If you’re sick of over-produced and equally obnoxious, jarring tracks that leave you with nothing more than a desire to pop a few Tylenol (or something stronger) after everyone next to you keeps screaming about “how sick these beats are,” then you can come sit by me. There’s something to be said when you the music does the talking rather than screeching and squealing at you, right?
Responding to the noise, female singer/songwriter Brika’s commanding yet somehow soft vocals carry an eclectic album, chock-full of influences from all genres, that’s refreshingly minimal in terms of production. Don’t get me wrong, though – simple, yes, but far from boring. Each song stands independently from the others, creating a natural rhythm that carries you through a reflective, almost moody journey.
I spoke with Brika on a gloomy, chilly New York afternoon while she took a break from songwriting in a sunny Miami studio. I clearly have more than one reason to be jealous. The acclaimed and much-hyped—and mind you, not overly-hyped–artist is only twenty years old. Her passion may be raw and youthful, but the voice on the other end of the phone and throughout her debut album, coincidentally entitled Voice Memos, is anything but naive. Riding on a wave of “best” and “top” lists around the Internet, Brika speaks candidly about everything from her upcoming tour to where she spent her New Year’s.
So, you just dropped your debut album Voice Memos in December. Tell me about that process for you and how it feels to finally get your songs out there.
It was written over the course of a year and a half. Mainly, it was written during 2013 and finally finished in the summer of 2014. It’s been a whirlwind. It’s been really great. I wanted it to express everything I’ve experienced. These voice memos were actually recorded voice messages about ideas and lyrics. They’ve been placed throughout the album too. So, titling the album “Voice Memos” was pretty obvious. That’s what it is made up of.
“Expectations” has been the breakout single, so far, of this album. Did you… expect that?
I was just writing a song that I personally liked. It was exclusively premiered before its actual release date through Hype Machine in December, so it started gaining traction there, and then, it just took off. Really, “Mumbai” was the first single finished. I still felt like I hadn’t hit the nail on the head, though. It wasn’t done. There was still something more, you know? And, “Expectations” came right after that.
I think that everyone can connect to having expectations or experiencing them from others. Was there a particular situation that your “Expectations” came from? It sounds extremely personal but still…pretty universally relate-able.
I wrote that song, because my boyfriend at the time had gone away to college. I just kept thinking about how things would be and how they would unfold. How am I going to say “hi?” You make up all of these stories in your head. I had so many expectations of things to say, to do. He might have changed, I might have changed. Have we both? That turned into expectations that we might have in general. Just about every situation in life. That’s raw emotion. You can picture something a million times in your head.
I’m impressed. You’re only 20! You have a lot going on. Indie Shuffle named you one of their top ten artists to watch in 2015, New Music Seminar named you one of their “Artists on the Verge.” How does that feel?
Well, I’ve been singing since I was born. I’ve been singing and singing. Next, I wanted to learn chords on the piano, and I wanted to write my own songs. So, I did. It (singing) was totally personal. I kept saying, “No, you’ll never hear me sing for other people.” My boyfriend at the time kept asking me to sing my music for him. I don’t think he expected that much. He didn’t really know. After I finally gave in, he physically dragged me downstairs and made me go sing in front of his dad, a . And, as soon as I did, he said, “We”re going to start working together.” And, we did. He’s been with me since then and helped me grow. He, Julio (Reyes Copello), is my manager now.
Now, you’re a Miami native, correct? Where does that come into play in your music? I hear a little bit of that exotic sound in the music itself.
Yes, and I think my music reflects that blend of culture and people. It is very much a mix. Going to the beach, being surrounded by the people. That’s all in there. That inspires me.
Is your family supportive of your musical endeavors? Or, do they wish you were heading to law school and playing by all of the rules?
I came from a family of nurses. They all paint on the side. So, that artistic quality and creativity does run in the family. I’m the one who, though, who has decided to focus solely on my art. At first, I was able to go to school and studied psychology. But, I was way too busy once everything began taking off with songwriting.
So, you just performed one of your first live shows. So, what’s next for you and this album?
We are going to be aggressively touring in July. We are one hundred percent touring.
That’s great to hear. Do you know yet with who? Or, in your own dream world, at least, who would it be?
In reality, we’re just in talks. We are organizing all of that now and finalizing things. Oh, man. In my dream world? That changes all of the time. Right now, although i cant speak for next week, I’d probably say Drake, Coldplay and Bon Iver.
You’re right. You are a mix of sounds and genres.
I think we are all unconsciously inspired by a variety of artists.
What’s a normal day for you? Is there such thing as a normal day?
I wake up at 10. I am not a morning person, hahaha. I get dressed and go into the studio. I usually just write songs. We have meetings, interviews and do press. That’s a regular day.
Following suit of so many artists and musicians, restaurants or bars: ever worked in the industry in between gigs?
No, never. Thank goodness! I never had to. But, I’ve always done other things. I’ve always stayed busy.
As an artist, inspiration can come and go. Where do you continue to find yours? Do you ever have a hard time?
Honestly, the greatest inspiration is being in the middle of action. Being outdoors, just heading to the beach here in Miami….being there around people and life happening all around. People watching, seeing people interacting with one another gives me so much to think and write about. I get my own ideas about what they’re saying, what they’re feeling, what they’re going through. It makes you think and imagine. So, traveling is also great for this.
Speaking of, ever come to New York?
Yeah, actually, I have a lot of friends up there. I was there over New Year’s. It was really fun.
No way. What did you do? Tell me that you didn’t go to Times Square or anything.
I kind of always wanted to do that, but I’ve heard that it is nuts and not fun at all. I was just at an apartment party. Funny, I was in a hallway with another couple and didn’t even realize what time it was. I was like, “Wait, is it midnight?” I didn’t even know.
New Year’s is overrated anyway. So, brothers and sisters?
Two sisters and one brother.
Where are you in that lineup?
I’m in the middle, and that explains a lot.
Dog or cat lady? I’ll try not to judge you.
Both. Mainly, dogs, though. I now have six dogs, because one just had puppies. It’s crazy. But, I have neighborhood cats who hang out on my front porch. I’ll take them all. That’s just me.
Lastly, do you have a personal motto or a mantra that you live and create by?
Oh, yeah. Definitely, I believe that what you think, you become. If you think negatively, you’ll receive that. If you’re thinking positively and putting those thoughts and energy out there, that’s going to come true. I would have never that i would have the opportunity to do music, but i spent my whole life wanting this and thinking that I could have this if I worked at it. Life brought it to me. I couldn’t escape it after that. I was dragged down the stairs to do music. I was dragged down the stairs. I wouldn’t have had the balls. But, if you think that you can and believe in yourself, it will materialize.
Brika may have not expected this all to unfold. Wishing for it alone in her room, yes. Her “Expectations,” though, have brought a whirlwind of press and busy days of writing and performing music. Catch Brika on tour this summer. Grab the seat open next to me.