Mexican-American artist & activist Alma Grace released her debut EP ‘FRIDA’ on May 5th. The 4-song EP includes Grace’s recent singles, “Girl Fight” and “Aventura,” as well as two brand new tracks, “Relámpago” and “Aztlán.” As the name suggests, the EP pays homage to Frida Kahlo. Grace has always felt drawn to Kahlo and the way in which she redefined beauty standards and broke down the boundaries placed on gender, race, and sexuality. The EP explores the ways in which Kahlo’s legacy has helped shape Grace, a second-generation Mexican immigrant, into the woman and artist she is today.
Throughout the EP, Grace pays homage to her bicultural upbringing by weaving English and Spanish lyricism with traditional Latin sounds and modern pop melodies. Her narrative-driven lyricism is enchanting; each song delivers dual stories that tie back to both Kahlo and Grace’s lives. “Aventura” is an ode to adventure and affairs, something that Grace has always admired in Kahlo’s rich life. “Girl Fight” is a queer, feminist anthem that was inspired by Grace’s favorite Kahlo story: after her husband, Diego Rivera cheated on her, she had an affair with the same woman. “Aztlan” is about the mythical homeland of the Aztec people and pays homage to both Grace and Kahlo’s ancestors. Lastly, “Relámpago” is all about coping with pain — the physical pain Kahlo suffered due to her near-fatal bus accident and the emotional trauma Grace dealt with after being sexually assaulted.
O: How did you get your start in music?
Alma Grace: I started off doing musical theater at a very young age after seeing my god sister perform on Broadway. I always knew I wanted to be a performer and at the age of 16, I started writing my own songs. I was actually on the subway when I met Clive Davis professor Nisha Asnani who offered to mentor me. I haven’t stopped writing since then!
O: Is there an artist that you look up to, whether it be someone who motivated you to begin your music career or someone whose work inspires you today?
A: I really look up to Ashe. Her songwriting is so honest and I can only hope that my songs have an ounce of the truth that she brings to the table.
O: If you had to describe your work in three words, what would they be and why?
A: Lyrical, empowering, and personal. I’ve been writing from a very early age and draw a lot of my inspiration from works of poetry and fiction, so my songs are very lyrical and narrative-based. I aim to create songs that have meaning beyond my own life, and that serve to empower others—it’s about making my fans feel seen. I consider myself a songwriter first, and all of my songs come from personal experience—I journal every day and get a lot of inspiration from everyday phrases, events, and observations.
O: What is your favorite part of the creative process?
A: I love the feeling of being drawn to my piano. Whether it’s because I’ve had a particularly tough day or just an exciting idea, the work I create when I “need” to write is always exciting and meaningful. My favorite part of the process is in that brain dump, that release of writing by myself.
O: Do you remember the first song you wrote?
A: I actually do! When I was about 7 or 8 years old I really wanted a phone so I wrote in my diary the lyrics to a song called “Where The Heck Is My Phone” — I found the diary years later and I can still remember how the melody went too!
O: If you only had one sentence to pitch “FRIDA,” what would it be?
A: The EP pays homage to Frida Kahlo, an artist who shaped my identity, while also telling my own coming of age story as a musician and person.
O: Your work focuses a lot on beauty standards and the boxes of gender, race, and sexuality. Why do you think it’s so important to break from the status quo?
A: Representation is important and it’s vital to tell stories that don’t just traditionally fit the mainstream pop narrative. I’m telling the story of my own life, and I happen to come from a very mixed, multicultural background. If I can help others feel seen and heard by telling my own story, it will all be worth it. If my music can encourage people through hard times or help them celebrate the accomplishments and love in their lives, that’s all I can ever ask for.
O: How much has your identity as a second-gen immigrant influenced your work?
A: I think that my identity as a second-generation immigrant has played a large role in my sound. My whole Mexican-American family is very musically talented — my uncles always played boleros on the guitar at family gatherings and have even written their own traditional canciones. I grew up speaking Spanish and English and my lyrical vernacular is very influenced by that bilingual identity. I love mixing languages in my music. I also include traditional Latin sonic elements in the production of my songs, from the guitars to the trunk-rattling 808s. Since I grew up primarily in the US, I also draw heavily on the indie-pop genre and the American influences I grew up listening to.
O: You constantly immerse your wonderful energy into creating music that helps other people know that they aren’t alone in the challenges they face. Do you have any advice for new artists who are earlier in their creative careers about persevering through hardship?
A: I’d say my best advice is to lean on the people around you. Even just receiving texts from my best friends’ families who listen to my music has encouraged me and helped me persevere—it takes a village and you shouldn’t have to go through this journey alone.
O: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced on your creative journey?
A: Probably balancing school with furthering my music career. I’m currently a student at Yale and it can be hard to manage classes with performances, releases, and being consistent with my songwriting. But, ultimately, I feel as if my academic journey has added so much to my art, and I know that I wouldn’t be the musician I am today without that educational background.
O: What are you most looking forward to after the release of your debut EP?
A: I’m looking forward to everyone listening to it! It makes me so happy when people send me messages about how the EP has made them feel and which tracks they enjoy the most. I’m also excited to put out the music videos that I’ll be filming this summer!
O: Do you have any upcoming projects that we should look out for?
A: Yes! I have a fun college breakup song that should be coming out in the next few months. It was a collaboration with an incredible producer, Ronnie DiSimone, and I’m so happy with how it’s turned out.
Thank you so much to Alma for sharing her heart with THE LAB! ❤ If you want to keep up on all things Alma, check out her website and social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter). You can listen to her tunes on Spotify.