By Jess Goulart
Photos by Jeffery Salter, courtesy of Art House Records.
Miami-based singer-songwriter and rising star Brika melts and belts on her first full-length release, Voice Memos, which dropped in December from Art House Records.
Since her breakthrough track, “Expectations,” Brika has been on everyone’s radar as an irresistible talent with an eclectic style. Brika worked on the album for three years with Julio Reyes, a Grammy and Latin Grammy-winning artist, producer, and composer. During that time, Brika and Reyes workshopped all 14 tracks on Voice Memos. Rather than detracting from her sultry vocals, the album’s minimalist production sharpens them to a raw edge for a dark yet dazzling honesty that is soulfully simple.
BreakThru Radio caught up with Brika to learn how she met Reyes and what inspired the name of the album.
BreakThru Radio (BTR): Let’s start with your background as a musician.
Brika (B): I’ve lived in Miami my whole life and always sang, like, since I was a baby, honestly. Eventually that turned into trying to play the piano and writing my own songs. Then years later, by luck, I met Julio [Reyes] and got to make my dreams come true.
BTR: For your album, Voice Memos, you and Julio did a lot of collaborations via phone and voicemail. Is that what inspired the title?
B: No, actually. I wanted it to be named after the origin of where some of the songs came from. Basically, when I was little I would write songs in little notebooks and pieces of paper and stuff like that. When I grew up and got to have a cell phone, I would record all my songs and melodies that I would come up with on my voice memos. Eventually that became the way that, when I made songs, I would show them to Julio.
I thought it would be cool if on the album there are voice memos so people get the same experience I got, which was seeing how the voice memo turned into a real song.
BTR: Tell me more about that writing process? Is it always melody first?
B: It really varies, sometimes I’ll have something I want to jot down and that becomes a lyric. Or I’ll come up with something like a melody while driving or home. Or even sometimes here in the studio, Julio will be like “write something!” So I’ll go to the piano and maybe something will come out there.
BTR: What was the recording process like for Voice Memos?
B: Oh my gosh, it was awesome. I mean, the recording process is just Julio will record a rough draft with the piano and then we’ll go from there and pick out the kind of sound the song deserves. Or I’ll show him a voice memo and, again, we’ll record a rough draft and build from there.
BTR: On Voice Memos you have a few tracks with a date instead of a title, is that the date they were originally recorded?
B: Yeah exactly. That’s actually the way they were named on my phone, because it saves the voice memo by date unless you give it a title.
BTR: We have to ask, could you tell us about “3.7.12?”
B: [Laughs] That was actually me and my ex-boyfriend just playing around. A lot of the songs were about him, because the album is about things that I was experiencing while being in a long-term relationship, so I thought including it would be… honest and real. It was something that was on my phone and it would be cool for people to see that side and really get to know me in that way.
BTR: We love it! And we really love the song “Gold.” Can you tell us about it?
B: That one, Julio came up with the chord progression and the background and I came up with the melody. He was really inspired that day and started playing on the organ and said “what do you think about this?” and I started singing a melody and it just came together. We went in the studio and developed it!
BTR: How did you and Julio first meet?
B: Oh! The funny thing about that is Julio is actually that same ex-boyfriend’s father. So I was with his son for a year and his son one day told Julio “hey, I think she can sing!” I was never really open about singing to anybody, and so Julio was like “really?!”
One day we were having dinner and Julio said “so what do you wanna be?” and I said, “oh I’ll probably be an attorney or maybe a psychologist, I don’t really know.” He said, “when am I gonna hear you sing?” and I said, “never! That’s actually never gonna happen.” Then my boyfriend, like, physically dragged me down the stairs and took me to their in-home studio and I was kind of forced to play a song that I made up and… that was that!
BTR: Well we’re glad he dragged you down the stairs. So what’s coming down the pipeline?
B: Right now I’ve been rehearsing for shows that we’re going to probably get to doing! I’ve been practicing and rehearsing here at Art House and putting together what it will be like live!