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R E L is the up-and-coming creative force that you have been waiting for. At just 24 years old, this Chicago-born, LA-based singer-songwriter has released a debut, self-titled EP, a multitude of fantastic singles, and an album – a creative project that is like none other.

R E L has created the genre EVOCA-POP, combining “evocative” and “pop” – a style of music that makes listeners both think and feel. Her music is sensorial, while dreamy and atmospheric, making her tracks original and well beyond modern times.

In 2019, R E L released her album, Side A. This eight-track masterpiece explores the theme of self-love, carried by soft ballads and meticulously crafted tunes.

Side A is part one of a three-part visual album. With Side B projected to come out in the near future, her single, “Placebo” is the first track lifted off of her next release. It is beautifully written, skillfully mixed, and perfect for listening.

R E L is the artist that encourages you to seek truth inside yourself. Through her vulnerability, she calls you to explore introspection, to remain present in your life and to work towards self-love, expression, and authenticity.

She creates constantly and possesses sundry goals which will carry her into the spotlight. We had the pleasure of interviewing R E L.

How are you doing?

I’m doing well. Taking things moment by moment. Thanks for asking 🙂

At just 24, you have released several singles, EPs, and part one of a three part album. What has been the most defining moment of your career thus far?

It’s hard to pick just one moment! I feel really lucky to get to do what I love – to create, to sing and write music that I feel, and that resonates with other people. When I first went to School Night at the Bardot, I was inspired by the artists and energy of the space. I wanted to play it one day. So definitely when I played school night a couple years later, my heart felt full! That’s one defining moment. The first project I ever put out was with a kickstarter (my self-titled debut ep r.e.l.). It was from my heart, but without a set story. So it was amazing to release, and see received well, but EVOCAPOP has been a passion project with a story I’ve put a lot of myself into. Releasing EVOCAPOP Side A feels like a defining moment in my career so far. I remember on release day feeling like my 3-year old self all day– so excited to share this project I created, feeling clear, at ease and at home in myself, which is easy to lose in the LA music scene, and modern music business of social media, stats and popularity. We threw a release party show, and I got to play the whole record from start to finish with my amazing band, who are friends too, and the energy in the room was beautiful, electric. My parents were there, so many friends and creative collaborators, fans who I hadn’t met but got to. It was a beautiful night celebrating creativity. And whenever I hear from a fan that the music resonates with them is a defining moment for me. It’s incredible to connect with people around the world with music. I make what feels good to me, so I hope it does to you too. Music is medicine.

Your music is atmospheric, rhythmic, and intuitive. Where do you draw inspiration from?

(I love those words. Thank you <3) I draw inspiration from life, my own experiences and emotions, from things going on around the world that move me. Musically I draw inspiration from a variety of artists and bands. I grew up listening to Queen, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, the Beach Boys, the Beatles, James Taylor, Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones, Don Henley, The Temptations, Earth Wind and Fire, The Doors, Billy Joel, Phish, Carole King, Simon and Garfunkel, Foreigner…they definitely inspire me! I sang in the choir at my synagogue in Chicago as a kid, and then in high school choir. I’ve always loved harmony. My dad is incredibly musical – he can play just about anything by ear, and has been playing guitar since he was 12. He played in bands with his brothers growing up, one with his brother and another 12-piece rhythm and blues band. I’ve been singing with him and my family since I could talk–harmonizing is pretty intuitive to me and brings me so much joy. I’m inspired by M.I.A.,Sia, Nina Simone, David Bowie, Lady Gaga, Stromae, Childish Gambino, Carole King, Grimes, Beyonce, Florence and the Machine, Bastille, Jamie xx, Mac Demarco, Tame Impala, Sade, The Knife, Santigold, MGMT, Madonna, Frank Ocean, Nirvana, Kimbra, MØ, Otis Redding, Erykah Badu, Rihanna, Chet Faker, Alunageorge, Lykke Li, MUNA, James Bay, Lorde, The Chemical Brothers, Lorde, Kat Dahlia, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Jhene Aiko, Betty Davis, Imogen Heap, Kendrick Lamar, Bjork, Sara Bareilles, Adele, Regina Spektor, and others.

You have been very open about your struggles with mental health and your times of reflection. How has music helped you in healing?

Music really is medicine. I process my emotions with music. When I’m sad, singing makes me feel better. Freestyle singing helps me shine light on whatever I’m feeling. It’s a natural magic, music. Before my Oma (my mom’s mom) passed away, she was in hospice, asleep. I went to say goodbye to her. I started humming a melody from my heart and holding her hand. After a few minutes she opened her eyes, we stayed like this for a while. I kept humming and started to cry. She reached out, weak as she was, wiped the tear from my cheek, and said, “Alles goed.” It means “all is good” in Dutch. She was a Holocaust survivor, an immigrant, a mother, a businesswoman and so much more. Her last words to me were “All is good,” and I got to speak with her one more time because of song. She sang in her brother’s jazz band back in the Netherlands before the war. He was killed, and once she moved here she worked in the family clothing store, but she would sing to me. I’ve been singing since before I could talk. It feels like home. I don’t know how else to describe it. We all struggle with mental health at some point in our lives. Most of us are conditioned to be a certain way, or fulfill certain expectations which may be unhealthy…keeping our hearts open is so important. Music can do that, so can art, meditating and creating in general. Creativity is so human, so important to healing and life.

Along with your brilliant musical artistry, you have created a new genre entitled “EVOCA-POP.” What does this style of music entail?

I created EVOCAPOP after my music got called PBR&B by a tastemaker blog. I don’t drink beer and I felt annoyed that my music was getting labeled, and after “hipster beer” no less. So I made up my own genre. Soon after that blog post, I did an interview and said my genre was evoca-pop, music that makes you think and feel. From “evocative” and “pop.” It stuck. I decided to make a story from there, and over time I wanted that story to be about self love. Evocapop is my genre of music – music from heart. To heart!

You have expressed that ​Side A, ​your most current album, tackles self love and healing. What can we expect from ​Side B​?

Side A is actually part one of a three-part album, EVOCAPOP. The whole project is about self love. I jumped into the music scene head-first with my self-titled debut EP, and over the last few years figured out what story I want to tell, how I want my artistry to exist. It’s important to me to be honest. If I am honest, we can connect at our heart level, with our shared human experience. There is so much “photoshop” – not just physically, but things are autotuned, edited, glossed over, enhanced, fake. I want to be real. Natural. We are so beautiful. The project is about reconnecting with that, with self. Self love is the foundation of peace. So many of us, myself included, have struggled with or struggle with some form of hating self. If we hate ourselves, how can we really love another? So Side A tells the story of discovery–light. A girl on the cusp of womanhood going on a journey and discovering herself. She realizes she’s been hurting herself, and doesn’t want to. She sees she’s been in a fog. Side B is love. It’s a bit more intimate and emotionally raw. It’s the love piece of healing – waking up and surrendering to heart. Self loving means seeing yourself “naked” and accepting yourself for your imperfections. When you can accept yourself you can truly act from love, as opposed to fear…

What did the artistic process behind “Placebo,” a track lifted off of ​Side B​, look like?

I actually started writing it 4 years ago with my friend Will Everett. We co-wrote Plateau off my first EP, and Surgery off Side A. It sat quietly waiting for its time to shine with a lot of other tunes in waiting…haha 🙂 We got together about a year ago, and decided to redesign the song- we stripped it down to the core – the chorus, the idea of a love that is a placebo- rewrote the verses, and then Will produced it. Placebo is a song about a relationship that makes you feel better, even if it’s not really fixing you. It’s the placebo effect – it’s just you, and you feel better thinking you’re taking this ​medicine.​ This pill in a tuxedo – this romantic dream which we’re often taught completes us – might make you feel high, but it’s really only ourselves that can fix ourselves. We can help each other, LOVE EACH OTHER (!!) but in the end home isn’t in another person, it’s in our own heart. It’s easy to lose yourself in a relationship – if you can find a bit of yourself from a relationship, that’s the magic. Romantic love is beautiful–sometimes our lover can love us into loving ourselves more, and sometimes losing a lover teaches us to love ourselves more. Surrendering to heart. Ultimately it’s all about heart. Heart is the realest place. Can you keep it real?

I took a lot of inspiration for the song from my last romantic relationship. And I’m grateful to have worked on the music video with some people I love. So much has changed since we filmed. Globally, locally, personally. This music video captures a moment in my life, in our lives, and it feels wonderful to release it.

You have also noted that ​Side A ​was built off of three symbols – a tornado, a corset, and a blue heart. What is the significance of these symbols?

Yes! My friend, Sydney, led a self-love workshop a few years ago and there was a healer who did a really powerful meditation. He got to a part where he said we would visualize the 3 biggest obstacles in our lives – mine were a corset, a blue heart and a tornado. The symbols were what I built my story for Side A around. I actually wrote a short film script for Side A, which I intend to make in full! The video for Nanagrams is the first scene. The tornado signifies the chaos of the world and of life (of my life) which I tried to control, by wearing a corset (a symbol of societally standardized beauty, my struggle with eating disorders and dysmorphia). Wearing a corset cuts off your breath and in turn you get a blue heart. A blue heart represents many things – sadness, coldness, disconnect, royalty, water… Side A is about the first stage of healing – facing the problem, hitting a low, realizing the darkness or fog surrounding you – that you’ve been hurting yourself. I developed the EVOCAPOP project in three “sides”, so I can address each phase of healing as its own story & as part of a bigger story. Self love is the first step towards happiness, towards peace. I developed an eating disorder at a very young age (7 years old). It permeated my life through my early twenties. I felt like I needed to try to control the chaos around me – some weird survival mechanism of ‘if I’m what society deems perfect, I’ll survive, I’ll have love. Music has the power to heal. I’m learning to free myself of the corset, finding new ways to stand my ground in the tornado that life can often be (and to move with it), and keeping my heart open, breathing.

As an artist, what will you have accomplished 10 years from now?

This question!! So much to do!

I will have made all three sides of EVOCAPOP, with visual components to each (short films!). I will have toured the US and world. I will continue writing my own music and writing for other artists as well. I will have collaborated with many artists who inspire me! My music will have played on FM radio. I will have touched people with my art! I will continue evolving as an artist and storyteller and (hopefully!) will have made a positive impact in my community and world. My music will have inspired people to look at themselves and their own lives and see how they can act more from a place of love.

So much to do. So much music. So much to create. Thank you Ladygunn <3 <3 <3 




photos / courtesy of artist

story / Taylor Thompson

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