Dominican singer-songwriter Leslie Grace likes variety and surprises. Her newest audiovisual, “Duro y Suave,” is just that.
Grace returns to the Mike Ho-directed scene, which finds the New York-born artist doing a sinfully syncopated grind to a slow-to-fast-tempo track, ditching her R&B/bachata roots. She recruits Puerto Rican reggaetonero Noriel to experiment with a catchy new sound.
For the premiere of her latest musical offering (below), Billboard caught up with Grace to see what’s been happening behind the booth since signing to Sony Music Latin in 2015.
You depart from your traditional sounds with “Duro y Suave.” Why that switch-up?
Just a continuation of my evolution as an artist as I continue to mature, learn and challenge myself. Song by song, throughout the years I’ve always consciously tried to unravel different sounds. I enjoy dabbling into and challenging myself to bring my best essence. Most people know me from my beginnings in bachata and are aware of my R&B/pop influences, which are notable in even my earlier projects. But with this new batch of music, I’ve really made a conscious decision to go into the studio ready to experiment with every sound presented to me when writing. Out of that open mindedness came “Duro y Suave.”?
Is there a full-length studio album in the works, where you experiment with other sounds?
There is a full length album on the way! It’s forming itself with every writing session I have. It’s been the most enjoyable experience for me, of all my projects to date, to slowly build this sophomore album, because I feel I’ve grown personally and artistically throughout the process. There will definitely be more new sounds included. I’m so excited to share all these songs already! Hashtag: #GRACEVOLUTION.
Given the trajectory of your career and how young your started in it, who is Leslie Grace today?
Leslie Grace today is a 23-year-old Dominican-American young lady finding her own voice in this music world. I believe my music is somewhat a byproduct of all the things I’ve learned in the last few years, just as a growing woman. A lot of the subject matters in the music I am making now, are from true life experiences. Others are ones that my friends are going through right now, or they are past experiences from some of the writers I collaborate with. But in general, my music will always be a reflection of what I’ve lived and what I’ve learned, whether sonically or lyrically.
As a woman in this male-dominated industry, what do want to see happen with female artists who are talented, doing the work, but without a global reach?
I think the ongoing conversation about why women aren’t in the top spots, really it’s something we’ve been talking about forever. Beyond women feeling confident enough to feel like they deserve to be at a top spot and working hard to be there, I think people should start recognizing the new, younger female artists that are out here, really putting in the work and time, just as much as the males. We all know that in the industry, female artists’ careers in development take more time just with all the variables. There’s like a seven-to-one ratio with women to boys here [Laughs], and women are the consumers! But I’d say, on the industry side, people need to take more notice of what young women are doing. I am very proud to be one of those women in a time like this, as we see more and more conquer the charts in a time music is expanding.
What do you hope to see happen this year in Latin music?
I wanna get some number ones! [Laughs] But beyond that, I just hope I can be an [integral] part of how music evolves this year. In the bigger picture of Latin music in general, I hope that we can continue [to evolve], because it’s already begun. That we can continue to reach these accolades internationally. That Latin music be recognized as a beautiful thing by all different countries and charts all over the world. For all types of people to enjoy our culture and flavors and the music that we make. That has to continue — that globalization, and that we continue to raise the bar.
What else can fans expect from you in 2018?
Lots of new music, and lots of surprises with the new music. I kinda like how now new releases are surprises, I kinda like how that’s going. I like to see how the excitement grows and see how people receive the music without knowing that it’s coming, and receive the visuals without knowing before it’s going to happen. I really love the element of surprise. So lots of new music — stay on top of the socials.