Empress Of

This is the first album I’ve ever made! I wrote, recorded and produced everything on Me. When I started making this record, I didn't know how to make one. I found myself writing down little lists every day of everything I had to get done on the tracks. Now that I think back, it’s funny making lists for things that are essentially a track list of the album. I wanna go through the last list.



There are books that tell you how to do things, or at least how other people did things at some point. There are people who have been around longer than you, who will maybe give you their story, which you will probably not swallow whole but you will want to believe, because advice is a kind of security blanket. But studying up is not enough. Even if you read the directions, Ikea has taught us, if nothing else, that we are each our own special blend of phobia and affectation and misinformation and implausibility. Not only will you not know how to do it until you do it, you will not know how you do it until you do it.

To make an album, especially an album called Me, is to take your heart from your body and hold it out in front of you and close your eyes and hope for the best. It is to deny yourself the force field of protocol and the shelter of anonymity. It is to visibly, loudly, nakedly reach, which is really frowned upon at the moment, for a clusterfuck of conflicting reasons. It is to notarize your singularity.

"I want to do it," says Lorely Rodriguez. "I'm scared to do it." We were talking about the first song on Me, called "Everything Is You." And she was talking about how that one had entered the world, her pride in it and herself legible in the way she's throwing her hands at the keys and the wistful shade in her tone when she compares the song in its caterpillar stage to the sharp-dressed version released for sale.

Everywhere on the album she is startling, talking to herself like it's just you and me. I look at her notebook pages, and her emails and photos and the piece of paper where she wrote the lyrics for "Water Water" and then later the number for Con Edison by accident and then another list of things to do, upside down on purpose, I think, and I'm paralyzed by how much had to be compiled and justified and checked off, files managed, transferred, mixed down, and I see off in the distance just beyond my field of vision a parallel universe in which the album doesn't get done, the resolve corroded somewhere along the way, something's overlooked, fate intervenes, the ship goes down. But it didn't, because she's the ship.

"All I want to be is you," she sings. "Everything I do is because of you." I haven't been able to explain to any man I know how radical "Everything Is You" is, or how overwhelming it is to listen and remember how terrified I was at eight and thirteen and 22 and last year and wish more than anything in the world that I could go back and hug her and just say I see you, out here, regardless. "Being scared to do it isn't reason enough not to do it," says Lorely. She did it anyway, and now she wants to make thousands more albums, of her own, and for other musicians, because now she's one of the ones who knows how it's done. —Frannie Kelley

We asked Lorely Rodriguez if she had any early voice memos of the songs on her debut full-length, and she did have one, just one, the only song where she began what she calls "the initial feels" on an instrument other than her laptop. It's the opening track on her album, called "Everything Is You." She started on it right after she signed her recording contract, when she was living in an apartment in Brooklyn that also housed a dilapidated piano. We talked about how and why the song changed over the course of the nine months she labored over it, her love of errors and how she makes fear work for her.


“Water water is for washing, vino tinto is for drinking.” I wrote it down furiously on New Years Eve, literally thirsty because I had forgotten to buy water from the nearest village, a 20-minute walk away. I was alone on a writing retreat in Mexico. I had never been alone on a holiday before. I remember going out to the dock of the lake and blowing up illegal fireworks into the water and thinking “I can’t believe I’m doing this right now.”

While in Mexico, I would pass families on the side of the road selling firewood for pennies when a couple of weeks ago I was in NY buying $4 coffee. I put myself in their shoes. “I’ve been living below the standard with a hunger that feeds the fire.”




This song is some of my favorite production I’ve done yet. Some days I couldn't come up with any song ideas so I just worked on making beats. I would put a house or disco track into Logic and copy the groove phrase for phrase. This beat started out of this learning process. I remember when I came up with that synth melody in the chorus, I thought I won the lottery. I was soooooo fucking happy!


This is the last song I finished on the record. Knowing when to stop working on this record was probably the hardest thing about making it. Working alone, no one is telling you what’s good enough or what’s finished. That decision was hard to make on my own because I felt like I could keep working on these songs forrrrreeeeever.

I remember a stranger saying something nasty to me on the street while walking home. I was so mad but I couldn't say anything back at that moment. What would be the point? When I got back I started to work on this aggressive sound on a track. As soon as I turned the mic on to record, I started to sing what I wanted to say to that guy on the street, but now I get to sing it every night in front of a crowd.


This is the first song I wrote in Mexico. I was trying to deal with being alone for the month. I turned the mic on and started to sing almost like a meditation: “I just need myself to love myself.” Over and over again over this beat I had made minutes before.


This record is a lot about confronting insecurities. I don’t really consider myself sexy, actually I think I’m a bit awkward sometimes! I wanted to write a song out of my comfort zone. Someone told me once that I was pretty when I wake up so I wrote a song about it.


When I first wrote this song in Mexico, it was the third week being alone and I was terrified. I started sleeping with a machete under the pillow next to me! I hadn’t talked to anyone really in like 3 weeks and started imaging people coming to rob me at night. I sat in bed and started to record a song about being scared, “On the brink of losing my voice, I just want to make a sound.”



I had been taking tons of adderall to finish the album and couldn’t sleep one night. After editing tracks for 10 hours I opened a new session, something I hadn’t done in a while, and started to write this song. I usually write songs about things I’m doing literally at that moment so what was I doing at 3 am? “If I wasn’t awake I’d be dreaming. I took too many pills to be sleeping.” I knew the minute I wrote this song it was gonna be the album closer! I had been working on this record for almost a year and no one knew or could give a damn. “I’m just in a room with the lights on and there's no one who knows I’m their icon.”