You might think Ely Guerra has about fifteen personas, what with all the changing hair dos, outfits, and string of hobbies. You’ll probably be even more confused by her recent album, Hombre Invisible, a complete 180 for the Mexican singer-songwriter. But confusion is a good thing, at least in Ely’s opinion. She wants to keep you guessing. Which is why she’s produced this recent album and its artwork (below), a collection of songs and snapshots that personify the last decade of Ely’s life.
Again, you might wonder how owls and rams and jaguars (oh my!) figure into a 38-year-old’s life. But if you talk to Ely for two seconds, you feel this animalistic nature in her. Like a rampant creature, she feels freer than ever. She’s free from the label that once housed her (EMI Music Mexico), the management that guided her, and the general “formula” that followed her. She is free. Now she’s left to her devices: making music, making food, and making friends (although with friends like Cafe Tacuba, do you really need any more?).
It’s been a while since your last album. What were you up to?
We were working really hard actually. I had a couple of other live records at Metropolitan Opera Theatre in Mexico City and I did an extended tour. At the same time we were saying goodbye to EMI Music Mexico. It’s always difficult to get your own path independently, so finally we said goodbye and I decided to say goodbye to my management and everything changed. We were working really hard, we never stopped.
How did the idea for Hombre Invisible come about?
I decided to invite some of my favorites like Juanes, Meme from Cafe Tacuba, Alvaro Henriquez de Los Tres, among others. This is why I decided to do Hombre Invisible in a different way, to do like a music laboratory. I definitely admire Meme. They are the real people of my life. When I’m near Cafe Tacuba, I can feel my blood in them.
“I FIND MYSELF VERY MASCULINE AT THIS
POINT IN MY LIFE.”
Why record independently now?
We were planning to do things differently in order to feel the music is in first place instead of the formula. We think the music is better with this model. We have 18 years of career that support this moment. We didn’t depend that much on the record company. In some ways we were [always] independent.
Where did you record this time around?
When I did my first record I was in Madrid and my second in London. My last record with EMI in Mexico City I did like five or six different studios with friends. This time it took us a year and a half. I started the art work before the music and then I started with the composing and then finally I went to Los Angeles and did the mix with Joe Chicarelli (U2, Radiohead, My Morning Jacket).
Where did the mythical visuals for Hombre Invisible come from?
I needed to explain myself. I knew the name of the record because I’m celebrating my masculine part. I believe we all have the feminine side and the masculine side and I find myself very masculine at this point in my life. I’m having this opportunity to go out of the picture and see what’s going on in my life. I wanted to be half alien, half animal. I needed to be Ely with breasts because I feel like that’s the most feminine part. I wanted the animals to be male, some have penises. No sé decir falo…?
Would you consider yourself a visual artist?
I guess it’s more like an admiration, but I love photography. I enjoy it. I wouldn’t say I’m very artistic. I have this project of self portraits. My mom told me “you’ll love to be in your ‘30s. You will be free and you will feel fantastic.” So when I was 25 I was just waiting for my ‘30s. I decided to carry my camera every time I went to my shows. I took the camera and took self portraits of my reality at the moment. It is thoroughly honest. It is real photography of my ‘30s. I feel like I need to share it in a book.
Your sound is very different in this album than the rest.
[My albums] have a distance between each other, which I celebrate. I never sound the same. My first record you can feel my childishness. The second record is very naïve and very open, it is very intense. I was hitting my ‘20s. Hombre Invisible is totally talking about myself. I am not speaking as a woman in love, I am speaking as a woman compromised with life and with love and with family. So I sound how I am right now. It seems to me like I am growing up. This is my golden moment.
Some of the songs’ titles and lyrics are in English. Why did you decide to do this?
I don’t see why I shouldn’t. I don’t speak really good English, but I think this happens to every Mexican because we have this powerful neighbor and we need to speak English and when you go to the supermarket everything is in Spanglish. We are living life in Spanglish and I do as well. I am a very Mexican woman. I love my own language, but when I speak in English I feel like I can say more things with less. English is monosyllabic. It is so easy to write in English. [With the lyric] “Men make women messy,” if you translate it it’s not the same.
“I AM A VERY MEXICAN WOMAN.”
Where’s home for you?
I don’t have a home yet. I feel like I’m in the middle of something. I’m sure I will find the right place.
What kind of music do you listen to on your own?
I’m not a good listener. Never been. I’m very embarrassed to accept this, I’m not the ordinary musician. I had a couple of important relationships in my life and they were both musicians. And I know how voracious they can be. But it’s not my case. I am into classic music. Whiskey and classic music. I spend my time making songs and making food. I love to eat, whatever you put in front of me. By now I cook almost everything. I’m not a chef. Yo soy cocinera.
What’s your favorite aspect of being a musician?
The most fun part of it is going on tour. It’s easier than being home. I cannot live without creating. I rather stay in my house making some noise.
Main Photo by Paula Balbi
Catch Ely Guerra on the Hombre Invisible U.S. Tour this Fall (dates below!)
9/24 — New York- Mexico Now Festival — Le Poisson Rouge (WIN TICKETS!)
9/25 — Chicago — Reserve Lounge
9/26 — Minneapolis — The Dakota
9/28 — San Diego — Brick by Brick
9/29 — Los Angeles — The Roxy
9/30 — Costa Mesa — Detroit Bar
10/01 — Santa Barbara — Soho
10/02 — Fresno, CA
10/03 — San Francisco, CA — The Independent