship. The aggressive, lurching
“Kitty Kat” chronicles Rodriguez’ experiences getting catcalled on the streets Valle de Bravo, the Mexican village where she recorded the record.
A&E spoke with Rodriguez about her new album, her recording process and the places of which she is not the empress.
With “Me” being an intensely personal record, how does it feel to have all these people around the world connecting with details from your life?
It’s one of the most beautiful things about making a record like this. Even when the album stream came out, it was so overwhelming. I was just texting my manager being like,
“Oh my God, people are listening to the album right now!”
This thing has been living on my laptop for nine months. People are listening to the record; they’re tweeting at me telling me what songs they like.
It’s been pretty surreal, but now I’m getting into it. This is what is supposed to happen; this is what I want.
Tell me about recording the album.
I didn’t plan to go to Mexico. That happened literally three weeks before I bought the ticket — maybe even two weeks. I just wanted a place that was quiet and alone and not
New York, so I couldn’t just have all the things that are easily accessible to me at my fingertips, like all of my best friends, all of my favorite restaurants, all of the amazing art and museums and street concerts. I didn’t want any of that shit. I just wanted to be insular about my [influences], so a friend of mine was like, “Come to Mexico.”
[The experience] was terrifying, just to go [alone to] somewhere I’ve never been with a bunch of recording equipment and not having any idea what I was trying to make.
I just knew that ... I felt pressure to make something that meant a lot to me.
Do you think you could’ve opened up as much as you did if you were recording in a studio with, like, 10 other people around?
Oh, no. I don’t really record well in an environment like that because I feel the motives are quite different. I mean, I don’t have much experience doing it, but I feel like when
you say something in a room with someone else, you expect a reaction, so when you write something in a room with someone else, you expect a reaction. For me, being alone, the only reaction I have is my own reaction.
Has your process changed much from recording “Colorminutes?”
Definitely. [Colorminutes] was me making demos every day trying to figure out what I was going to do with my solo project. When I listen back to it, I hear the fearlessness, and [there is] no filter at all. It just reminds me of being 20 or something.
Now, it’s very much song-based; it’s very much message-based. Everything is more polished. It’s like I want to have a relationship with this song within 30 seconds of hearing it, and you can’t do that in a minute. You can’t have a relationship with a song in a minute. It just comes and goes, you know, like a fling.
Do you have any advice for students at the University as they figure out what their calling is in life?
The thing with me and this record is that I learned that I’m the most important person in my life. [With] any of the other stuff you sweat [as a young adult], it’s really hard to remember that none of that really matters ultimately; it just matters what you want to do.
Nobody else is living your life for you, so why are you sweating all that stuff?
Are there any places you aren’t the empress of?
That’s a really good question. I’m so happy that you asked me that.
For me, Empress Of is about trying to face adversity, trying to conquer something that seems unconquerable. So why would I say there’s something I’m not the empress of?
Probably peanuts because I’m allergic to peanuts.