Silvana Estrada Has a Magical Voice

Mexican-born singer-songwriter Silvana Estrada believes in magic. And why not? Almost every time she opens her mouth, she sees his spells come to fruition. But the kind of magic Estrada has in common isn’t a bag of salon tricks that rely on new-age gadgets and shiny mirrors. No, the kind you value is immortal, and is not constrained by anything but itself. It’s the kind of spell that can make someone remember a time and place they never knew they longed for. He’s the type who can summon tears from the eyes of a former stoic. It’s the kind that moves you to your core. It has been deeply woven into Estrada’s upcoming new album, witheredslated for release on Friday (January 21).

“It’s great to believe in magic,” says Estrada. “And to be so close to magic, in this really weird world.”

The first time Estrada remembered experiencing this kind of magic in the world was when she was eight years old. She was in the back of her parents’ car, driving with her folks into the Mexican countryside. On the radio played the works of the Russian composer Tchaikovsky. You remember the key, it was in the D-Minor. I moved her a lot, and she started crying. This was the first time she cried with a sense of beauty. She was not sad or upset. She was steeped in soul and song. She remembers the nature of the world passing through the window, and she remembers the little cows. She remembers the infinity of it all. At first, I wondered if something was wrong with her.

“I loved it,” she says. “I cried but I loved it.”

But instead of there being anything wrong, I realized that everything about it was right. It wasn’t as if, at that moment, she was choosing to be an artist. Instead, her path was just revealing itself. Music has become a tool for survival. He even became survival himself. Music, for Estrada, is not a job. It’s what you do for joy. And to communicate – both with her community and with whatever world eternity comes from. It helped her that her parents fostered her interest. They are musicians. In her home, musical instruments were played and made.

Estrada says, “When I started composing my own music, I also discovered an overwhelming sense of connection. When writing a new song, I discovered that this song would also touch a soul that wasn’t mine. I fell in love with that feeling. It’s magical to me.”

Estrada studied jazz as a young adult in Mexico. She remembers studying eight hours a day. I enjoyed the audio distraction. That was when I really started to explore your musical instrument – its sound. And what a tool. But her eloquent and luxurious voice was supported by her studies. While she can be stressful in her work, the art form has also allowed her to understand the feeling of freedom within music. As such, every time she performs performances, she maintains her freshness with little to no vocal variations or movements. Nothing about performance gets stuck in cement, even if it’s often rooted in tradition.

“I really want to feel like I’m free,” says Estrada. “That’s what I learned from jazz, the freedom you can have.”

As I found out more about music and songwriting, I dig deeper. She hardly slept. I wrote and worked. So she started to miss her lessons. So she left school. No matter, her eye was already on the award, even if her teachers weren’t excited by her decision. In a way, who needs school? Estrada was already surrounded by the majesty of Mexico and its long cultural roots. Estrada says that in the country, unlike other cultures, a rainbow of feelings and ideas is honored in folk and traditional music.

“We can actually talk about depression or death or deep, deep sadness,” she says. “We have songs to process those feelings and we have traditions to embrace and understand those feelings.” She adds, “I know my community because I know my music and my roots.”

At some point in her early career (Estrada is only 24 years old), she began traveling to New York City in America to perform and record with artists such as guitarist Charlie Hunter. For Estrada, the city was vibrant, big and full of opportunity. Working there, she got to know a number of big hitters in the industry, and most, if not all, of them shared one piece of advice: stick to who you are. At the time, Estrada wondered if she should dig more into jazz. They said no, learn from jazz, but just be yourself.

“Please choose your exclusivity, don’t choose the other way,” says Estrada. “This is something I learned in New York.”

When listening to Estrada’s music today – especially the upcoming LP, withered, and its pottery individuality – one thing that comes through more than anything else: a sense of authenticity. Hearing her sing is like browsing through a history book of classical artists, the voices that have moved the world through thousands of years. Estrada isn’t Taylor Swift, she’s no Doga Cat. It is instead akin to an oak tree that has withstood the elements for hundreds and hundreds of years.

“I have this feeling about timeless music,” she says. “I am always impressed. Like that time with Tchaikovsky.”

Estrada is one of those people who smiles when she says she lives like an old man. She loves tea, loves the comfort of the house. Her music is the same. It wants to exist without borders or contemporary folk aesthetics. You like old things.

“I have completely different friends,” Estrada says. “Their music is like the future. But to me, I’m all about a ritual. Every time I sing I feel like I can be anywhere, anytime. It’s kind of a ritual that travels into my soul. And you know that spirits can be really old or Really new. You never know. But I feel like I have an old soul.”

Estrada says she was working withered For many years now. She is proud of that. For her, it expresses the healing process. She says it was easy to assemble in many ways. It is lonely to write what you felt so that you can see clearly for yourself. Alone, in a way, to share, highlighting her uniqueness and personal preferences. But in the end, it helped. Now, she says, she hopes it’s a tool for healing others, too. The album is also an example of bravery, at least musically. Estrada wanted songs and performances to stand on her two feet, fixed forever.

“Just get the sound and the song,” she says. “I really wanted to respect that. I really wanted to show that I’m the kind of singer-songwriter who can actually support a song with its voice just because I’m singing something that comes from my heart. So, I don’t need anything.”

While Estrada is looking forward, she is only looking inward. She says she is not afraid of old age. Don’t be afraid of the future. She says she is looking forward to getting older and doing the same thing she is doing today. Perhaps above all, music is the instrument that allows it to be that way, and allows Estrada to express itself as it is, unencumbered and unmediated. This is what you hear when you sing. This is the magic you use to revitalize your ears and raise your eyebrows. This is she.

“I can just be myself,” Estrada says. “I can express what I want in ways that language or normal communication does not allow me to. I can actually be free when I sing.”

Sylvana Estrada’s next tour dates:

1.27 → City Winery → Washington DC
1.28 → NC Folk Festival → Greensboro, North Carolina
1.30 → City Winery → Atlanta, GA
2.1 → City Winery → Nashville, Tennessee
2.3 → Parish → Austin, Texas
2.4 → Dada Club → Dallas, Texas
2.5 ← Bronze Peacock in HOB → Houston, Texas
2.7 → Valley Bar → Phoenix, Arizona
2.11 → Paramount Theater → → Los Angeles, California
2.12 → Brick and mortar → San Francisco, California
2.14 – Dogfire ← Portland, or
2.15 – sunset – → Seattle, Washington
2.18 → Kilby Court → → Salt Lake City, Utah
2.19 ← Marquis ← Denver, Colorado
2.21 ← Music Hall of Williamsburg → Brooklyn, New York
2.23 → City Winery → Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
2.25 → City Winery → Boston, Massachusetts
2.26 → The Pink Room → → Montreal, QUE
2.27 → Adelaide Hall → Toronto, ON
3.1 → Turf Club → Minneapolis, Minnesota
3.2 → Schubas → Chicago, IL

Photography by Sol Talamantes, courtesy of Glassnote Records

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