ARTS: Singer/Songwriter Jessica Lisette releases dual language single “Hoy Yo Te Vi” (‘I Saw You Today”) in advance of debut album
Jessica Lisette’s music shifts between languages as easily as it shifts from soulful to humorous to wildly exuberant.
The 21-year old singer/songwriter has released the single Hoy Yo Te Vi (I Saw you Today) ahead of a debut album which will feature her own original songs recorded in Spanish and English. insideHENDERSON spoke with Lisette following this spring’s release of the single and accompanying dual language videos.
iH: How is work progressing on the album?
Lisette: It’s coming along really good. The producer is Adrain Ortega. He was the musical director for (the stage production) Havana Nights. He is super talented and I am so lucky to have found him. He came over from Cuba about seven years ago.
iH: And you are the writer/composer of all the material?
Lisette: Yes, every song on the album was written by me.
iH: Were you formally trained?
Lisette: I’ve been trained formally since I seven years old. I was trained classically, trained in opera. Then I changed. Because when I was about thirteen I got into Latin music. My family is Cuban. Its the kind of music a would listen to and the kind of music I like. But I had to radically change my vocal styling to match what I like.
iH: You seem to draw from various musical traditions.
Lisette: I like to lay different rhythms together. With Hoy Yo Te Vi , it began as more of a Mediterranean romantic feels, then it changes into a cha-cha, a little bit of merengue, with the trumpets. When I write my songs, they start from a feeling. From there, I write the lyrics. And the lyrics take a life of their own and brings a melody to life.
For me, the original idea happens almost instantaneously. But then to cultivate it, to bring it to life, takes a few weeks for me. To get the lyrics and the melody to sound exactly how I want, and then to put it through the arranging is a different story.
iH: I’ve heard that for novelists, writing in Spanish, or the other romantic languages, is a very different experience than writing in English. Is that also true when composing lyrics?
Lisette: It is different. The Spanish language is more flowing, it’s more poetic in a sense. The English language is poetic too, but it’s different. The English words are more staccato. So you have to take that into consideration if you’re going to translate songs.
iH: So one particualr language would more fitting for some songs?
Lisette: Yeah. I write some songs that I know just won’t be able to translated (into English). Because of the rhythm, the lyrics, the style, you know it just won’t translate. And then there are some where you feel like ‘this is a story I can take both ways’.
iH: What about the single, “Hoy Yo Te Vi”?
Lisette: I think it is more fitting in Spanish because of the styling, the music behind it. But it did fit the English as well.
I’m really passionate about my culture and my roots. I think its very important to keep that heritage alive, it’s part of who you are. It helps you see the world differently, and relate to other people differently.
I’m really passionate about my culture and my roots (as a Cuban-American) and I think it’s a shame that a lot of first and second generation Hispanics don’t adhere to that. They don’t know the Spanish language, or they are very weak in it. I think it’s very important to keep that heritage alive, it’s part of who you are. Not only that, it helps you see the world differently, and relate to other people differently. That’s why I wanted to do my music in two languages. Because I want to keep that.
iH: This is your first professionally produced music video?
Lisette: This is my first one. It was an interesting one. We found Just 2 Guys Creative in Las Vegas. They produced the video. I directed – they followed pretty much my lead. We had a lot of fun. We brought in an actor, who was actually Mr. Mexico 2010 (Alvaro Alvarez) We filmed at Lake Las Vegas.. I was (initially) really stressed out, especially since I was directing it, but it turned out to be a great experience.
iH: And you shot it in English and Spanish, shot for shot?
Lisette: Pretty much. They’re a little different. The singing scenes were different, but the story scenes were the same.
iH: Do you have a background in film and acting?
Lisette: I took a lot of theater classes when I was younger and I have always been fascinated by film.
iH: How difficult was it to direct yourself?
Lisette: It was difficult. It took me a few month to plan it all out. I had the story line, which is what inspired the song. Once I had it planned, it went pretty smoothly.
iH: What made you choose Hoy Yo Te Vi as the first single to produce a video for?
Lisette: Because I think it is a story I think anybody can relate to. I’m always seeing somebody’s doppelgänger. And I thought it would make a great song. Especially when you’re falling in love, you kind of feel like you’re losing your mind sometimes, and I thought (the video) would be a great way of showing that.
iH: What is your future ambition?
Lisette: To have my music heard all over the world. That’s my goal. That people can hear a song of mine and say, ‘I identify with that, I relate to that story’. And that they can be touched by my music.
Lisette and her band perform every Wednesday at 8 p.m. at Café El Mundo Cubano (5781 W. Sahara). The local musician’s progress can be tracked at jessicalisette.com, which offers a newsletter on upcoming events and musical releases. | iH magazine