"Music can create this intangible space where everyone belongs -- beyond borders, beyond boundaries, beyond labels -- where we're just people with all of our complicated, beautiful, painful lives, sharing the experience of taking in the music. It's a space of connection. Real connection."
Alisa Amador is a connector. Her upcoming EP, Narratives, is a six-song snapshot in time. It's a deep look at a person stumbling through life in two languages -- English and Spanish -- and in many states of mind about it all. Alisa's crystal-clear vocals are so effortless throughout Narratives that it's almost easy to forget how technically talented she is, until she moves from almost-spoken-word territory to a powerful chorus without hesitation or illustrates a repetitive refrain that's so affecting it feels like you might want to live inside it for a little while.
"The word 'narratives' encompasses not only the existing cultural messages that hurt people individually and collectively," she says, "but also the revolutionary power of writing ourselves new narratives; rejecting a culture of fear; and catalyzing a culture of honesty, bravery and self-love in the process."
Alisa has been learning these lessons since she began performing as a backup singer for her parents' bilingual Latin folk band Sol y Canto at age five. This is where her ease with performing comes from; she and her twin brother grew up touring extensively with their parents' band. Through their high school years, Alisa and her twin were often crammed into a minivan or backstage, loading in and out, and passing time by making styrofoam puppets out of coffee cups and stirrers.
Alisa began playing classical guitar at age 10, inspired by her father, and eventually found the electric guitar a decade later. The new instrument was versatile enough to honor her many influences and styles. "I was 19, and playing it felt like coming home." When listening to Alisa's music, her time spent immersed in Latin folk and jazz is undoubtedly present in her own songs, written in both English and Spanish. But there is also pop, funk, soul, and something uniquely her own. Alisa's specialty is sparking connection, across both listeners and musical styles.
"Some musicians really love recording music, even more than performing," she says. "I feel most at home, and most purposeful, when I am performing live." Working with producer Daniel Radin (The Novel Ideas, Future Teens), Narratives concentrates on the journey of Alisa's live set, taking listeners through songs that may elicit a laugh, bring introspection, offer a cathartic cry or encourage a sing-along. The genre-bending EP is as empowering as it is heart-wrenching. These songs might break your heart open, but by the end, it will be mended, uplifted and stronger.
Album opener "Timing" is a familiar tale of romantic uncertainty, accompanied by an irresistible horn section recorded remotely with all ambient sounds left in the mix. "Slow Down" was a healing exercise, meant to give a name to the chaos of what was happening around Alisa: navigating strained work relationships, an endless to-do list and wishing there were a few more hours in the day to figure it all out.
Intentionally sparse in its arrangement, "Burnt and Broken" examines myriad systems of oppression. "Violence stems from fear, and fear grows from a lack of understanding," Alisa says. "An absence of a conversation around these violences causes such pain." Fellow singer-songwriters Hayley Sabella and Kaiti Jones sing harmonies on the song. "It was as if we were standing among the wreckage, singing with broken hearts and hot anger pulsing through us."
"Alone" is a three-and-a-half-minute dissertation on the importance of committing to self-love with abandon. "After witnessing so many friends deem their worth from their perceived 'desirability' by a predominantly male gaze, and realizing I was thinking that way too, I wrote the thesis statement chorus: 'Alone isn't all that lonesome when you've got some love in store, alone, you'll never be lost if you're the one you're looking for.'"
"Nada que ver" is entirely in Spanish, a love song written when Alisa was tired of writing love songs. "I was tired of having feelings for someone, tired of all the confusion, and very wary of opening myself up to somebody new," she says. "Spanish is the language closest to my heart, and the language of some of my most vulnerable writing. This song is me bargaining with love. Stating clearly what I want and naming my qualms." The minor 2nd at the end of each verse is intentionally at odds with the lyrics, illustrating the tension of wanting to be open but being too jaded to trust.
"Together" wraps up the EP with a salve for the heart, acknowledging the pain and celebrating the revolutionary power of friendship amidst any and all odds. "Perhaps the world will always be breaking," Alisa says. "And, it is our purpose on earth to be putting it back together again, together. If it weren't for the moments of connection in my life, I don't know how I would survive."
Narratives finds Alisa looking at life and this moment in time, searching through lessons for a more just and loving future. She crosses throughout all the genres her work encompasses, with an intention to create a common shared space between herself and those listening, acknowledging the way each of our specific stories fit into something bigger. "If human connection is a prism, this album is lifting it up to the light, and looking at it from many angles."
"These songs are a reflection of the world I am moving through, with all of its joy, its sorrow, its confusion and its rage. Each song is a processing of personal experience, framed within my larger cultural backdrop of New Englander, Latinx, cis-gendered woman, young adult, twin, daughter and so on. I'm just trying to create a space for myself and all my conflicting identities to fit in, and it seems like I'm helping listeners feel the same way in the process."
"Even with all of life's complicated and sometimes painful experiences, I am always going to be searching for reasons to feel hopeful," she continues. "So, consider Narratives a survival kit of sorts -- a 'Life and Love Survival Kit' in the form of a bilingual EP."
NPR | Meet Alisa Amador, the winner of the 2022 Tiny Desk Contest
The Boston Globe | Multilingual Singer-songwriter Who Grew Up Among Wanderers
Washington Post | Alisa Amador takes her moment at the iconic Tiny Desk