Last week, Kristina Latino spoke by phone with Marcela Cruz, a Revere-based musician who’ll be performing in Women in Music’s upcoming Spotify Showcase (Boston) and we would like to share such interview with our readers.
Born and raised in Lowell, MA, Marcela moved closer to Boston partially to make it easier for her to work more closely with producers in the area. Speaking with Marcela at once put me at ease and made me want to impress her; she has that rare combination of confidence and humility that makes it clear that she both knows where she’s going and is thankful for the community that supports her. Marcela has had an amazing year; after releasing her first EP last year, she’s been touring, performing, and making more and more of a name for herself in town. She has a tringle called "Fight For It" coming out in the next month. During our conversation, Marcela and Kristina talked about her musical style and influences, being vulnerable in your lyrics and onstage, and the purpose of music.
The interview below has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Kristina Latino: If you could describe the kind of music that you make, how would you describe it?
Marcela Cruz: I would describe it as music that makes you feel good. It has R&B, kind of pop, splashes of other genres in there...but lyrically and sonically, I think parts take you back to the '90s. I am very much a product of the '90s, so you definitely hear my influences vocally in a lot of the riffs that I use.
KL: Who would you describe as your musical influences? I read on your website that you named some women with really big voices, and you have a really big voice yourself, so I’m wondering who influences the way you make music.
MC: Sure; I’m definitely really big on big voices. I grew up listening to a lot of Lauryn Hill, Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera...I absolutely love all of her riffs and I think that’s one factor that’s the same across all of the vocalists that I listened to growing up. Also JoJo – those are definitely huge influences.
KL: I grew up in Worcester, and when JoJo started getting big, everyone was like “Oh my god, Massachusetts girl!”
MC Yeah, I love her – I wish she were bigger now. I feel like she’s so underrated, but she’s amazing.
KL: Yeah, I really agree. Do you write a lot of your own music, or collaborate with others to write it?
MC: I do both. I love writing my own music for sure, and it’s a skill that I’m still working on. I had the pleasure of working with a lot of great songwriters in the area, as well, and that’s helped me grow. On this last project that I released, about half of the songs on there were songs I had collaborated with other songwriters on.
KL: How do you think your music responds to your life experiences? Do you write from a place of what you know, or do you write and kind of explore things that you think about? What comes into your writing?
MC: It definitely extends more from my own personal experiences. It starts with one thought and keeps going from there. I would say the majority of my songs are from personal experiences, but there are the occasional songs that I’ve written that are based on friends’ situations or random thoughts that cross my mind.
KL: Are there specific topics that you find yourself returning to again and again, or does it change a lot as your life changes?
MC: I definitely gravitate toward writing a lot of love songs or heartbreak songs, which is funny, because recently I wanted to challenge myself and not write about love. Love has been taking a backseat more recently. So we’re releasing a project in the next month that focuses more on my singing career, and it’s more of a motivating but also personal approach that I took for writing this project. It doesn’t focus on love at all but that’s definitely something that I always find myself writing about.
KL: Working on a project that’s more focused on a career, something that’s unique about being an artist or a musician is that it’s both empowering to share your art with people and be on stage and perform, but at the same time its’ very vulnerable to share that part of yourself. How do you feel about being a performer and sharing personal material? How do you find that interacts with your life?
MC: It’s something I’m still working on. I know at the beginning I was writing a lot of personal material and the first thought was, ‘Oh my gosh, this person is going to know this is about them,’ or maybe writing something I don’t want my mom to hear or don’t want her to see me perform (though it’s never anything too extreme). I think I’ve come to find the beauty in being able to share some of those experiences, and what’s helped me get there is that I’ve gotten messages from people saying, 'Oh my gosh that sounded like exactly what I’m going through right now.' So that’s really helped me forget about who exactly is listening to my music within my own personal circle. I’ve come to love that about my performances and being able to share my music.
KL: That’s great. On that note, I was reading recently about a musician who was wondering about the purpose of being a musician. Is it to bring people joy, connect with someone, teach someone something...what do you see the purpose of your music being?
MC: I would say all of the above. Singing and writing makes me feel good. I’ll be in rehearsal just singing and it’s almost unexplainable. It completes my day and makes me feel happy. At the same time, I’ve come to love how much it inspires others or motivates others in their lives. It’s really beautiful that people can connect with my experiences and just enjoy the music.
KL: How would you say your music has evolved over the past months and years?
MC: Lyrically, I’ve found myself growing. I’ve been trying to challenge myself and really get out of my comfort zone and try to write about different things, collaborate with artists who I usually don’t work with. Vocally, I’ve been trying to sound better and stronger and be a better performer, as well. At the end of the day, I still have a long way to go, but I can definitely feel the growth.
KL: What do you think is next for you?
MC: I want to complete my first full album. I released my first EP last year, but we’re starting to work on my first full album. I want to keep traveling and sharing music beyond the Boston area. That’s next!