IN A TOWN FILLED WITH performers and entertainers, Felice LaZae stands apart from the crowd. With a rich, soulful voice and exotic looks, this talented young musician is already making a name for herself in an extremely competitive industry. She was recently featured on the cover of Submerge Magazine, and performed at Art Hearts Official After Party for LA Fashion Week in 2015. Her song “I Need to Feel” was featured on an HGTV commercial to promote the hit show “Flip or Flop,” and she was also featured in the official 2015 GRAMMY’s #StepIntoTheCircle promotional teaser and video sponsored by Ciroc. And that’s just the beginning!
Lady Clever spoke with LaZae about growing up in a multicultural family, what inspires her music, and reaching new heights of success in her career.
Tell us about your journey to becoming a musician.
I used to practice Taekwondo at an elite level and, surprisingly, that helped me realize I wanted to be a singer. I always loved singing growing up. I sang in the choir at school and performed in musicals and plays, but I never thought about being a professional singer until I was 12-years-old and sang at a talent show during a week-long Taekwondo training camp. I sang a Puerto Rican classic called “En Mi Viejo San Juan” and won the show. It was my first time singing in front of a crowd and I loved it; I knew I wanted to do it for the rest of my life. A few years later, I graduated from high school early to focus solely on my music. I enrolled at American River College in Sacramento when I was 15, and with my parents’ encouragement, I started studying audio engineering, music business, and classical/jazz voice. From there I interned at Velvet Tone Studios, one of the best studios in Sacramento and owned by Patrick Olguin (who is actually currently mixing/mastering my album). I went on to work at The Banff Centre in Canada, and then eventually at The Studio at the Palms in Las Vegas. All of these experiences behind-the-scenes on the production side really helped me figure out my sound. At the encouragement of various producers and writers I met while working at Palms, I decided to take the leap and move to LA to completely focus on my own music. And here I am now, getting ready to release my first full-length album!
How did your cultural background influence your life and story as a musician?
I’m half Puerto Rican and half African-American. I was born in LA but raised in Sacramento by my mom, who’s a Nuyorican, and my dad, who was from a small town outside of New Orleans. I mention this because their origins really influenced me growing up. My grandparents on both sides would tell me stories about growing up in Puerto Rico or Louisiana, which captured my imagination and really influenced my love for telling stories. And the music! My grandfather was a musician and would always sing Puerto Rican boleros around the house. He really influenced my love for music by always exposing me to classic musicals like The Sound of Music.
How would you describe your sound? Who are your musical influences?
My sound is a mixture of Amy Winehouse, Led Zeppelin, and Janis Joplin. Singers like Billie Holiday and Bette Davis also influenced my vocal styling. My music is a melange of ’70s rock, soul, blues and my love of storytelling. As a songwriter, I love Lauryn Hill, Fiona Apple, and Bob Dylan, but filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino and Alfred Hitchcock greatly influenced the way I write as well. I also love to infuse a little bit of the mysticism you find in novels by writers like Paulo Coelho and books like Like Water For Chocolate. I started off writing stories as a kid, which grew into writing songs, so storytelling is a huge part of my songwriting.
What are some challenges you’ve encountered along the way?
I think the biggest challenge is just staying focused and persevering no matter what. You hear “no” a lot before you hear “yes” in this industry, so I had to learn really quickly to stay focused on my goals and accept all of the feedback and critiques without feeling hurt. I learned to take the feedback that came along with every “no” and used it to hone in on my sound, pushing me to be better every day.
Tell us more about your involvement in the musical process.
I’m always involved in every aspect of the musical process. I write and co-write all of my music. Because of my background in audio engineering, I’m involved the recording, mixing and mastering process. I have a lot of input regarding the technical process because it’s important to me that the sound is right as an engineer. I love a big, low-end and organic, analog sound.
Which of your songs is your favorite?
It’s so hard to pick a favorite because all of my songs are my little babies. But one of my favorite songwriting stories is about my song “Give It Away.” I wrote it with Tony Ghantous and Jeff Solomon. We started writing it at a beach in Malibu where we came up with the melody and chord progression. We literally started writing it right before we were about to leave the beach so we spent about 10 minutes on it there. Then we went over to Jeff’s house to finish it and the lyrics just poured out. I remember saying: “Guys, let’s not over think this. Let’s just make it fun.” And we wrote the rest of it in 20 minutes. It was one of the fastest songs I’ve ever co-written. And that’s what’s fun about songwriting — every song is a different experience.
What can we expect from you in 2016?
I’m most excited about releasing my full-length album! You can expect to hear a lot more of my music. My team is sending it out for film and TV, and I’m going to be performing more than ever. And once the album is out, I’ll be working on the next one. I’m always writing, so I’m always thinking about the next project. This year my goals are to get my music placed more on TV, commercial and movies, perform at more festivals, and I definitely want to tour across the USA — eventually touring around Europe and the world!