The Marías: Never Lose That Feeling
The velvet-voiced lead singer on how her diverse tastes and love of Latin music inspired her path toward becoming the eponymous founder of The Marías.
As frontwoman of The Marías, the rising Los Angeles quintet, María pulls cues from a proverbial jukebox that spans multiple genres, decades, and languages. The group’s hazy, loungey sound—part rock, part dream pop, part psychedelic-soul—is an amalgamation of the musical tastes and influences of the band’s founders, and romantic couple, María and producer/drummer Josh Conway. For his part, Conway grew up on a healthy diet of early rock—à la The Beatles and The Beach Boys—and psychedelic rock, among other sounds.
María, on the other hand, brings the international flair: Born in Puerto Rico, reared in Atlanta, and currently based in Los Angeles, the singer first discovered her passion for music in her childhood days. Walkman in hand and lo-fi headphones over her ears, she spent hours getting lost in the music of Latin pop icons like Laura Pausini and Alejandro Sanz.
Her early tastes would eventually evolve to encompass the wider spectrum of Latin and non-Latin pop music. Her older cousins in Puerto Rico schooled her in reggaeton, while her direct family filled the house with everything from hip-hop beats to Mexican ballads, opera, salsa, merengue, and Mariah Carey.
That multicultural, multilingual gumbo is what fuels The Marías’ own wide-spanning, vintage-influenced sound today. Writing songs in both English and Spanish, their diverse style is a reflection of the vast influences that have come to define their story thus far.
How did you first discover your passion for music?
My first memory of being passionate about music was actually a Latin artist. I must have been three or four. We were in Spain visiting my dad’s family, and he got me a Laura Pausini tape and a little Walkman. I was watching some home videos yesterday, and almost throughout the entire thing, I had that Walkman on.
When I listened to the music, I would always just feel something, even when I was little. I also remember Alejandro Sanz’s “Corazón Partío”; my dad was obsessed with that song. I remember really loving it because it made me feel so warm. I get a really strong feeling in my chest and in the pit of my stomach when there’s a song I really like. I remember having that feeling when I was little, which is why I really liked Laura Pausini and Alejandro Sanz and other artists that my dad really liked, and not, like, children’s music. I didn’t really feel anything listening to kids’ music. So I embraced all the music that my parents were listening to.
“I was like, ‘You know what? I think this is my calling.’ Then I dropped out of college almost into my second year and moved to Los Angeles.”
But I never really thought that music could be a career. My mom is a teacher, so she always told my brother and I, “You have to go to school, you have to go to college, you have to graduate.” [We had to be] a little bit more by-the-book, because she is an immigrant parent—both of my parents are—so they really wanted us to graduate and to live what they thought was the American dream.
Music was never something that I thought could be a career, until I started writing my own songs and playing them for my friends and then playing them at venues and sort of getting a good response. And I was like, “You know what? I think this is my calling.” Then I dropped out of college almost into my second year and moved to Los Angeles.
How did you make your love of music a professional reality?
Packing up everything in my car and driving out to LA was when I was like, “Okay, this is what I’m dedicating my life to.” Before that, I was still going to school, I was working a full-time job, and also doing music. But it wasn’t until I left everything that I knew back home and came to LA that I was like, “I really got to work hard and try to make this happen, because I’m moving away from my family and all of my friends and everything that I know for this, so I’m going to give it everything.”
Some of your first memories were of Latin artists. How did you discover other Latin music growing up and expand that interest over time?
My parents listen to a lot of Latin music, and every time we would visit Puerto Rico, we would always go into the malls where they sold CDs and ask for recommendations. We would go home with, like, fifteen CDs, and that was all we listened to. I also grew up having a lot of Latin friends from all over: Guatemala, Colombia, Mexico, Argentina. We would introduce each other to music that we were into.
Latin music has always been a strong part of who I am—and also non-Latin music. I grew up bicultural and bilingual, so I listened to both. I grew up in a small town in Georgia. I remember on one mixtape that we made, there was a reggaeton song, followed by a country song, followed by an Erykah Badu song, or like a Bee Gees song. It was super diverse, all of the influences that I was surrounded by. It was just all sorts of things flying around.
You knew what you wanted to do at a young age—how have you kept that dedication to music and to your art thriving?
I don’t think it’s a conscious thing. I was just always passionate about music and discovering new artists and learning new songs. I think it was always an interest of mine and not something that I proactively tried to find. But it doesn’t take much to continue the passion, because it’s just there.
What are some words of wisdom for young artists who hope to continue to pursue their dreams, especially when things are tough?
Work hard every day, because hard work definitely pays off. Do something every day for your music and for your career. Just do you and do things that inspire you, [whether that’s] going to the movie theater, or going out on a walk, or writing lyrics, or whatever it is. Just continue to do it without worrying about what’s going to happen with it or what it’s going to become or what you want it to become. Just do it for the love of it, without any expectations; I think that’s when the best things happen. Your hard work will pay off.
And stay true to who you are. I think a lot of artists want to do whatever’s working, and that’s not the way to go about doing it. If one day people like it or people gravitate toward it, then great. If not, at least you’ve maintained your integrity. FL
This article appears in FLOOD’s Passion Issue, powered by Toyota Corolla. Click to read or download the full issue below.