MY NEW YORK: MARÍA ISABEL

MY NEW YORK: MARÍA ISABEL

MY NEW YORK: MARÍA ISABEL

V’s My New York series is back! We’re kicking off Season 2 with Queens-native María Isabel

V’s My New York series is back! We’re kicking off Season 2 with Queens-native María Isabel

Text: Kala Herh

Don’t let her current address fool you–María Isabel is as New York as they come. “I think being a New Yorker is just a feeling, it’s a vibe, and we all have this connection,” she shares with V. “You say something and people know what you're talking about, whether you’re from Queens or Brooklyn.” Before moving to Los Angeles during the pandemic, the 26-year-old grew up in Corona, Queens, writing songs from her bedroom as Dominican music poured in from her living room and ‘90s hip-hop flowed in from the streets. It is the same ethos that fuels her artistry to date, inspiring tracks like “No Soy Para Ti'' where the artist seamlessly blends Spanish and English lyrics. Citing fellow New Yorkers–Alicia Keys, Jay Z and NAS–as “her soundtrack to growing up in New York,” the songstress hopes her music will have the same impact on generations to come, saying, “I'm just a young Dominican girl from Queens, and I made it this far, so can you too.”

To kick off Season 2 of “My New York,” we follow María through her neighborhood, devouring pizza at Angelo’s on 103rd and reminiscing at NYC's iconic Baby’s All Right, where she headlined her first tour. And as she revisits these influential places, we can't help but note how far she's come. Now, María has cemented herself as a standout artist, one whose upbringing in the melting pot of New York has been instrumental to her trajectory. 

Check out the premiere of V Magazine’s second season of  “My New York” created in collaboration with Milk Makeup.  

Stay tuned for new episodes launching every Friday here on Vmagazine.com, the series will spotlight NYC's movers-and-shakers as they guide us through the formative spots in the city that have inspired and cultivated their craft.

Read the exclusive interview with María Isabel below! 

Maria wears Milk Makeup, on eyes KUSH Mascara, on brows KUSH Brow Serum, on skin Sunshine Skin Tint SPF 30, on lips Kush Lip Balm in Nug

V: When did you first fall in love with music?

MI: I've been singing truly, ever since I could speak. It's been my whole life for as long as I can remember. But I think it was when I got into high school where I started vocal training formally. Then when I finished my time at NYU, I started meeting people that were producers and songwriters. I really fell into it after college and started finding people and building a team. But it's hard. You love to do a thing, but there's no fine line on how to get to where you want to be in the music industry. 

V: Who were some of your earliest musical influences growing up?

MI: My music taste is all over the place growing up in New York. But I'd say a lot of my influences were women in the R&B, Hip Hop space. Performers like Alicia Keys and Lauryn Hill. Alicia Keys, Jay Z, and NAS–really getting to listen to their music growing up. I look back now and their music feels like the soundtrack of my childhood growing up here. It also was an inspiration for me to be able to look at people who started here and make it as far as they did. 

V: How do you think Queens influenced your sound?

MI: Queens is the most diverse place in the world. I grew up around so many different kinds of people and so many pieces of the world in one place and I think that's influenced my music in a big way. Because musically, I was exposed to so much as a child. I think even just from growing up in a Dominican household like that genre of music was playing, but then outside in the streets, it was like Hip Hop playing on stereos. It was almost like growing up in a bubble, but the best kind, where there's a little bit of everything inside of it. I think it really broadened my love for music.

V: And with your music now, what do you hope people will take away?

MI: I think the two biggest messages that I want to deliver with my music is that no one is alone in the world. I think it's easy to become isolated, especially in the world as it is now. But music is my way of communicating to other people that we're all going through the same things. And secondly, that I'm just a young Dominican girl from Queens, and I made it this far, so can you too.

V: Where does the inspiration for your music come from? What informs your songs the most? 

MI: All of my inspiration in my music comes directly from my experiences, just truly as I'm living it, and writing it. So that's where everything comes from. 

V: I read that you ended your first headline tour at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn. How did it feel to perform in front of your New York community? 

MI: Getting on stage here for the first time was one of the best feelings in the world. Just knowing that everyone out in the crowd was from out here. There was just different energy to the New York shows while I was on tour.

Maria wears jacket Von Dutch (Courtesy of The Webster)

V: What was the energy like in the room? What was it like to look into the crowd and see your people…to see a community of New Yorkers coming out to support you? 

MI: Those two nights at Baby's All Right were really cool because my whole family came out. It was my little brother's birthday that night so we sang him “Happy Birthday.” A lot of my friends and family from growing up in NYC were all there. Even a few kids that went to the same schools that I did came out to support me. One girl came up to me and she was attending the middle school I went to. It just feels really good to be able to get on stage and show people how far I've come. I rep Queens a lot and the city in general, so it's cool to show other people that there's a lot more you can do. 

V: How did you get ready for this return to your city? What was going through your mind in the seconds leading up to the show? 

MI: Before getting on stage, I can't say that I did anything to get ready because I was just so nervous and anxious about finally being in New York. It was close to the end of the tour so I'm not going to lie, I was pretty exhausted and worn by that point. But I think that's also why it was so cool. I genuinely was so exhausted by the time we got to New York, but the energy in the crowd was so good that the second I stepped foot on stage it all kind of melted away.

V: I love that the energy of the crowd fueled you. What was the experience of that like as it was happening? 

MI: From the moment I walked out you could just feel the magic of New York. New York’s energy is so different from anywhere else in the world. It felt like coming home and like I grew up with everyone in the audience. Everyone had seen how far I'd come. It just meant something totally different to be doing that show in New York.

V: Looking back, can you explain the significance of your Baby’s performance in your career? 

MI: This place means a lot to me because I came to a lot of shows here growing up in Queens, but I also just played my first headline show here in September, and we sold out both nights.

V: At this point in your career, what's been the most rewarding part of creating and being an artist? 

MI: I think the most rewarding part of what I do is getting to meet people that have heard my songs and related, or felt seen in some way. Which is why coming to venues like Baby’s All Right, means so much to me. I got to be here and meet fans for the first time. I've been putting out music for a while but my first tour just happened. So getting to meet the people that have been listening to my songs all this time and supporting me, meant a lot. Just having face-to-face communication with them and hearing that a certain song helped them through a difficult time or reminded them of something means the world to me.

V: Now we know every borough is different, each borough has its own hole in the walls and things that make them unique. So, I'm curious to know what do you love most about Queens?

MI: The thing I love most about Queens and New York City, in general, is the food! There's just there's nothing like it.

V: I think that’s the perfect way to describe New York…Indescribable (Laughs)! What does being a New Yorker mean to you?

MI: I don't know that I can put into words what being a New Yorker means. I think being a New Yorker is just a feeling, it’s a vibe, and we all have this connection. You say something and people know what you're talking about, whether you’re from Queens or Brooklyn. I think you grow up faster here. Like getting on the train to go to school, you're in the world already, you’re exposed to so much. Growing up in New York just means a totally different thing.

V: You made the move to LA not too long ago to really focus on your music. How would you say LA differs from New York? I think people often compare the two so I’m interested in your take on LA as someone who is a tried and true New Yorker. 

MI: Yeah, I am living in LA right now and it's very different from New York. It's definitely taking some getting used to. It's weird. I grew up walking in New York and hopping on the train whenever I wanted to go anywhere and I feel like there's so much freedom of movement here. You get to see so much while you're walking, there's just so much going on all the time. I find it very hard to be bored here. LA is very different in that sense. There's no one on the sidewalks, except me occasionally. Everyone's in their car and everything's kind of further apart than I thought at first. It's been a weird adjustment, but I'm not mad at writing music over there. I think I heard someone say once that LA is where you go to write about New York. 

V: You mentioned that in high school you would get nervous before performing, which we would have never known, because you command the stage every time you step on it. Have those nerves gone away completely or did you just learn how to harness that energy and use it on the stage? 

MI: Yeah, stage fright is a different animal because there’s not really anything you can actively do against it besides just keep performing. But it's been interesting to see how far I've come since high school when I was deathly terrified of getting on stage. I would physically shake to the point where I had to leave the mic on the stand because I could not keep it in front of my mouth. But I really think it's just like, the more you do it, the comfier you get, and honestly, that's why I love performing live so much now because I have people singing the songs back at me and it makes me feel like I'm in the right place. Now, being on stage is my favorite thing in the world.

V: What's your favorite memory of New York?

MI: One of my favorite memories growing up in New York was in my third year of college and I had written my first real song. One of my music professors set up a songwriting night at a local bar in the city. It was the first time I played a song that I wrote live. That was one of the scariest things ever, and you don't really realize it when you're getting up there that it's so much easier to sing other people's songs. When it's something you've written, there's so much more of you in it, so it's a little more terrifying. But I did it. And I feel like that's the first step I had to take in ending up here one day. 

V: What are you working on in 2022? 

MI: Now I'm working on my first album, writing that right now, and hopefully playing a few shows throughout the year too. I can’t wait to share with everyone what I’ve been working on.

Credits:
Series creators: Sam Tracy & Czar Van Gaal
Director: Joshua Charow
Executive producer: Kala Herh
Video editor: Nick Freeman & Joshua Charow
Series beauty director: Mitch Yoshida
Fashion: Shelby Comroe
Production assistant: Carlos Chinn
Sound designer: Romain Sturma
Music by María Isabel
Special thanks:
The Orienteer
Purple PR
Kevin Cordon
Nick Dierl
Frank Sinatra School of the Arts
Baby's All Right

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