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Empress Of Wants To Be Understood

28 August 2015 | 4:15 pm | Anthony Carew

"I am Empress Of, there's nobody else included in the project... Maybe I'm just a control freak."

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"I went back to my parents' house recently, and I was going through a box of my childhood stuff," says Lorely Rodriguez, the 25 year old who records as Empress Of. "And in my diary, from when I was 13, I was like, 'When I grow up, I wanna live in New York, and wear black, and sit in cafés and drink coffee all day, and be a musician.' And that's exactly what I'm doing! It's like some weird, twisted, self-fulfilling prophecy."

Born in LA to Honduran immigrants parents, Rodriguez's obsession with music started young. "From the age of nine, music consumed me all the time. Discovering music, playing music, making up songs — it was my soundtrack, my hobby, my life. When we got the internet at my house — I find it so funny that I can still say that, I'm like the last generation that hasn't had the internet since out of the womb — discovering music on the internet was so huge for me; I was always trying to find the next thing. When I found Björk when I was 11, I was like, 'Oh, that's it. I'm done!'"

"I have a very strong sound that I hear, so I usually work so much until I can make the sound in my head possible."

Rodriguez initially studied to be a jazz singer, and, at 17, went off to study at Berklee College Of Music in Boston. But in her first semester, she got a laptop and immediately lost interest in being just a vocalist. Instead, she devoted herself to learning to be a producer, so that, in chasing her dream ("even admitting that you want to make music is a little bit crazy"), she didn't need to rely on anyone else. "I have a very strong sound that I hear, so I usually work so much until I can make the sound in my head possible. Collaborating with other people wouldn't allow me to fully express my own singular voice. Especially as a solo artist. I am Empress Of, there's nobody else included in the project. I really need my singular voice to be heard. Production-wise, I need to control that. I want to make all the decisions. I wanted to sit in a room alone and decide on every sound. Maybe I'm just a control freak." 

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Rodriguez's initial Empress Of productions were minute-long snippets of song-sketches she called Colorminutes, releasing them as videos in 2012. She released her first EP, Systems, the following year before starting work on her debut LP, called Me, because Rodriguez sees it as being a direct expression of self. "I'm really excited for people to understand more so me as a person and how that relates to how I make music, and how so many experiences have gone into my music. 

"The songs I've written for the record are really personal. And I've really focused on what I'm saying through the lyrics. As much as I've obsessed over the production, it's all just aiding the meaning and the message of the songs. I think people can relate to that. I have had people come up to me and say 'I totally understand the arc and story of you as a woman'. [This album] is just like who I am. As an artist, as a producer, as a songwriter, as a woman, as a human being. There's no other alternative motive behind it other than that."