Singer-songwriter Gracie Laboy returns more powerful than ever with a new, empowering and sensual bilingual single. Combining an irresistible reggaetón beat with the unique sounds of Puerto Rico’s beloved native frog, the coqui, Laboy released “Boricua” — a colloquial name for a person of Puerto Rican heritage that derives from the Taíno word, Boriken, which means Land of the Brave People.
In her new jam, it is inevitable not to be seduced by Laboy’s honey-dipped vocals, pumped-up lyrics, and sultry vibes. “Boricua” will definitely make you feel somewhere between a crowded nightclub and an isolated romantic beach.
Gracie Laboy’s devotion and pride as a Latina singer-songwriter are absolutely noticeable in all of the details of the track, including the single artwork. The cover includes photos taken by her grandfather on the island in the 80s as well as photos Gracie took from her time in Puerto Rico in 2018.
There are so many layers we need to discover from this Latina Pop and R&B singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles, CA. We took the initiative to learn more from this emerging talent. Find below BELatina‘s exclusive interview with Gracie Laboy.
When did you realize music was your passion?
Music has been my passion since I can remember. But I think I realized I wanted to be a singer when I grew up when I was touring Italy with the Children’s Chorus of Washington. As cheesy as it sounds, I learned that music is a universal language during my time touring there, and I saw firsthand for the first time the power of music. I remember making people cry performing in a tiny town in Tuscany where no one spoke English, and I also have a vivid memory of impromptu singing a few songs with a group of five people while we were riding in a gondola in Venice and nearby tourists and locals erupting in applause from above us on the bridges and around us in other gondolas. Seeing how music impacted people’s souls and emotions made me realize this was something I wanted to do forever.
Do you come from a family with a musical background? What do they think about your career?
Actually, neither of my parents and none of my grandparents are musical, but I think my great-grandma was a singer, and I have a few second cousins on my Puerto Rican side that are musicians. So I’m not really sure where I got the “talent” from, but I know music and rhythm are in my blood just by being Boricua. Even though my parents aren’t musical, they appreciate it so much and are huge supporters of music and the arts in general. They are honestly my biggest fans and their support means the world to me! They know it’s a hard and scary career, so they do whatever they can to support me.
Please walk us through the inspiration behind the lyrics of “Boricua” and the importance of including coqui sounds.
I was inspired to write “Boricua” after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in Fall 2017 when I was living in Valencia, Spain doing my master’s [degree] in music. Parts of the island, including where most of my relatives live, didn’t have power or running water for 6-9 months. All the shops except the Walmart in the Humacao shopping center were STILL closed when I went in November 2018. In the hurricane aftermath, some members of my extended family were instrumental in getting and preparing food at the community center in Mariana so people could have hot meals during the long period of a power outage. They also helped come up with creative solutions for energy during this time.
Seeing my extended family and the island come together during this tragedy and somehow still stay positive with music, food, and the community was so inspirational and reminded me how strong Puerto Ricans are and that being Boricua is special. I knew I wanted to write an uplifting song that was in a way an ode to the island and an anthem of pride. The coqui sounds are important to me because it is something that is very unique to Puerto Rico. If you are Puerto Rican or if you have ever been to the island, it is a sound you’ll recognize, since as soon as the sun sets they get very loud.
For some reason, their calls/noises are very comforting to me, in the same way, that rain sounds make some people feel at peace. The coqui sounds on my track “Boricua” are actually taken from a voice memo on my phone that I recorded when I was there in 2018. I love connecting with my Puerto Rican heritage, and am proud of being Boricua, so having an original song to show just how much pride I have means the world to me. Puerto Ricans have gone through a LOT lately, with the devastation of Hurricane Maria, challenges to the economy, and now the numerous earthquakes in the past month, so I hope this song can be an anthem for Boricua pride and reflect the joys of being on the island.
How do you unapologetically embrace your roots?
I embrace it all, the good and the bad. I grew up with my dad speaking to me in Spanish a decent amount, but I would usually respond in English; as I got a bit older, I put a lot of effort into learning Spanish because it was important to me to connect to my Puerto Rican roots. I also have learned how to cook certain Puerto Rican foods from my abuela. I embrace the language, the food, the music, and all the parts of being a Latina!
What’s the next step in your career? Any concerts or world tours soon? Any collaborations?
I’ve released all the music I have, so the next step for me is getting back to writing new music! This is definitely scary, but really exciting, and I can’t wait to see how my sound develops over time. I hope to write more bilingual songs and innovate in the reggaeton and Pop/R&B/Latin Pop fusion areas. I also want to perform around LA more in 2020! I hope to do a more formal tour in 2021.
As a proud Puerto Rican, everything that recently had happened on the island might have a huge impact on your life. After hurricanes, earthquakes, corruption and more, which message would you like to send to your fellow Boricuas?
I think I would encourage everyone to try and stay positive, stay strong, and most importantly stay KIND. I think in stressful, intense situations like natural disasters and political issues, people can be quick to point fingers and be nasty to each other, but I really don’t think that is ever the solution. I myself am trying to educate myself on what is actually happening and what possible solutions are, and I would encourage my fellow Boricuas to do the same. At the end of the day though, we are a people of strength, resilience, and we value and prioritize community and family, so I know we will get through whatever life throws at us.