Russian Red will perform in Chicago March 25 at the Instituto Cervantes, presented by RatioNation.

“The songs I write not would not work in Spanish. If I wrote in Spanish, I would have to write a different kind of song, like boleros, which is what I like to hear in Spanish”, declares Lourdes Hernandez, the alt-folk singer from Madrid Spain, better know as “Russian Red”. Hernandez, who had arrived at the press room wearing the bright red lipstick color that is her trademark and the source of her artistic name, adds, “I started by trying to put music to poems I had written in Spanish, but it just wasn’t working. So then I started to write songs in English – I’d always been very interested in English and American culture”.

Hernandez clarifies that even though she studied translation at the university, she does not create first in Spanish and then translate, but composes directly into English: “It seems easier to write in English, it seems more musical to me, easier to fit in the words”. She says that she likes composing in English because for her it’s more neutral, and the words have less of an emotional charge and a lighter meaning load: “It’s easier to use words in English, to be comfortable with what I’m saying”.

Her musical career had a quite casual and almost coincidental beginning. Although at school and summer camps in childhood she was always drawn to the choir activities, she only decided to learn to play the guitar after chancing at some point upon an uncle’s guitar at her grandparents house.

Now, at 24 years of age, her plaintive, wistful melodies have taken her native land and Europe by storm. In 2008, after several unreleased you tube videos went viral, Hernandez recorded her first CD, the immensely popular “I love your glasses”.  Fans are anxiously awaiting the release of her sophomore effort in May of this year.

Hernandez expresses that she is happier with the way the second CD has turned out. Despite its great success, in her opinion, the sound of “I love glasses” was somewhat distorted by a producer whose perception of her music differed from her own, and she feels the upcoming release will be truer to her own artistic vision. I am curious as to how she defines that vision, and Hernandez answers that the new CD, even though continuing to focus on her vocals and guitar-playing, will not sound like ‘girl group’ music. She adds it will have a few 50’s touches, add a bit of psychedelic tinge, as well as a tapestry of feminine voices in support – perhaps hearkening back to those memories of her earliest musical experiences with school choirs.

Hernandez strikes me as being a lot like her music – lovely and delicate, almost child-like. She seems carefully reserved in her answers, and is reluctant to name her musical influences. I note she is often compared to the Canadian singer/songwriter Feist, and she responds wryly, “I’m not sure why people say that. I’m not sure if I were Feist I would be so happy about it” . She comments that she may not even continue pursuing music as a life-long career. The large number of fans addicted to her intimate folk songs are surely crossing their fingers that she changes her mind.

Published by Catalina Maria Johnson

I love to write and radio about music! The one-hour radio program I host and produce, Beat Latino,  airs Sundays at 11am on , Saturdays in Berlin and is archived weekly. Beat Latino specials are also licensed in 20+ states throughout the U.S.A. through the Public Radio Exchange. I contribute regularly to NPR's Alt.Latino, World Cafe , and Global Notes on WBEZ, NPR Music, Gozamos, Revista Contratiempo.

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