Empress Of (Lorely Rodriguez) will be playing DC9 tonight, and then she’ll be in NYC to play Terminal 5 tomorrow night, Cameo Gallery Friday night, and Baby’s All Right next Tuesday (10/20); I had a quick chat to her over the phone last week to talk about her recently-released debut full-length (entitled Me, available now on Terrible Records) and the experience of going to a small town in Mexico to write it in almost total isolation. Read up on all of that below, follow Empress Of on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest news, and be sure to grab a copy of Me, too. HERE WE GO:
So tell me about Me, which just came out, and is a very personal record. I keep seeing the word “vulnerable” being thrown around in conjunction with it; obviously it’s meant as a compliment, because it means you’ve achieved something very real-feeling, but I don’t know, what are your feelings on having that be the go-to word that people use to describe it? Because when you look up the definition of that word, there’s also an element of weakness associated with that, where this collection of songs feels more accurately described (for me, anyway) as “open, but still assertive”.
Yeah. Well, a lot of the time I get pretty nervous before I play, and I’m like, sort of constantly…I don’t want to say “second-guessing”, but maybe just like, I don’t know…before shows I’m thinking, “Is anyone going to come?” Sometimes my friends will be like, “Lorely, how can you be so nervous before a show? You made these tracks that are so forward and confident!” And I don’t know, I think part of that is performing the record; because it is such an assertive record, I get confidence from playing it. So I don’t know. I think part of that is putting yourself out there, making a record that is vulnerable. I don’t know, I feel like part of it is you gain strength from exposing your weaknesses or something, you know?
No, I think so, too. Facing your fears kind of takes the power out of them.
So what is the secret to letting yourself be okay with all of that? I mean, do we all have to go to to Mexico and have this magical experience? I don’t know how comfortable you felt beforehand with the process of exposing these very personal things; I know you’d obviously written things before, but I feel like it really took a turn when you went to Mexico.
Well, I think it’s just like, you know, it’s just isolation, and sort of being away from people. Being able to just go to a bar or club or a movie or get a coffee with someone, compared with having nothing and being like, “I’m the only person here for myself, and I’m the only person I can talk to about these things,”…there’s no distractions. There’s no escape.
That can potentially feel like a lonely experience, then…but I don’t know, I think weirdly being in a big city, because there are all those distractions, I feel like that can almost be lonelier than being isolated in a place where you’re really alone. I don’t know, have you ever felt that?
No, not really. There are so many people I love in New York; all of the people who’ve shaped me as a person live there, and that’s why I moved there. Like, all my favorite artists were living there…when I’m in New York, there’s just so much going on, you know? I don’t feel lonely.
So Mexico was obviously very much the opposite of that; tell me about this town in Mexico, which is described as being actually magical. What was the best or weirdest experience you had while you were there?
Well, I mean, there were so many things. When I got to the house, and I saw the view and everything, I just started crying, because it was so pretty. I felt embarrassed, because I couldn’t believe I was crying, but it was so beautiful, and it was like…I couldn’t believe I’d be there for a month writing a record. It was so crazy. And I think the idea of doing that was the craziest part; I had a record contract, and I could have gone the traditional route of like, “Cool, now I’m going to hire this producer and go into the studio for a week or two, and we’ll make a record, and it’s going to sound like this.” But instead I was in this town in Mexico that I’d never been to before, and I had no idea what kind of record I was going to make, you know? I literally had no idea. After three weeks of being there and all the demos were taking shape, then it was like, “Okay, this is the kind of record I’m making.” So I guess that was the craziest thing, was actually just going there. It was really magical, though, and the very simplest things felt to me like really big, beautiful moments. Like walking on the road to go get eggs and water and avocados from the local town, that whole process was so different from my life in New York. And making music every day…I mean, I was making music for like, ten to twelve hours every day. That’s crazy.