There are a few things that are clear after talking with LA-based soul singer, Raquel Rodriguez — she is dedicated to spreading a message of love through her music. And also, she loves her cat.
Rodriguez — who studied jazz theory in college at University of South California before pursuing music more full-time — cites inspirations for her eclectic, brassy, joyous soul and R&B music as Prince, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin and Etta James (to name a few). You can see those influences translated into her live performances, where she delivers powerhouse performs on the regular.
You might’ve seen her on tour last year contributing back up vocals to Anderson .Paak’s “Malibu” tour, or heard her on his 2013 album, Cover Art, but Rodriguez has been crafting music of her own for years and released her latest EP, The 310, last year after building a studio in her backyard to record it in.
We caught up with Rodriguez in between touring around the country with two bands (a west coast band and an east coast band) and cleaning up cat hair from around her house to talk about the making of The 310, watching Prince perform and the closest thing to real magic.
What's something you learned during the production of The 310?
Honestly, I learned a lot about myself. I'm about to have a big birthday, and I think while recording this EP, I was going through a lot of life changes. I definitely learned a lot more about myself and answered some questions that I've been asking myself for years. So, it feels good to see progress from one step in my life to the next. It hurts — changing is always difficult, but it's necessary. I think that recording those specific songs helped me realize certain parts of myself, and I think that's why the record is just so different from song to song — because that's how I am. I'm always changing and I'm always doing different things, but, you know...I feel like I sort of settled into who I really am now.
Do you express yourself creatively in any other ways?
I've recently taken up videography and a little bit of photography. I really enjoy shooting other bands and other artists that come into my studio, because it allows me to capture them in a way that I'm not used to being able to do with myself. I get to move around and I also get to hear the bands before they release any of their new music. It's pretty sweet because I usually edit my own videos, but now that I started taking up just filming them myself, I'm able to do the whole video on my own, which has been pretty cool. It's nice to step away from just singing all the time. And then, going behind the lens and seeing other people sing and learning from all my friends that come in here and record — they're all so amazing. I get to learn from what they do best.
Can you name a time when music made an impact on you?
I think, maybe just because we played in Minneapolis, I have Prince on my mind a lot. I remember going to the Forum in Los Angeles, when it was reopened, and Prince was having these, “20 nights for $20,” And, I got tickets to go see him, and I was always a Prince fan before — like, I loved Prince's music — but I think once I finally saw him and his band, it was a game changer for me. From that point on, I understood more about putting on a show and performing, rather than just singing at a concert.
That really, really made me step my game up just a little bit more. They were such an amazing and talented and tight — such a tight band — that it really made me understand the difference between playing music, and then putting on a show.
With that in mind, what's something, when you do put on a show, that you hope audiences walks away with?
I think the one message that I really try to convey in my set — and I talk about this a lot during my shows — is that we all just need to do a better job of loving and supporting one another. I've written songs about it. I put one on The 310 called “Before It's Too Late,” and it talks about how regardless of anyone's opinions of each other, and anyone's different beliefs and whatever, we all need to be able to listen and talk and communicate and really try to understand each other, rather than fighting with each other. Whether you're right or you're wrong, it doesn't matter. We all just need to really, really make more of an effort to love each other. I know it's not easy to just love some random person, but you have to try to feel compassionate towards them, and understand that they're going through a different thing than you are, and everybody's so different.
What's the closest thing to real magic?
This is going to be super cheesy, but just love...like, over the course of the last month, I've been just traveling with my boyfriend, even with our cat, and there are moments where I'm sitting on the airplane and I hate that I'm stuck in the middle seat with all these things surrounding me, and then I think, like, you just were in France and Italy, and you're staying in a castle, and you just did all of these all of these awesome festivals and shows, and you're with the person that you love the most, and the cat that makes you so happy. And you get this feeling inside, and you have no idea where it comes from, but it just is, like, “I'm the luckiest person in the world right now.” I feel like that's magic, because nothing around me changed, but all of a sudden I changed.
You tour with Anderson .Paak. How did that come to be and will you continue with other artists, to tour with them, after part two of The 310 is released?
Yeah. So, for Anderson .Paak, that's like a whole story in itself. I've actually known him for almost 12 years, or something crazy like that, and I met him a long, long, long time ago, because he had opened for this girl named Teedra Moses. At the time, his name was Breezy Lovejoy. I thought he was awesome, so I introduced myself and told him who I was, and we kept in contact. He started working with this group called Knocksteady, who I was also working with. So, we had reconnected then, and then just kept in touch while we worked on the George Watsky album. He called me to sing a few things on that, because he produced it.
And then he just started blowing up, and he called a bunch of girls and was like, "Look, we want background singers and we're going to do Coachella and just a few shows with some singers, and we thought about you. Not sure if this is your thing, because you have your own solo project." And I was like, "No. I'm so down. I will definitely sing with you whenever you want me to." And so, we did all the late night shows, like with Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, and Coachella and stuff like that, and it was awesome. That was for about six months or something. Then, I wanted to start working on my own thing again, so we stopped singing with them. But, I would definitely sing with them again in the future.
Well, cool. That's about everything we have on our end. Is there anything else that you wanted to add, or think we might have missed?
Well, we are releasing a part two to The 310. So, I'm working on that right now, hopefully that'll be announced sort of soon. We've been on the road for so long, being back home is crazy right now. I'm just...so much cat hair everywhere, and I'm just cleaning. I can't even think about music yet.
We’re excited to hear it when it comes out.
Oh, thank you. I'm actually trying to write another song right now for it, just relating to my message that I try to convey to people at shows. I feel so heartbroken about especially Charlottesville right now. Just all of these awful, awful things, and awful racism that's going on right now. I feel like my only way to express myself is through a song. That's all I'm thinking about is, when I do start working on music, the second that I start, it's going to be dedicated to something like that.