Following hardship by seeking out growth and being authentically herself, Chicana singer-songwriter Emma Negrete is not only in her main character era, but has also indulged in a space of ultimate creativity. In the pursuit of a personal journey that connects her to her Mexican roots, the LA-based singer has reimagined her sound with her latest pop-R&B track, “Dreams & Dryspells.” EnVi speaks with her to learn more about her creative headspace, identity, and the road to connecting with her culture.
A New Era
“This is a new project, a totally new era for me,” Emma says about her latest single, “Dreams & Dryspells.” “I’m in such a better place mentally. And I’m just embracing my Latina heritage [more].” She says over a Zoom call on a late November day. She sits outdoors, exuding a humble aura and ready to discuss her latest work.
The R&B track has marked a changing point in Emma’s career — a moment of firsts, one might say. Along with introducing a new sound, reminiscent of the likes of Kali Uchis and Jorja Smith, Emma is now embarking on a journey as an independent artist. “I actually designed them myself,” she reveals about her music video outfits. From top to bottom, the singer dressed herself for the first time, showing off her stylish and unique approach to fashion.
The music video itself features a more present and dazzling Emma. This being her first release in two years, it is a symbol of how much more present she has become in her creative process. “It really gave me some clear direction as to what I wanted to do with music, and how I wanted to present myself, and even be [a voice] for other Latinas in Latin America… I wanted the Latin influence to show in my music a little bit. But also just visually, with braids and [elements] like that.”
The Dryspell and a Dream
Reinventing herself and her sound wasn’t an easy feat — spontaneity, writer’s block, and an expedition would help Emma crack the code to finding her current sound. “I made a rule where I was like, ‘if I can’t dance to it I don’t want to put it out,’” she laughs to herself explaining her inside joke. “The new focus has been just mostly making music that I would personally put on my playlist, that I would just listen to in a car or, you know, that people would just want to make a club remix to.” “Hasta Cuando” by Kali Uchis and “PROVENZA” by Karol G are just some of the songs on her playlist, so it’s safe to assume Emma will be releasing nothing but bangers.
The title “Dreams & Dryspells” reflects a dryspell Emma faced with her music, where she struggled to write songs she enjoyed. “I initially wrote that concept a couple of years ago, and it was when I was getting into this dryspell of not being able to write stuff that I was passionate about. […] I was starting to feel myself coming into this lack of creativity, and that was what was going to separate me from achieving my dreams.” And with that, a writing session and a trip to Chicago would sprinkle some ambition and take her out of this rut. “I just forced myself to do it and put my stuff in rooms with people that I can bounce ideas off of, and we’re going to help each other finish”.
The lyrics and sound of Emma’s newest track follow a dryspell faced within a relationship, allowing the audience to experience the never-ending feeling of going back and forth, lost in a lack of communication. The main line of the chorus “We in a cycle, you say you love me” touches on this. Full of wit, Emma plays on the feeling of being stuck, and almost going insane, by pronouncing the word “cycle” similarly to “psycho.” With the backing of her creative team and taking inspiration for background vocals from stars like Bren Joy, this song proves to be a representation of Emma’s personal and musical journey.
Finding Community Through Culture
Growing up with jazz and opera training, Emma has always had music in her life, and it has allowed her to perform all across the globe, from her hometown of Des Moines, Iowa, all the way to Shenzhen, China. With a range of musical influences including Kali Uchis, Karol G, Victoria Monet, Ariana Grande, and Jorja Smith, the singer has been pushed to new levels in perfecting her craft.
It would be a solo trip to Mexico City that would change the way Emma viewed the world, and most importantly her perspective on herself and her identity. “I definitely think that summer was me practicing just not giving a fuck, like at all,” she smiles brightly, recalling memories. “I just have been super hard on myself […]. That was me being able to let go and just enjoy music again in a way, and [not] do something that is super overly complicated, but just something that has the feel that’s there.”
As a Mexican American, Emma expresses how she found it difficult to feel accepted within her community in the United States, as she struggled with not speaking Spanish fluently, but traveling has allowed her to overcome her insecurity in a new and receptive way. “I honestly just felt so understood in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever felt before because there were no follow-up questions […]. It was so refreshing because there was no judgment or expectation of me being part of one culture more or one culture less than, or being expected to speak a certain language.”
This newfound desire for authenticity shines in Emma’s presence, as she sits on Zoom in an outside environment, rocking a natural look — another point of her growth journey, according to her. “My whole life I’ve always not worn my natural hair. I’ve used a lot of heat on my hair, and now finally I’m wearing braids and not using any heat. Now it’s healthy [and] my hair is growing […]. It’s really wild how my life has actually kind of drastically changed since I stopped using heat on my hair,” she smiles kindly, also wearing braids at the moment. Emma’s free spirit and openness to embracing her roots have allowed her to not only leap into the next phase of her career, but also strive to be a voice for those who have faced similar hardships.
“This is a new project, a totally new era for me. I’m in such a better place mentally. And I’m just embracing my Latina heritage.”
– Emma Negrete
Emma’s powerful authenticity and love for her craft has shone brightly throughout the interview, so her plans to further hone in on her creative space and use it as a place to experiment come as no surprise. “I definitely see where I’ve been right now, being around for a while and just expanding on that and growing it […]. But I definitely think right now is what represents me as a person. So who knows if that’s going to change in the later years? […] This feels like home right now.”
“Singing has been my main instrument my entire life,” she reflects, thinking back on how she got to where she is today. “The biggest piece of advice [I have is]… not over-identifying with your craft… not thinking about it too hard,” she tells EnVi with a smile, ending on a heartwarming note. It’s hard to tell what the future holds for anyone, but for Emma Negrete, it holds passion, genuine connection, and endless possibilities.
Interested in more Latin American creatives? Check out our artist spotlight with singer-songwriter Letón Pé here.