“Change is growth and I don’t want to make the same thing twice,” Lorely Rodriguez, the artist also known as Empress Of asserts, talking about the ever-evolving nature of creating music.
Of course, the songwriter and producer is currently experiencing the early throes of new album energy, with her sophomore record Us still fresh in our memory after its October release. As a collection of material, the Empress Of sound has become more defined and textured. Her exploration of pop music through an alternative lens first manifested with acclaimed debut album in Me back in 2015 and as she remarks of Us, continuing to find her creative voice and identity throughout the process has remained crucial.
“It’s the album where people either love it, or they hate it,” she admits. “That’s fine; making art, I feel that’s something that comes with the territory. My first album was so critically acclaimed, I had never experienced that and so the first time I read a bad review on this record I was like, ‘Oh, okay!’
“It was really empowering because I know I made something really special to me and this album is connecting with more fans than ever, so I must have done something really honest and genuine.”
The changes Rodriguez talks of are indicated in the title. A more collaborative effort than her debut, Us is an album that sees her flex her musicality alongside the likes of Dev Hynes and Jim-E Stack. Changing her approach to making this album also meant acknowledging her own personal growth and confidence as a writer, a big element of her process that Rodriguez says uplifted her and made the end result shine.
“I started making this record in the same way that I made the last record,” she remembers. “I was not getting the results I wanted to. Sometimes, doing the same thing twice isn’t going to work. I’ve grown as a person and as an artist and I need my music to reflect that as well.
“When I made my debut, I was trying to define that and trying to own my sounds,” she says. “I own it [now] and I don’t need to do that again. I can just do it. I can just be myself and I feel empowered in knowing that. The whole collaborating aspect is me just being really confident in who I am and going into a room with someone else and not being afraid of the result sounding like a departure. It’s not a departure. I feel confident in maintaining my sound.”
An avid fan of pop music and the different threads of influence that form today’s current tapestry of the genre, Rodriguez sits in a great position to thrive, both as an artist and as a music fan.
“Blood Orange is a really good friend of mine,” she says. “Negro Swan was a big album for me. It was one of those albums that I put on and it soundtracked the year. I also toured with him so I got it in a really weird way as well, where I would hear him play it live every night. That was an important album.
“I think expectations can sometimes be really inhibiting, creatively,” she ponders, turning attention to the way artists are flipping the script on what is seen quintessentially ‘pop’. “I love when artists don’t give you what you expect. I really love the Ariana Grande album Sweetener; she makes huge records and she decided to make weird songs with Pharrell. It sounds like N*E*R*D! I love the courage that that takes and I love the courage that thank u, next takes. I also feel like I did that with my record, where people wanted me to make my debut again. I didn’t.”
Bringing new ideas to recording sessions and then inviting fans to be a part of the experience in the live realm are two things Rodriguez has been buzzing over as she approaches the beginning of the Us album tour cycle. While Australian fans wait patiently for our turn to see the album played out live, the Empress Of sphere of influence is about to get a lot bigger in the early months of 2019.
“Usually, people put records out and then they tour immediately,” she says. “I did that for my first album. I wanted to give some time to people to listen to the lyrics and listen to the songs, then go play. Have people know the songs. I was like, ‘Cool - record comes out October 19th, I’m going to tour in February’. Give people time to live with it.
“I’m on tour through until the end of March and then I’m going on tour doing my own shows playing the record. It’s going to be so fun and so special; I don’t have any Australian dates yet, but I’m just hoping that I can make it to play the record. I just want to share this record with people.”