Coachella 2018: Alina Baraz On Her Festival Debut & ‘The Color Of You’
Few artists have as much momentum on their side as Alina Baraz. The 24-year-old first made waves with 2015 EP Urban Flora, which she recorded in her bedroom. (The newcomer only communicated with Danish producer Galimatias via Facebook). That DIY project became a streaming sensation and soulful singer was soon touted as The Next Big Thing by critics — a prediction that is well on its way to becoming a reality. Alina recently dropped a second project called The Color Of You, which just debuted on the Billboard 200 and features two collaborations with Khalid.
Given the buzz around her, Alina’s Coachella debut was one of the festival’s most-anticipated moments. I caught up with the singer/songwriter before she took the stage at the Gobi Tent on Saturday night (April 14) and she opened up about her set and non-existent nerves. The Cleveland, Ohio native also talked about the progression from Urban Flora to The Color Of You and theorized how that journey will continue on her debut album, which she hopes will drop soon. Get acquainted with the rising star in our Q&A below.
Did you catch anyone yesterday?
I tried my best to make it Daniel Caesar but we got stuck, because we couldn’t get past the security or anything, but we saw SZA. Yeah, that was my favorite so far.
Who’s on the list for today?
Me. [Laughs]. Who else? Oh, Beyonce. I’m excited to see Beyonce. That’s about it though, we’re not gonna really have time.
Will you just chill after your set?
Yeah, I’ll be probably going to catering. Gonna get a little drink. Yeah, that sounds like a good idea too.
Are you bringing out anyone today?
Well, you’ll have to see.
Fingers crossed for a certain duet.
Possibly, one of the weekends. Possibly.
Can you believe you’re at Coachella? Everything seems to happened so quickly.
I think on the outside it feels very quick, but it took time. It took a long time. I’ve never gone to Coachella, I’ve waited for this moment to be on stage so it definitely took a couple years, which I don’t find quick. But it feels like a very right, exact time, it doesn’t feel like too long, too little, too rushed, too late. It feels right on time.
Are there nerves?
No, I’m not nervous. Just because it’s kind of the same with when I started my career, I had my whole life to think about what I wanted to do. It’s the same way with this set. I’ve dreamed about this exact set for so long that I don’t feel nervous, I feel very prepared for it mentally, most importantly.
Did you tinker with your setlist?
Yeah, it’s gonna be a mix. Like we’re obviously gonna play the popular ones from Urban Flora, but I definitely sat and went through each song in the exact order, super hands-on with that part.
Will there be more uptempo songs because it’s a festival?
I’m staying with my own vibe… as soon as I start to describe my own vibe, I don’t, I just get myself confused so I just want it to be my music, just let people form their opinions and moods and whatever they want and just let it be, I think you need a balance. Not everything in life can be turn up and not everything in life can be turn down, so it has to be a balance and I think there’s a little bit of both in the set.
How is The Color Of You a progression from Urban Flora?
What makes it a super rare project for me, from a writing standpoint, is that I like to write from a reflective standpoint and this one was an exact timeline. So the day I went to the studio, that’s what I wanted to write about and it was almost like whoever was in the room was my therapist and whatever I said out loud, that’s exactly what I wrote. I’m always gonna love poetry, but this was all in real time. It’s the most personal that you can get, to me.
Is it scary putting so much of yourself out there?
I think it was first. It’s really vulnerable, it’s very bittersweet because you let go, you’re sharing this huge part of yourself to the whole world. It’s not just one person, it’s the whole world. So it is, but I think if you’re closed off… what’s the point?
Is there a song on the EP that really sums you up the most?
I love “Yours.” I wrote it two days before I had to turn in the EP to master, so it was very… that day felt very much like summing up my past year. Then I also love “I Don’t Even Know Why Though” as a song because I just got to, I’ve always kind of felt it to be a bit of a burden to talk about bad things that go on in our relationships but this I was just like, “I don’t care” and I let it go.
Was it a relief to get it off your chest?
Yeah. I mean, you have to think too, I wrote this about someone. So they’re gonna hear it and that’s what I think about.
Has he heard it yet?
I don’t know.
Will your debut album be the best of both EPs or totally different?
It’s definitely different. I look at this project as a prelude to what’s next, so I’d like it to be more reflective and it’s kind of based around one person, whereas this project was like a diary of many, many things and people and environments around me. So yeah, I feel like you can still connect the three when the album is out but they’re stand-alone.
The sound has changed so much too.
Yeah, I mean it’s like day and night. Urban Flora I wrote it in my room, and I didn’t know what a studio setting was like and my only communication was via Facebook, so with this project I get to go to the studio and write how I felt that exact day and then I was done with it and it didn’t take many days to craft it, it was just right there.
Which process do you prefer?
I’m thinking of both, it’s just finding the balance between the two because I don’t want to lean one way too much.
I know we just got the EP, but when is the album coming?
I could just say soon.
What’s your biggest impression of the festival so far?
I think it’s definitely the most beautiful festival that I’ve ever been to, like people-wise too, just the most beautiful people.
There are a lot of models walking around.
Yeah. And the fits. Like everyone’s fits are really cool. I was hoping it wasn’t gonna be like this flower headband thing but it’s not, so it’s cool.
Good luck today.
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