The life of a rising R&B singer is unique. You don’t see many rap artists or EDM DJs performing the National Anthem at Fenway Park, for example, but those are the kind of gigs Marcela Cruz knocks out between recording her own music and building a fan base.
The Lowell native says that this has basically been her routine going back to the second grade. Back then, she remembers singing Top 40 hits like “My Heart Will Go On” on grammar school stages, looking for ways to connect. More recently, she has been able to break out as a solo musician, performing her own music solo. At spots like Brighton Music Hall and the Sinclair, unlike the TD Garden before a big game, she can connect on the merits of original music, always an accomplishment in a genre where performers are pressured to do covers—whether with wedding bands or on television singing contests.
Cruz says that she has no real formula for the way she writes, just inspiration from the little moments during the day when she is alone and free to experiment without others listening nearby.
“The place where I come up with my best ideas is when I’m driving, or when I’m in the shower,” she says. “I feel like that’s when thoughts just keep like running through my head. … Other times, it’s kind of like pieces of thought that come along throughout the day and then I’m able to put it together afterwards.”
It’s a given that Cruz does the duty of a pop singer in writing about love and heartbreak. Her first EP, Here We Go Again, finds her in those territories. Moving forward, she says she’s reaching out in new directions, trying to show off different parts of her experience. And not only in English; on top of more dynamic themes, Cruz is channeling her Puerto Rican culture and currently wrapping up a new album in Spanish.
“Everyone has their own story to tell. Everyone has different sounds,” she says. “I grew up in the ’90s. I listened to a lot of big vocalists like Mariah Carey, Lauryn Hill, Christina Aguilera. [They] were huge for me. A lot of what I listened to sticks with me.”
“I want to be able to show my audience the different sides of [me] they haven’t seen or heard.”
Cruz’s main goal, however, is as simple as it gets: sing. Even if she has finally come to understand that the business of music requires more than her voice and is learning to handle the behind-the-scenes industry aspects on top of performing and writing.
“I just want to sing,” Cruz says. “But I have come to realize that we don’t live in a world now where you can just focus on creating and be able to make a living off of that. The business side is just as important.”
Aiming for the practical, Cruz is not too proud to say out loud that she is still working toward becoming a full-time musician. Working days in the advertising world, she’s balancing a full-time job with a career as a creative that gets more and more demanding.
“There’s so many other artists out there with similar stories,” Cruz says, crediting her support team as being a big part of her success.
“They’re having to work that nine-to-five to get by and then working [on music] at night. I’m not alone in this type of situation.”
MARCELA CRUZ W/ LISA BELLO & SHAREEF KEYES & THE GROOVE. THU 2.28. ONCE BALLROOM, 156 HIGHLAND AVE., SOMERVILLE.