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Photo credit: Cody Burdette. 
Lulise, the Latina singer-songwriter. Photo credit: Cody Burdette. 

A Q&A with Latina R&B singer-songwriter Lulise

After recently taking the path of a solo artist, Lulise is on a journey of sharing her musical gift while connecting with her Latina heritage.

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While many people move to the “City of Angels” to chase their dreams, some are fortunate enough to already live in the area.

Lulise was born and raised in the suburbs of Los Angeles, and in her words, “always yearned to be a part of the hustle and bustle of all of the dreamers and artists making their dreams happen.”

After a life-long interest in singing led her to being part of the duo, Honey and Jude, in 2016, she recently took the jump towards pursuing a solo career earlier this year.

Her first two singles, “Read My Hips” and “Taken,” are both out now.

Lulise hopped on a call with AL DÍA in July to talk about her singing career, some of her musical influences, her Latina heritage, and much more. 

This interview has been condensed for length and clarity. 

What inspired you to pursue a career as a singer?
Ever since I was a young girl, I had music in my heart. I’ve loved singing. I can’t remember a time when I was not singing; I really think I was singing before I could talk. I started taking voice lessons when I was 11 years old, and my voice teacher introduced me to a lot of music that I hadn’t listened to before, like R&B and jazz and rock... and my mind opened up musically. I became so obsessed with singing. It was my voice teacher who really sparked the inspiration because she was feeding me so much music that it inspired me... I was like, “Yes, I know this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.
 
Can you talk about your Latina heritage?
So, my last name is Gutierrez. My dad’s mother was first generation, American-born from Spain. And his father was from Mexico.
 
Are you bilingual?
That’s basically my goal this year. I am not bilingual. My father’s parents were of the generation that didn’t want to teach their kids Spanish so that they wouldn’t get behind in school and [so] there was no discrimination against them. Once I was born — the grandchildren generation was born — my grandparents regretted not teaching us Spanish. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve realized how much I want to find that part because I’ve always identified with my Latin roots — with the music, with the culture and the food, and the dancing and everything.
I sing in Spanish perfectly and the more that I’ve sung in Spanish, the more that I’ve wanted to speak it. So, I’m slowly but surely learning to be bilingual because I think that’s one of the most amazing things to be as a human, to speak more than one language — it just opens you up to a whole new world.
 
Have you ever been to Spain or Mexico?
I haven’t [ever traveled to Spain]. That is definitely on the list to go to next, but I have been to Bogotá, Colombia, which is where my manager is from. And when I went there, I fell in love with the country and the people and the language and the food and the music and everything. I want to go back to any Latin American country that I can — Latin American, or Spain, or anywhere.
 
How would you describe your musical style?
I like to describe my musical style as a classic R&B flair with new school pop melodies. So, R&B grooves and feels and baselines and chord progressions, but with lyrics and melodies and hooks that you can sing back immediately.
 
Who are some of your favorite musical artists, and how have they influenced your music?
Freddie Mercury is a big influence. Also Bruno Mars, and Stevie Wonder, and Chaka Khan. And a more recent artist like H.E.R. And what I love about them is they were all such amazing songwriters, as well as singers. So, they didn’t only sing amazing or write amazing, but they were both. And so, I really try to emulate that in my artistry of having something to say and saying it really well, as in singing it really well.
 
The Los Angeles-born and raised performer uses her musical talents to help her connect with her heritage, as well as her fans. Photo Credit: Cody Burdette. 
 
What was your experience like, performing as part of a duo, and what prompted you to ultimately pursue a solo career?
Honey and Jude was such an amazing experience, because when I was in high school… I wasn’t really in the scene or in the industry at all, and my manager was managing me and this other guy named Matthew Jude. And we would sing at these restaurants a couple nights a month, for hours, singing covers. Like I would sing a set by myself, and he would sing a set by himself, and then we would sing a set together. And people loved the set that we would sing together. And so, when I got out of high school, I was like, “Ok, it’s time to start my career, let’s get going.” It was kind of a natural thing to fall into because we had been singing together so much that we had created this duo called ‘Honey and Jude.’ And it was such an amazing experience because that was the first playing ground where I got to write songs and work with producers and choreograph for our shows and play with a live band and play my own instruments. It was basically like a bootcamp workshop of how to be an artist. … it was such an amazing experience because I got to learn really what it takes to be an artist … I loved every minute of being in ‘Honey and Jude’ because it was never a dull moment, we always got to do so much fun stuff. And just towards the end of ‘Honey and Jude,’ I was finishing college and I said to myself, “You know, I want to be an artist, but I also want to be a songwriter,” so I just started writing songs, literally everyday, and during that process, I came out with a handful of songs that I really believed in and I really wanted to do something with. And they didn’t so much fit ‘Honey and Jude,’ but it was kind of like I discovered my own voice through my pen as a songwriter, and I asked my partner, Matthew Jude, if I could take a chance and do a solo thing because I have so much material, and he was so supportive of me. And so, it was really the songwriting and the songs that ultimately pushed me over the edge to want to try this on my own.
 
What is your favorite thing about performing in front of an audience?
Definitely my favorite part of performing is when I treat the audience with a little part of one of my songs and they sing it back to me. Like, they don’t know my songs by heart yet — yet, because I’m getting there — but whenever I [do that], they have so much fun and then they’d tell me afterwards how much they love this song and singing along. I love making the audience part of the performance because it makes it way more fun for me and more fun for them.
 
Where do you (hope to) see yourself in five years?
I hope to see myself in five years touring the world... being a household name, people knowing my songs. Like being able to travel to different countries, doing concerts of my own, headlining tours. I also hope to get into acting, as well. I have really big dreams and the next five years are going to be full of grinding and making that happen. You know, I look at people like Ariana Grande or Camila Cabello, and I really want to be a superstar like them.
 
How do you think living in Los Angeles can help with that?
I think it really does [help me] because for example the producer for [my first single] — I didn’t know him, but I researched these artists that I liked. I looked up who produced my favorite song. His name was Pretty Sister, and my manager reached out to him. He lived in Los Angeles, and so did I. So, it was really easy to connect who somebody who I think has really brought my career to the next level. So, that definitely has helped me.
Acting-wise, it helps because a lot of films and TV shows are filmed here. And especially music-wise, the Hollywood scene for performing live is so accessible for new artists. I definitely think I am very fortunate and grateful to have been born in this place and be so close to the industry that I’m trying to break into.
 
What advice would you give to other Latinas who may want to pursue a career in singing, or other areas of the entertainment world?
I would say to be 100 percent true to yourself. I don’t look Latina at all, but like I said, in my heart, in my blood, I identify with Latin culture more than anyone. It really is who I am. And I think the closer that I have gotten to that — who I am; embracing my Latin culture, singing in Spanish. Outside of the music, I record, being free with my body and my hips, and being confident and … just embracing that part of me — has helped me in so many other ways. So, I think being true to yourself, being true to your roots — if that’s who you really connect with — then don’t be afraid of that holding you back at all. Because for me, it has done nothing but liberate me, which I think Latinos are. They’re very free, they’re very passionate, they’re very outspoken, they’re very loud. And I think those are all the things that have made me stand out for who I am, more than hold me back.
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