Chances are you've heard of Daniela Andrade somewhere - maybe a Spotify playlist, while watching The Umbrella Academy or somewhere on Instagram with her adorable cats, Fuyu and Nori. If you haven't, well, meet Daniela — a Honduran-Canadian singer and songwriter based in Montreal who first made waves on YouTube over 10 years ago for her emphatically mesmerizing song covers. Now, Daniela creates music with intention and substance, often writing about intimate experiences from her life that empower listeners to connect with their own inner child, past or family. To say that we're excited for her next album is truly an understatement!
It's been well over 5 years since we last interviewed Daniela for our journal (back when she lived in Edmonton), so we figured it's about time that we caught up with her to discuss all things music, how she practices sustainability in her day-to-day life, what she's feeling optimistic about, and where she's been finding inspiration lately!
Who is Daniela Andrade?
It’s funny because I often ask myself the same thing, in the third person haha. I feel like 2019 Daniela and 2023 Daniela are so different. I bet a lot of people may be feeling the same way. Something about the last few years felt like a time-warp/portal of sorts. Daniela right this moment is working on an album, rotating between 2-3 books at a time, runs long distances and most recently loves rock climbing.
Can you tell us about your beginnings in music? How have you and your music evolved since?
My beginnings in music start at home with my family. My three older siblings have such beautiful voices and my dad always had a song ready to sing on the guitar. Later on, school choirs and church worship groups allowed me the space to explore my voice and gain some confidence on stage. In my teens I was learning how to play the guitar in the quiet confines of my bedroom and that gave way to discovering my love for crafting a song. I can still remember what those first weeks of writing felt like. When I think of teenage Daniela uploading her first YouTube videos, I certainly can’t help but see how much has changed—I’ve gained new skills, moved a few times and so on. At the heart of it though, I’m still very much that girl in her parents basement in Edmonton writing music because she needed to. I just want to talk about different things now that I’m older and share parts of myself I’m finding as I learn to observe them along the way.
As an artist, there’s a sense that you need to be in a constant state of production and always showing something new. How do you manage to stay grounded amidst all the hullabaloo?
You know, I’ve talked at length about this with fellow musicians/artists and managing/balancing this pressure to be in constant flow is really tricky for us all (at least those I’ve spoken to). I come out of these conversations feeling less alone, compassionate towards other artists' experiences and sometimes confused (towards myself). I really think that the ideas around the words “constant” and “productivity” are rooted in concepts that run a lot deeper than I even realized. It’s only been through very, very slow detangling of my own relationship to these words that I have learned some of these voices or ideas I hear in my head aren’t even my own. Sometimes I repeat what’s around me or what I may have heard ages ago that left a deep imprint. We are an impressionable, social species. It can be a double edged sword in that we can become affected —for better or for worse— by our environment. Over the years I’ve realized that staying grounded in my own truth and rhythm requires a lot of respect for my intuition. I also think that seeing my home and creative space as a sanctuary has helped me come back to myself—or that feeling of ‘grounded’ whenever I come home. Every artist has different thresholds though, and every art has different needs and phases. I make music out of a need to understand myself, It’s the way I process my emotions and it's deeply therapeutic for me. Understanding that it comes from a place of processing the world around me has helped me respect my own needs a little better each year. I can't make music only out of a sense of desperation (although, I've had those days). In order for it to be sustainable, I have to respect and nurture it in a healthy way.
How do you practice sustainability in your day to day life? Do you have any sustainable goals you're working towards?
My choice to be vegetarian is partly rooted in a sustainability mindset. When I first decided to go plant-based almost 8 years ago, I remember the land and water consumption stats swung a really big red flag for me. That also led to more reading on the fashion industry and implementing changes over time with my clothing consumption (your friendship and NewClassics was a big part of understanding that as well). The pandemic also shed some light on my online-consumption habits as well, so I’ve been trying my best to refrain from shopping too much online (clicking a button is way too easy haha) and trying to recycle and reuse what’s in my closet.
A sustainable goal I have is to start inching closer to a “waste-free” household. I’ve realized that just like with any goal it's important to understand my intentions and take it a day at a time to establish new habits. Even though I’m just one person, my consumer power means something and I try not to take that lightly. Lastly, I feel like sustainability starts in our minds. This only took me my whole lifetime to realize but being mindful of my own energy expenditure and capacity has made me have to take a look at the life I have built and reassess if its sustainable for me. Core values, my relationship to goals, addressing struggles with perfectionism and so on. I feel like mindfulness really does affect our overall life choices.
What are life's small pleasures for you right now?
Petting my cats, spicy hot chocolate, drawing, writing a hand-written letter to a friend.
Where are your favourite places to shop, eat and hang out in Montreal? What about in Edmonton?
To shop, I love Au Papier Japonais on Avenue Fairmount. They have the most beautiful paper imported from Japan and all sorts of notebooks and trinkets. It’s right off of Saint-Laurent, which is also one of my favourite streets to stroll on and stick my head into different shops. To eat, I’ve been going to this Salvadoran spot on Beaubien almost every week, it’s called El Chalateco, I highly recommend their pupusas and breakfast dishes! You also can’t go wrong at Impasto, it’s in the Italian district and their Gnocchi is to die for! Whenever I go back home to visit family in Edmonton, I love going back to familiar places. My family and I always end up at Cora’s on the Northside at some point or when I venture off alone I go to Transcend Coffee before walking down Whyte Avenue and lastly, especially if it's a long summer day, I love to take long drives on the Henday and listen to music.
Top 5 favourite films? What about top 5 favourite books?
In no specific order:
Films: Phantom Thread by Paul Thomas Anderson, Force Majeure by Ruben Östlud, Roma by Alfonso Cuaron, Cleo From 5 to 7 by Agnes Verda, Compartment No. 6 by Juho Kuosmanen.
Books: The Myth of Sanity by Martha Stout, Quiet by Susan Cain, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, The Fever Dream by Clarice Lispector (A short story), What I talk about when I talk about running by Haruki Murikami.
Can you tell us a bit about what your creative process looks like?
These days it’s a mix. Either the word/words come first and then I find a melody for it and build an idea around how it makes me feel or I write to tracks producers send me. A lot of my actual life goes into my music though, so all the moments in between end up in the writing somehow. Reading, phone calls and watching movies is a big part of my process as well.
You've been heavily involved with both the creative direction and direction of your music videos – how would you say this experience behind the scenes affects how you write songs or dream up concepts?
I’ve always been really hands-on with all things creative. When it comes to music videos I’m no different. I feel really grateful to have been able to work with talented and generous collaborators along the way. The knowledge they shared has been invaluable to me. These days it’s almost always the case that once I’m finished writing a song, a video idea or a general concept takes shape relatively quickly. I’m also always saving snapshots of real life moments, images or lines from books I’m reading that spark up an idea for a video in my notes app—it doesn’t have to necessarily even be for my own songs: perhaps it’ll get a new songwriting idea started, or maybe even fit someone else’s song someday. Another takeaway from the music-video process for me has been realizing how important it is to cut down to the essentials. Budget is very much a part of the conversation from beginning to end and there were some points where it felt really frustrating. However, if you look at it from a different angle, limitations can force you to be creative and cut down to the bone of a concept. I like the process of stripping things down to their core elements. Over the years it's deeply affected my approach to songwriting and to conceptualizing as well, for the better I think.
Is there a what, who or where that is inspiring your music as of late?
Being that I’ve been spending a lot more time in my home-base, Montreal, over the last few years, a lot of inspiration has been coming from this city and the people I love to spend time with here. As I mentioned before, I also like to spend a lot of time alone tucked away in a book, so I find myself getting inspiration from characters in whatever book it is I’m reading. I also feel like my family, childhood friends and the distance between me and them (some of my family is in Edmonton, Alberta) is constant as well; navigating the nostalgia and the feeling of missing them really sparks ideas.
What do you think about when getting dressed for the day? Do you get dressed based off a feeling, or do you start from the shoes and then work your way up, etc?
Getting dressed is 100 percent based on feeling for me. I feel really connected to cycles and try to pay close attention to what my body is telling me (tracking my cycle on my Flo app has also helped me a lot in understanding the signals my body is sending me). Somedays I just want softness on my skin, other times I’m having a really good skin/hair day and want to dress really feminine, other times I feel really strong and energetic and want to dress in baggy tomboy clothes. I love having options and building outfits, it really sets me up for my day.
Is there an item of clothing and/or a song or album that makes you feel most yourself and why?
I have these really beat up black and white Nike Cortez’ that I’m waiting for a couple more holes to appear on before I retire them for good. Every time I put them on, I feel at ease. I love how a broken-in pair of shoes can do that to you. Music-wise, I find myself listening to Nick Hakim’s song “Happen” lots lately. There’s something about his songwriting that feels like it fell from the sky and was meant to be. He’s a producer and songwriter I really look up to.
Dream project or person to work with?
Nick Hakim, Toro y Moi, Dev Hynes, Rosalia, Yaeji.. there’s too many but those are a few!
Something that recently challenged you?
All the v4s in my climbing gym, haha.
How do you inform yourself throughout the day? What are you listening to, watching and reading?
I love listening to Podcasts and reading books. Anything long format is my favourite. I feel like it gives me time to process and digest information. My favourites are: Andrew Huberman, Esther Perel “Where Should We Begin?” And Hidden Brain.
In the future, what are you looking forward to most? What are you feeling optimistic about?
Curiosity is the gateway to optimism for me. In many ways I feel like I’m just starting to really understand and accept myself. It can make me swirl in existential thoughts sometimes but more often than not it gives me a lot of hope. In turn, it makes me curious about those around me. I feel like asking questions is a skill I’m trying my best to get better at overtime. Although it can sometimes lead to more open-ended questions or painful answers (cause that’s life), I’m feeling hopeful towards where it’s taking me.
What is the legacy you hope to leave on this world? What are you out to accomplish?
I recently went to a few retrospective exhibitions and genuinely loved so many of them (GEGO, being one of them). The idea of looking at another person's life, hung up in little pieces against a white wall is such a trip. What would they think of it all and was their impression on the world around them what they imagined it would be? It’s hard to say, but I love to wonder. If I had to imagine what I hope to leave behind as a legacy, I hope that my work in music and the words I left behind in my songs resonates with someone and their experience. That’s always been at the heart of what I do. However, I believe that legacy is in the little, day-to-day things and the community you build around yourself. I love to love those around me full-heartedly and think that relationships with those closest to me are such a great opportunity for growth. I hope that I can do for the ones I cherish what they have done for me, allowing me the space to grow and learn and become who I am today.