Empress Of’s Lorely Rodriguez: 'I’m going to be the weirdest person I can possibly be.'

Studio 360
Lorely Rodriguez performs as Empress Of. Here she sits with her mother, Reina

Lorely Rodriguez performs as Empress Of. Here she sits with her mother, Reina 

Tower Records

When Lorely Rodriguez was growing up in Los Angeles, her mom Reina — a Honduran immigrant who worked full-time as a nanny — wanted her to be a news anchor with “a bob haircut and a suit,” she says.

To her mom, her daughter's face on TV would be the highest achievement.

As a tween, Rodriguez was poking around the Internet one day when she stumbled upon some music that flipped her world around.

“I listened to Björk for the first time and I was like, ‘Nope! I’m going to be the weirdest person I can possibly be,’” she says. “I’m going to be a rock star.”

Recording under the name Empress Of, Rodriguez put out a series of beguiling, minute-long experimental pop songs in 2012 called "Colorminutes" that placed her on the indie music map. In 2015, she released her debut full-length album, "Me," to rapturous reviews. Pitchfork called her “one of the most confident, skilled pop artists of the year.”

Empress Of in concert

Empress Of in concert.

Credit:

Chris Mayes

To her family, however, choosing music meant choosing a life of hardship. When Rodriguez first told her mom she wanted to be a musician, her mom cried. She avoided talking about her recording act for years, until she had her first tour booked and had to explain to her mom why she was going to be on the road for two months.

Since then, things have changed. Rodriguez’s mom is obsessed with her music. She bought a bedazzler gun and started making homemade Empress Of merchandise. And she wants to attend all of Rodriguez’s shows, even if it means crashing a rave in the desert.

Rodriguez hopes that her mom understands the opportunity she’s given her daughter.

“Where my family is from, in Honduras, a lot of people don’t have the privilege of having art. They don’t have the freedom to just be like, ‘I’m going to be myself.’”

This story comes to us from Studio 360.