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Empress Of (a.k.a Lorely Rodriguez) is one of pop’s rising stars, who is currently touring her latest, critically-acclaimed album ‘Us‘. SCAN’s Kai Feltham reviewed the album last year, giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ and describing it as “an album of youthful euphoria and hope, as well as an album of the true ups and downs of real-life relationships”. We chatted to Lorely about collaborating with Khalid, being inspired by SoCal and creating without pressure, ahead of her UK and European tour this Spring…
Your debut album was called ‘Me’ and your new album is called ‘Us’ – do you feel as though the themes of your lyrics have shifted from something personal to something bigger?
“Yeah definitely, but I still think it’s personal. Everything on the record ‘Us’ has been more of an exchange between myself and the people in my life. My debut was extremely personal and I felt I had to make a statement as an artist, establishing my sound, as a producer and a songwriter. On this record, I didn’t feel like I had to prove anything sonically. Everything about the record feels like us, from collaborating with other artists to being in Los Angeles, close to my family and that having an influence on me. Also, for this record I was writing songs that aren’t about one specific relationship, songs that are more about friendships and family, but there are still love songs on there”
On the last record, I believe you recorded it in a cabin by yourself, by a lake somewhere very isolated – what were your surroundings like whilst you were writing this new album + how do you think that this influenced the record?
“I wrote it in Southern California, in Los Angeles and surrounding areas, so I was very influenced by being around the things I grew up with again: the food, clothing, my family”
How do you see the evolution between these two albums in terms of production? To me, it seems a bit more mellow in some ways, whereas the beats on ‘Me’ were a bit harsher. Did you feel more settled and willing to experiment sonically?
“Yeah, I felt my debut was a really good effort of establishing my sound, so I didn’t fear having that diluted at all on this record. I was more open to collaborations, when I collaborate with people I learn a lot from them, their different techniques and styles. I don’t want to be the kind of artist that repeats the same record again, I’m really happy with how this record evolved”
Outside of your solo material, you’ve worked with the likes of Blood Orange, Charli XCX, MØ + more – what have been some of your favourite experiences when songwriting with others + what have you learnt from these people that shapes how you write now?
“I think writing with Khalid was really cool, I have so much respect for him as an artist. The way he writes is… I’ve never worked with someone who writes like that. He knows exactly what he wants and is very passionate, but also works very fast and he knows when a lyric is hitting you. They’re all elements that are really important for pop music and that’s why he’s so successful, he’s a really good pop artist. Writing with him was definitely an eye-opener”
You recently re-released ‘When I’m With Him’ with Perfume Genius joining you on the track – what prompted that collaboration and was there a particular reason as to why you chose that song to sing together?
“I’m a huge fan of Perfume Genius! I sent Perfume Genius ‘When I’m With Him’ way before I put it out. I didn’t want to do a remix on this record, I’d rather have something more special. I thought the idea of him covering the song would be wonderful, and it turned out to be wonderful. Just having another artist interpret your lyrics in their own way, I think it’s something really special. The lyrics are written from a woman’s point of view, so to have him singing the lyrics, it felt like a completely new song.
He’s singing the lyrics from not only a male perspective, but a queer perspective as well, so it adds all these different meanings to what you’ve written, which is really cool!
I love that you sing some verses of your songs in Spanish, in songs like ‘Trust Me Baby’ and the Spanish version of ‘Water Water’. With the recent growing mainstream popularity of Latino music, have you felt more free to mix English and Spanish in your music? Or is that something you have always wanted to include?
“I’m just being myself, my project is very much a reflection of who I am. I’ve always been making music in Spanish, so I don’t see that changing.
“What I see changing is the world becoming more global and accepting artists from all over the world and wanting to connect with artists, no matter what language you speak.”
I think we all have commonalities and love music, so that’s why there are so many global artists and Spanish music is becoming more mainstream”
I haven’t yet had the pleasure of seeing you perform live – so how would you describe an Empress Of show?
“It’s a lot of different things, but it’s definitely pacing and escalating. I’m very influenced by dance music, I love the way DJs mix songs into each other. I’ve thought a lot about how I can apply that to my set, with transitions, and how to make things seamless and smooth. It engulfs the audience into the set, instead of breaking your attention”
Who are some of your favourite artists you’re listening to at the moment?
“I’ve never worked with ABRA but I really love her. I love Yaeji, there’s a lot of young female artists doing really cool shit! I’m inspired by all of them. Rosalía is incredible, Brockhampton are so sick… I love Kelela, I’d love to make music with her one day. There’s so much really good new music out there!
Empress Of plays London’s Scala on Tuesday (26th March) and YES, Manchester on Wednesday (27th March) – tickets available at empressof.com
‘Us‘ is out now, via Terrible Records.