In our second Keylime Interview, Spanish electro-pop/R&B singer ROJAZ sat down with our team to discuss her new single 'Tension'. With her debut track 'Stuck on my Mind' already making waves on social media, ROJAZ chatted about her heritage, the dominance of reguetón, and plans for her upcoming EP.
"Someone messaged me yesterday and said ‘loving the hustle’, and I went, it’s not hustle it’s housekeeping! Because you have to do it, you know?"
There is something intensely refreshing about hearing ROJAZ discuss the difficult task of self-promotion. Her very name, itself a portmanteau of the names of the two sides of her family, Rojas and Gomez, highlights that her 'act' is very much herself, and as such she has no qualms with doing the legwork that befalls the life of a solo musician. This straightforward approach has led her to significant success even at this early stage of her career, with her debut single 'Stuck on my Mind' reaching over 75,000 streams since its release only 5 months ago. Looking to follow up this recent effort with further singles before the release of her upcoming EP, ROJAZ is now reaching the limit of individual exploit. She is at a self-confessed 'crossroads', wanting to expand beyond her voice and guitar, and eager to incorporate more Spanish 'flavors' without departing too much from her sound that has led to her initial breakthrough.
Though, as 'Stuck on my Mind' proves, she has already been expanding for some time. Written as an 'emotional release', or more precisely as she describes, her 'reflecting about some drama in her life at 1am before going to the piano', the song is notably personal both in its conception and emotional engagement. Following these initial attempts, she made a rough demo that she then took to production duo AfterParty, and the song began to evolve into the fully-fledged track that it is now. But despite these fruitful collaborations, she is nonetheless a 'one-man band' at the moment, an issue that she encounters in live performance. In her words, 'everything I write starts acoustic, but where I take it [now] is a lot more experimental'. As her tastes and production techniques develop, the difference between her live sound and recorded sound grows. Realizing this disparity, she then uses a Tileyard Live Room Sessions performance as an opportunity to showcase her versatility, not only stripping back the textures, but incorporating new ones in the form of live violin and synths, coupled with looping and various electronic features. This combination of live instruments and electronic production seems to be the direction her music is heading in, and incorporating her producer into her live set is her current goal.
This new form of performance also brings in another of her passions as she looks to create a show 'beyond just an audio experience'. A keen dancer, ROJAZ speaks with a passion when it comes to this subject, and her new single 'Tension' seems destined to move the crowd, as she envisions herself on stage with five dancers and choreographed routines. It is, in her own words, a 'bop', with its blend of space and suspense in its verses matched by its downbeat-driven choruses punctuated by ROJAZ's soaring, breathy vocals. Although it may occupy a different lane to 'Stuck on my Mind', and might seem a world away from her acoustic performances of that track, both of her singles seem to transmit a certain 'aura' about them, and it is the middle ground between the two tracks that appear to be the direction her debut EP is heading towards. Describing her music as Spanish-flavored, 'Tension' seems to fit the bill, as its syncopated pre-chorus and vocal rolls suggest references to Flamencan melodies. But it is here that ROJAZ feels the pressure of her audience, and of the genre that has dominated perceptions of her nation's musical identity. Whilst she may not intend to, the rhythms that she picks are 'sadly but inevitably influenced by reguetón. She is keen to stress that there is much more to Spanish music than this catchy sub-genre, but despite Spanish music's Arabic heritage and rich history of rock and folk, reguetón seems to be all people know, and all they want. She may herself love reguetón, and will freely 'dance the night away' if it comes on, but she struggles to fathom how people know Bad Bunny, yet forget Rosalia, a key influence she cites in her own artistry. But whilst she concedes that her own music may involve rhythmic allegiance to reguetón, she maintains a distance, aware of the dangers of being typecast, and the pitfalls of musical commercialism.
In many ways, it is this battle between the two sides of her identity that defines her as an artist. As she discusses her use of lyrics, she reveals that her approach differs dramatically when she writes in English and Spanish. Whereas her lyrics in English tend to be conversational, natural and relatable, in Spanish she delves into her more poetic, more passionate side. In her words, what she is trying to do now is find somewhere 'in between', so that her main style is still recognizable. Again, it is all about middle ground; the space between the acoustic and electronic, between isolation and collaboration, and crucially between her two heritages. As ROJAZ continues to grow and mature as an artist, it seems to be this space that she will in time make her own, and for now, we can only wait with excitement for what this will sound like, and with plenty of reason for optimism.
Listen to Stuck on my Mind here: https://open.spotify.com/track/7eWLibnpXx6eYuxDczTULj?si=CMLQyWMSRtiuSoYK2eGLyw
Listen to Tension here: https://open.spotify.com/track/36KXg1oZ5IHUtYqVzRTKtB?si=IAlcTTBkQ6WdYmhf7oNVVw