Music

Meet María Isabel, a Dominican Singer-Songwriter Who’s in It for the Long Haul

Photo by Ethan Newmyer. Courtesy of the artist

Long-distance relationships can feel like quite a rollercoaster of emotions. One day you’re certain that the person you’re with is the one for you and then you can’t quite figure out where the love went the next. That emotional fluctuation is what New York-born, Dominican singer-songwriter María Isabel captures in her debut EP, Stuck in the Sky. With vulnerable lyrics and a buttery voice, her proposal has its roots in R&B.

“I think to start, R&B would be the general box,” she tells Remezcla, adding that she sees herself in this for the long haul and would love to try new sounds and see where it goes. “Those are the longest-lasting careers,” Isabel says. “People who try different things and change up the sound every once in a while.”

She lists Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey, Selena and Shakira as her influences—all powerful women who have been or were authentically themselves while exploring their talent, and are evolving accordingly. Isabel’s musical offering has the same genuineness that these women are known for and comes at a time when we can all relate in one way or another.

“Distance makes the heart grow fonder/What about the rest of me?” she sings. “Longing fills the room/And I don’t know what to do.”

“It is insane that I wrote [the EP] based on a long-distance relationship that I was going through at the time. But now, so many people can relate on a bigger scale just because so many people are separated and unable to travel,” she says, referencing the coronavirus pandemic.

She finished Stuck in the Sky while in quarantine, and you can feel that hint of restlessness in her intentions. Having to shelter in place, being away from your loved ones, not being able to sleep, and finding it hard to cope, are all translated into María Isabel’s heartfelt interpretation of each song in her EP.

Isabel released her first single “The 1” in February, right before the world came to a full stop due to the worldwide health crisis. “At first, it was definitely a little bit rattling,” she says. “Just because I feel like I haven’t been in a rush in my whole career. I was always OK taking my time. So, for it to feel like everything was coming to a full stop right when I was ready to get going, was definitely frustrating in the beginning.”

Eventually, she figured out a routine and hunkered down in her studio to finish all the tracks. In a way she’s gotten to “play catch-up,” she says, and get ready for when tours are safe again.

Photo by Ethan Newmyer. Courtesy of the artist

María Isabel began her journey in music without even knowing it. Her mom always had music on when she was growing up which inspired her to stage impromptu performances. As she got older, she joined the church choir and went to a performing arts high school in Queens, New York. She was singing every day, but she was also journaling a lot.

“I personally had trouble telling people how I was feeling, or if I had an issue with something,” Isabel reflects. “I was always non confrontational, kept to myself, and internalized everything. Putting it down on paper was the way to get it out without having to have hard conversations.” With time, she realized if she really wanted to let it out, she had to share it with the world, which in turn could serve as a motivation for other people to know that they’re not alone. That’s how she began songwriting.

I’m OK taking it slow and steady.

After she started developing her singing and songwriting skills, Isabel realized she didn’t see herself being anything other than an artist, so she applied for New York University (NYU)’s music program. She took an interest in the music business classes because she says she wanted to be able to go into a room and understand the people who would eventually contribute to manage her career.

Now graduated and with a very promising future ahead of her, Isabel is ready for her debut EP Stuck in the Sky to belong to everyone else and not just her anymore. She’s also excited to go back into the studio and continue creating quality material, as she wants to make a long-term career out of her music.

“I’m OK taking it slow and steady, I do want this to last a long time.”