27-year-old Lorely Rodriguez is the everything behind Empress Of. “I did everything on the record. I produced, wrote, recorded,” she said of producing her first full album, Me, in a video for Vice. She added that since she didn’t use any live instruments, she spent a whole lot of time figuring out how to make different sounds with her laptop.
But before we skip ahead to Rodriguez’s big record project, it’s definitely worth checking out what put her on the map: a series of tracks called Colorminutes. After studying jazz at Berklee School of Music, Rodriguez headed to New York City to work with a band. While there, she decided to compose a song a day for one whole month.
It was around this time that Rodriguez released “Colorminutes,” a series of fifteen tracks she uploaded to YouTube. Each one is about a minute long (some extend to almost two minutes), and each corresponds to a block of color. Dreamy and eclectic, some of our favorites from this release are 1 (yellow), 3 (something like maroon), 6 (purple, and with rather whimsical lyrics like “Come over, I’ll spoon feed you ice cream / Let’s dance, I’ll dip you til you lose your breath”), 10 (white), and 15 (light blue, and arguably the most tender of all the tracks: “Don’t tell me it’s too late for us / I want to wake up with you / by your side”).
With new material to perform, Empress Of played a show in New York—and some reps from Terrible Records showed up. They liked what they heard, and put out her first EP “Systems” in 2013, with songs borrowed from “Colorminutes.”
Two of the four songs are in Spanish; according to Vice, this made Rodriguez’s Honduran mother happy. But for Me, Rodriguez wrote solely in English. In that same article, she explains that she writes differently in English than in Spanish, and that she “just needed to say some shit directly.” In writing the album, Rodriguez spent five weeks totally alone at a friend’s house in an isolated part of central Mexico. The experience helped her confront herself, she explained. Pitchfork points out that the distance also helps her reflect on her life in Brooklyn.
In an interview with Billboard, Rodriguez said that before writing her album, she felt that she’d hid her words “behind textures” and had failed to put herself out there or make herself vulnerable. But, she told Vice, “…when I mixed this record I needed to hear every word. The lyrics are my story and I needed my story to be heard.” She hopes that her music will connect with people.
Now for some song recs from Me: “How Do You Do It,” “Need Myself,” and “Kitty Kat”—which references catcalling—are all highlights. Although it’s not on the album, you should also check out her single “Woman is a Word.”
And where did the name “Empress Of” come from? The story floats through the many internet bios of Rodriguez: she was doing tarot cards for fun with a friend, and the “empress” card was the first to come up.