Mark My Words: María Isabel Is the Sound and Style Icon of the Summer

Interview with Latina R&B singer, Maria Isabel

Photo:

Courtesy of Driely S.

There are a few sensations in life that qualify as magical, but the discovery of something new is at the top of that list. Finding rising AAPI fashion brands, new skincare tools, or a new television show to watch is exciting, but we'd be lying if we said that anything held a candle to shuffling through Spotify to find a new musician, especially when that musician is rising Latina R&B singer María Isabel. 

The Dominican American singer's sound is the type of music to put on in the background while driving to the beach or when all of the windows at home are open while you're cleaning out your closet. Fusing guitar with electric elements, her sound goes from soulful breakup melodies encapsulated in songs like "Distance" to pop-inspired self-love anthems like "Buy Your Own Flowers." The result is an artist who explores everything from relationships to mental health through the magic of music. Isabel's debut EP, Stuck in the Sky, has been propelling her into the spotlight, but the first time I spotted her, I couldn't stop thinking about her style. 

Fusing risqué trends with vintage pieces, Isabel's eclectic sense of style is similar to her music: It takes the best elements of everything and melds them together for something completely new. As an artist, Isabel is a treasure trove of inspiration, but you don't have to take my word for it. I spoke with her about everything from her love for shopping on Depop to the musicians who inspire her. Keep reading to meet the singer behind our new summer anthem.

Interview with Latina R&B singer, Maria Isabel

Photo:

Courtesy of Driely S.

When creating music, where do you draw inspiration from?

Everywhere. I'm just writing about my life as it happens to me. 

Is there a song you've written that encapsulates your sound and who you are as an artist? If so, what is it, and why? 

I think that's hard to say; I don't know that I can choose just one. I think that'd be unfair to me as an artist who wants to try so many things. But I feel that whatever project I drop at the time will sum it up pretty genuinely in every phase of my career.

What has been a monumental moment in your career thus far? 

Recently, my Colors performance with Burberry dropping and my first festival appearance announcement all in one week. The past year of my career has been incredible, but it's so satisfying to have performances lined up again (fingers crossed). 

Interview with Latina R&B singer, Maria Isabel

Photo:

Courtesy of Driely S.

What role does your Latinx heritage play in your approach to music?  

It's the whole thing. Every song is entirely me. I wouldn't put it out or perform it if it wasn't. I'm not willing to give up who I am for any definition of success, and I feel it works because I'm being myself.

I love that your music not only fuses genres but also is multilingual. When you're writing a song, how do you decide how you're going to perform it? Do you know the moment you start writing whether the melody will be in Spanish, or do you just write and then decide after how you intend to sing it? 

I think that happens naturally. Of course, you can always go back with perhaps a bit more intention, but I think performance is just a result of the message. Some things just feel like they need to be said in Spanish for me. It also depends a lot on the track under it and what feels right. My brain is in Spanglish, though, so it's only natural that it comes out in my music.

How does it feel to have finished your debut EP, Stuck in the Sky? What inspired it? 

It feels incredible to have finished my first EP. The inspiration for most of it was a long-distance relationship I was in at the time. I was just writing about what I was going through in real time, and by the end of it, I had a project in my hands.

Interview with Latina R&B singer, Maria Isabel

Photo:

Courtesy of Driely S.

You've just released the single "No Soy Para Ti." Can you tell us how that song was written?

"No Soy Para Ti" came together pretty quickly. I got to the studio with a few lines written, and it just flowed on from there. I think at the time—and still now—I was experiencing a lot of growth within myself from all of the time alone I, like everybody else, had had to spend in the past few months. So much changed for me, and for the first time, I had to learn how to rely on myself. It wasn't easy, but some beautiful lessons came out of it and one of my new favorite songs I've ever written.

What do you hope people take away from your music? 

I hope they can take away that they're never alone in whatever they're going through. All I ever want to do is be honest and vulnerable and make my listeners feel less alone.

Interview with Latina R&B singer, Maria Isabel

Photo:

Courtesy of Driely S.

What is one song you’re playing on repeat this summer? 

"Me Valdrá La Pena" by Sen Senra. It's a beautiful song, but the lyrics break my heart more and more with every listen in the best way. 

You're on a deserted island. What three albums do you have? 

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Diary by Alicia Keys, and We Broke the Rules by Aventura.  

Who are the artists who influence you? 

Mariah Carey, Sade, Alicia Keys, D'Angelo, and Lauryn Hill.

Interview with Latina R&B singer, Maria Isabel

Photo:

Courtesy of Driely S.

What role does fashion play in your life?

A massive one. It's my favorite form of expression, second only to music. I love being able to communicate what I love and how I'm feeling through an outfit. 

How has your personal style evolved since quarantine?

Going through a period of so much time inside has made me want to take more risks as things start opening back up. I used to buy an outfit I loved and then let it sit in my closet for months while I waited for the "perfect occasion" to debut it, and I never feel that way anymore. Now, I find my dream outfit, and I'll wear it to the grocery store on Monday and then to the studio on Tuesday. Life is short; wear what you want. Be happy.

What's one trend you're excited to wear this summer, and what's one new item you'll be shopping for this summer? 

I'm so glad the G-string with low-rise pants is back. That might have been my favorite Y2K trend that I distinctly remember wanting to copy after watching that one Degrassi episode where Manny comes into school with her thong above her jeans, but I must've been about 7 years old, so I had to hold off. But now, I'll be buying low-rise bottoms for sure.

Interview with Latina R&B singer, Maria Isabel

Photo:

Courtesy of Driely S.

What do you love about shopping secondhand? 

I love the idea of a piece of clothing getting a second, third, or fourth life. A dope pair of pants can serve their purpose for one person and then for another—what a beautiful thing. 

What do you love about shopping for secondhand pieces on Depop, and what's your tip for unearthing gems on the platform? 

I love finding deals on things that I usually wouldn't be able to afford and just knowing that something has a past story and that I get to give it a new one. It's like the world gets to trade clothes, so they can get new homes even when we're over our wardrobes. Patience is vital; I spend so much time on the app. But it also helps to know exactly what you're on the hunt for.

Can you share some of your favorite Depop resellers?

I love @hichristian; she makes my '90s dreams come true. 

I love Bambina Vintage; they curate the vintage bathing suits of my dreams.

And I love @kateeerin because they have so much good vintage but also cute handmade jewelry.

What's one secondhand shopping tip you swear by? 

Show up early and take your time. You rarely get lucky skimming through racks for five minutes at a time. Be prepared to hunt when you go secondhand shopping. It usually pays off.

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