Up Next is a FIERCE series highlighting rising Latina and Latin American women artists you might not know about but definitely should.
R&B, that soulful good-good that many of us grew up on, is making a come back, and Latina singers are a part of the resurgence. Case in point: Ginette Claudette.
The honey-voiced dominicana, inspired equal parts by Latina stars like Selena, vocal divas like Whitney Houston and R&B princesses like Aaliyah, has been making sweet R&B since she was a kid. In 2010, when the artist was just a teen, she even landed a deal with Universal Motown. But navigating the music industry, especially as a young woman of color, isn’t easy, and four years ago, the striving singer-songwriter decided to take a break and work on herself, returning home to New York to do some mental-clearing and soul-searching.
“I just felt mentally exhausted. At that point, I was years and years into the grind, and I just needed to get re-inspired. I moved back to the East Coast and started making music at home. I started opening up more not only to myself, but in the music,” the Washington Heights-born, Los Angeles-living Ginette told FIERCE.
In 2018, after getting the rest, inspiration and creativity she needed, the rising star got back to work, releasing her impressive EP On to Something, a gentle, yet bold, project that vulnerably places her emotions at the center and feels like a welcomed return to 00’s New York-style rhythm and blues.
We chatted with the velvety songstress all about her long, and sometimes complicated, journey in music, building bridges through songwriting, navigating relationships, making bilingual R&B and what’s to come for her in 2019.
FIERCE: You come from a music household. Your mother is a vocalist. You yourself started singing at three years old, soon picking up the guitar, and often performed for your family, particularly your late sister and your father, who also passed away. My condolences. Talk to me about your relationship with music growing up and what it did for you as you went through these devastating moments?
Ginette Claudette: Music has always been there to distract me, to take me somewhere without moving. It’s taught me how to cope with anything and everything I’ve ever faced. I’m going to always make it.
FIERCE: When did singing go from being a pastime you enjoyed and found comfort and healing in to something you saw yourself doing professionally?
Ginette Claudette: I knew I wanted to sing forever. I was exposed to music early. At three-years-old, I remember singing with my mom. I was always so interested and connected to it. There’s even this kindergarten project where I remember that we had to draw ourselves as we saw in the future and it was right there … a star! This exists now somewhere in my mom’s closet.
FIERCE: You grew up in a Dominican home in the Heights, which, of course, is straight dominicano y caribe. What sort of music was playing around you and what kind of influence do you think this has had on your R&B style today, if any?
Ginette Claudette: My house was full of eclectic music. My mother sang Latin music and listened to it all day, so I was always exposed to my Latina culture growing up: Selena, Cristian Castro, Juan Gabriel and more. My dad would take me to Tower Records to get karaoke CDs with Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and Celine Dion on them, which taught me all about my divas. My older sister was in her pre-teens and listened to everything cool: TLC, Aaliyah, Brandy, Lauryn Hill. She put me on to all the R&B that’s molded me and my sound today. I fell in love with it. Then coming into my own in the early 2000s with Britney, Backstreet Boys, Christina Aguilera, Nsync, Destiny’s Child, Alicia Keys, J. Lo and the whole Murder Inc. era! R&B was so ill during that time. Honestly, all that makes the pot and more!
FIERCE: Those were definitely some good times, haha! You really came into the music scene in about 2014 with Tainted Emotions, and then took somewhat of a three-year hiatus. Why? What were you doing during this time?
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@livenation @onestowatch ☺️ I’m so happy you guys are enjoying #OTS It started as an EP & then it just evolved, either way, it’s a body of work I am so incredibly proud of & it’s helping me discover shit about myself everyday as I keep on keeping on. Hope it does that for you too. Click the link in my story to read x swipe ????
Ginette Claudette: The year 2014 wasn’t necessarily the start of my career. The first time I walked into a label meeting I was 11, so I’ve kind of been on the journey my whole life. I signed to Universal Motown in 2010 and things didn’t pan out. Tainted Emotions was the project that helped me begin to find myself sonically and emotionally during that time. All my projects serve that purpose and end up being portals for me that help me step into the next. After Tainted Emotions, in 2015, I put out an EP titled All the Way Back that did the same thing for me – it helped me better understand myself, my music and everything in between. After ATWB, I just felt mentally exhausted. At that point, I was years and years into the grind and I just needed to get re-inspired. I moved back to the East Coast from LA and started making music at home. I started opening up more not only to myself, but in the music. It took time, but that’s what led me to On To Something. A clear depiction of where I’m at right this second. It’s always evolving, and I can’t wait for the next chapter. That’s the fun part!
FIERCE: You dropped On To Something, which I’ve really been enjoying, in November 2018. In an interview with SingersRoom, you said that through this album you were able to “unapologetically say what I wanted while disregarding the outside pressures that I’ve faced for so long.” What do you mean by that?
Ginette Claudette: On to Something is such a special project. Some of these songs are just word vomit arranged so beautifully. I, like everybody else, am in my head a lot of the time. I let go of a lot on this project. What I meant in the Singersroom interview was that on this project, I was really writing for me. I was just saying what I felt and letting my thoughts and my feelings take the wheel. I think in doing that I found my sweet spot. At this point, I’m not here to impress anybody. I just want to make my music.
FIERCE: How do you think music allows you to delve into feelings, topics or conversations, whether with yourself or someone else, that might be otherwise difficult?
Ginette Claudette: The music builds a bridge, between me and myself, between me and other people, between me and the world. In the past, I’ve had fears about opening up, and I still do sometimes, but I’ve come to realize that the only way to get through things is to get through them. You can’t suppress or find a way around your feelings. They eventually make their way out. I’m lucky I’ve always been able to dive in heart first into some chords and melody. The fact that people can relate, major bonus.
FIERCE: One theme I picked up on throughout this project was past love. In “True” and “Twisted,” for example, you sing about longing to rekindle things with an ex. I think this is a common dilemma for young women. How do you decipher if a former romance is, as you say on this project, the “Real Thing” or if you’re just falling back into costumbre?
Ginette Claudette: Everything’s like a nostalgic movie to me! Super amplified emotions create the best music. Maybe it’s just a thing with somebody and it’s not that deep, maybe it is because I can’t stop thinking about them. Either way, it made its way out and into the music, so it’s got to mean something. It’s our job to decipher through those things as best we can. You never really know, but I think life’s about taking chances and leading with your heart.
FIERCE: I want to get back to the music. One thing you did on this EP, and you did it in previous projects as well, was drop a Spanish version of one of your songs, in this case “Twisted.” Why do this?
Ginette Claudette: I just like for people who aren’t familiar with me to know where I come from. To know that Latin music, that’s in me, too. It’s not intentional but certain songs like “The Only” and “Twisted,” they came to me in Spanish, too, and I was like, “oh, we’re doing this!” I just go with it.
FIERCE: Kali Uchis and Chilean newcomer Paloma Mami, who we featured last week, have also oscillated between English and Spanish in their music, which still remains pretty rare for R&B, even though I feel a lot of first and second-generation Latinxs are really craving this. Can we expect more of this from you?
Ginette Claudette: I’ll always make it a point to let people know how proud I am to be a Dominican girl for Uptown, New York. It’s a big part of who I am, so yes. I got plans to delve in more into Spanish music, too.
FIERCE: Talking about what’s to come, it’s the start of 2019, a new year, what can we expect from Ginette Claudette?
Ginette Claudette: Now that On To Something is out and I’ve given that part of me to people, I really want to take it a step further and get out there and tour with the music. My favorite thing to do in the end is to sing and connect with people, to make a memory. I’m also excited to jump back into the creative process on the new music. Yes, I’m already working on new music! It never stops. I joke around sometimes, but I think there’s truth to this, music is a blessing and a curse, like loving something/someone that also hurts you. I call it a ball and chain sometimes. The music “industry” is the ball and chain part. The things I’ve had to navigate through as a young woman chasing a dream out here haven’t been easy, but that doesn’t stop my grind. And it gets better and better!
FIERCE: What do you hope people can say of Ginette Claudette in five to ten years?
Ginette Claudette: Five or 10 years from now, I hope that I inspired people to never give up on their dreams, whatever they may be.