Artist Spotlight: Luz Elena Mendoza (of Y La Bamba)

Writing without borders and boundaries. Meet artist, Luz Elena Mendoza.

Following our interview with Tender Loving Empire's Label Manager, Aaron Meola, we look to a TLE artist's perspective of the industry with Y La Bamba's songwriter, Luz Elena Mendoza.

When describing herself, Luz Elena Mendoza moves beyond the confines of a songwriter, preferring instead to call herself a "curator, healer, dreamer and visual artist." Music is only a piece of her creative outpouring. When listening to her songwriting for Marmoset band, Y La Bamba, it's easy to hear how it crosses genres, language and modes of storytelling. Bringing together narratives and influences from her family's roots in Mexico and her life in Portland, Oregon, Mendoza's music brings a unique perspective, weaving a cyclical story of home and the many forms it can take.

We caught up with Mendoza while she was traveling in Mexico to chat about her influences and perspective of what life is like as a working artist. Enjoy.

Marmoset: When did you start writing music?

Luz Elena Mendoza: I've been writing things down since I was a child...since I can remember. I used to make my own journals and tag them all in my made-up font and write down my philosophies, heartaches, questions, poetry and sound.

M: What initially brought you to Portland? Have you ever visited the city before?

LEM: It's a long story, but it was the right thing for me to do. Everything was lined up for me to come up here. It was definitely meant to be. 

M: How do you feel Portland has influenced your songwriting? How is it different from other places you've lived?

LEM: I've come a long way. I've been in Portland for almost 10 years now. It has been a beautiful healing experience. It was the best place I could have moved to. The influence was the best gift through those specific years of my growth as a creator. It has -- and still -- nourishes my spirit.

M: What are some of the different influences you draw from in your music?

LEM: Life. My ancestors. Truth. Pain. Joy. God. Loneliness. Healing. Darkness and the Light. I am open to the sonic expressions from my blood line, and sensitive to the sounds of the natural world.

M: What inspires new songs for you? Tell us how you take a song from an idea to a full song. 

LEM: Life inspires me. It just writes itself.

M: Are there any changes you’ve made to your song writing approach over the years? 

LEM: I have found a freedom that continues to mold me in my growth as a singer-songwriter. 

M: How do you make the decision to write in English or in Spanish?

LEM: It just happens. There's a different pulse within both. I feel the older I have been getting, the more vulnerable I become to my roots -- it's something that has only gotten stronger. I am Mexican American, and both have a different role. But with both, I create a bridge, and that inspires me to continue to explore my path and deliver the music that comes to me in whatever language.

M: I've noticed that you have various versions of songs on different albums. What's the importance of rearranging songs?

LEM: The importance of being free.

M: Can you elaborate on how your heritage influences your music? What role does both Spanish and English have in your music? Do they have similar or different influences? How so? 

LEM: They are both different, but really it all comes from the same place. There is a triumphant lament behind the music of my ancestors that inspires me to move energy forward. A story that keeps on singing and rings in my ears and invigorates my heart every second of my waking and dreaming life. I can’t explain it…it's something you live and breath and dream with. I am influenced by what is so pure and true to me -- and that is where I come from. It's surreal to live in two different worlds. I honor the language of emotion and vulnerable sentiment. With that said, because of who I am and how I was raised, this has influenced my writing in both worlds. It just comes out the way it does. 

M: What's a common misconception about your career as a professional musician?

LEM: That I make a lot of money.

M: What's one of the your favorite places to tour?

LEM: I love playing Mexico City, San Francisco, Denver, and Brooklyn.

M: How did you get in touch with Tender Loving Empire? Tell us more about how you started off with the label and how you came to where you are today. 

LEM: TLE and I have been in Portland doing our thing for the same amount time. Jared, Brianne [Mees] and the crew have always been so good to me. We decided to worktogether in 2009, and now we are here. It's all a mystery to me! We have a good crew here in Portland and I am thankful for everyone who has been so supportive to the artistic, vulnerable voices in Portland. TLE represents genuine support, and I have felt that love and encouragement really do a lot to one's growth.

M: What's one thing you would tell a musician just starting out?

LEM: Be vulnerable.

Posted on May 27, 2016 and filed under Field Notes, Music.