Why Empress Of Wrote a 'Love Letter' To Fans On Second Album

Empress Of
Fabian Guerrero

Empress Of 

FROM: Pasadena, Calif.

BILINGUAL OR BUST: Growing up outside Los Angeles, the Honduran-American singer born Lorely Rodriguez’s listening tastes were “all over the place,” from Britney Spears and *NSYNC to Björk and Latin salsa. When she began writing her own music at age 13 it was natural to shift between English and Spanish in her verses, a habit she continues today: “Spanglish is a common thing in Southern California, and it helps to have another paint color, another medium of expression.” She settled on her stage name at a tarot card reading where she received the Empress card, connected to femininity and nurturing. The “of” is meant to be open-ended, “because then I can be Empress Of whatever I want to be.”

I (DON’T) HEART NEW YORK: In 2012, she challenged herself to write 30 songs in 30 days. The project turned into “Colorminutes,” a series of 15 dreamy, minute-long demos each focused on a color, which she uploaded anonymously to YouTube. “That was a practice of trying to figure out what type of artist I was going to be,” she says. The clips reached Terrible Records, where she signed in 2013 and released her bilingual debut EP Systems that year. Feeling overwhelmed by the bustle of New York, where she was then living, she exiled herself to a friend’s home in Mexico to write her diaristic debut album Me, which dropped in 2015 and cracked the top five on the Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart.

TEAM PLAYER: Since dropping her synth-pop debut, Rodriguez has focused on growing her inner circle. Last year, she collaborated with Khalid on single “Why Don’t You Come On” off the electronic duo DJDS’ album Big Wave More Fire. After meeting her labelmate, Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes, at a concert in New York, she co-wrote his Freetown Sound track “Best to You” while passing a mic back and forth in his apartment -- he brought her on tour last month. Coming soon: Tracks with and Tommy Genesis.

THIS IS US: On her second album Us, filled with her most pop-adjacent tracks to date (out on her birthday, Oct. 19), Rodriguez says she wrote lyrics that are direct and universal. In fact, many of the lines are real things she’s said to a partner in a relationship. “I wanted to make songs that were less selfish, and write about experiences that other people felt,” she says. That includes one she wrote about a friend’s struggle with suicidal thoughts and a “friendship bop” which she co-wrote with Hynes, about summertime in New York City. She says the album is less of a diary and more a love letter to her listeners: “I hope they see a little bit of themselves in me.”

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 20 issue of Billboard.