Music’s evolution has brought us to a place of ubiquity, to the point where it is often described nowadays with vague terms: music is genreless, music is fluid, music has no bounds. Genres are less categories than they are archetypes, segments of sound whose influence is meant to inform its subjects and not classify them. In this unruly landscape, there is one commonality that unites all musicians - they all want to sing. Rockstars, rappers, influencers-turned-pop stars, they all want the same thing. For Mexico-born, Miami-based singer-songwriter Andrea Bejar, singing is not as much a desire as it is a compulsion. She needs to sing, perhaps at the risk of spontaneous combustion if restrained. One scroll through her social media accounts help tell this story: there’s Andrea applying make-up, casually imitating Billie Eilish’s “What Was I Made For?” to near flawless execution; maybe she’s rubbing foreheads with her cat, nailing an acapella of “Understand” by Keshi; or, if you prefer, a soothing rendition of “Moon River” while she lays leisurely on the couch. The unconventional settings and scenes of these videos displaying her voice serve the point that as instinctual as it is for Bejar to break into song, it seems just as effortless for her to produce the cloud-9 vocals that have entranced millions of listeners. It’s almost as if she is naive to the fact that this kind of talent is unreachable for most others, her nonchalant performance taunting us listeners with how simply she is able to astound.
Radiating with energy as she joins me for a video call, Bejar has to think hard about her first memory of singing. “Honestly, ever since I was…” she begins before trailing off. She settles on a safe but practical answer: “I can’t remember not singing,” she says with a laugh and a big shrug. Singing was usually part of a larger show, she tells me, that Bejar’s friends and siblings would put on for her parents. Dancing was usually part of the routine as well, but the songs began to take precedence over choreography. Her early affinity for music placed Bejar in piano lessons, but Bejar soon discovered that playing instruments was just a means to an obsessive end. “I quickly realized I didn’t really care for piano and I more so just wanted to use piano as an accompaniment to sing,” she says, with little remorse for her abandoned lessons. “I guess that’s when it started,” she concludes. “Ever since then I’ve just been trying to find songs to cover.”
And cover songs she did, from top 40 radio hits to singer/songwriter deep cuts, Mexican folk songs from the likes of Natalie Lafourcade she grew up listening to, and anything in between. Not too long after discovering her passion for music, Bejar developed a desire to create her own. Doing so, however, involved writing her own lyrics, a part of the process she initially resented. “Every time I would get to the writing process, I would be like, ‘Ugh! I don’t want to do this anymore!’” recalls Bejar, throwing her body around her Zoom square in disgust. Singing was her priority, and she approached the writing aspect of her music with a level of disregard for intentionality. “I would go on Rhyme Zone and find words that rhyme and I would be like, ‘ok, whatever, I’m done.’” It wasn’t until Bejar began work on her single “Despierto” that she felt attached to the words she was writing on the page. For Bejar, even the simple act of physically writing was a step forward. “If something doesn’t sound right in my head, I didn’t used to put it down on paper. I would just stop the idea before even continuing it,” she says of her past approach. Now things are more free-flowing, and Bejar is willing to work with raw material to formulate a fully-realized final product.
This does, of course, depend on the context. As a bilingual artist, Bejar records her music in her native Spanish as well as her learned English, at times flowing between languages in the same song. The dynamic that has developed between the two languages directly informs Bejar’s music, and has changed with her bilingual perspective. “I think it’s mostly something I flow through naturally with,” she says of her choice of which language to deliver lyrics through. “I’m perfectly fluent in Spanish, but I think in English now. I guess I had less judgment towards myself when writing in Spanish. I was like, ‘I’m writing, who cares? No one’s gonna see this anyway.’ In Spanish I judge myself less with whatever I was writing which made it way easier to write and actually get ideas out. Now, writing is like a huge part of the process and it's like my favorite part about making music. I guess it just depends on the song; if I’m writing about family or stuff like that, I’ll lean towards writing in Spanish a little more. More internal feelings and ideas, I’ll lean towards writing in English because I think in English, and it makes it easier to put down exactly what I’m thinking.”
Following the release of her serene single “Despierto,” Bejar has continued to display her ethereal vocal talent through varied deliveries. “Quien Tengo Que Ser” boasted naturalistic production in support of explorative lyrics, and most recent release “Mexico” is a jubilant ode to her home country. While she is sure to bring her soul to every song, “Mexico” sounds representative of a specific artery in her heart. This artery was beginning to bleed dry with Bejar having not visited the country for a while, and the song was a way for her to reconnect to those roots. The height of her withdrawal was nothing short of homesickness: “I was like, ‘all I wanna do is go back to Mexico,’” she tells me with a big sigh, dropping her shoulders to symbolize the physical grief she was experiencing at the time. “‘I don’t wanna be in Miami anymore, I hate it here. I just wanna go to Mexico, I miss the feeling of being home.’” While Miami has been Bejar’s base for years now, it will never fill her Mexico-shaped void. “It's the only place that’s ever felt like a home to me,” she says, swelled with sentiment.
“Mexico” came together naturally, and rightfully so. As her producer Diàgo introduced Bejar to the riffs that populate the track, she couldn’t help but feel transported to the place she was missing the most. Describing the process as therapeutic, Bejar’s writing broke through. “I didn’t even think about what I was writing, it was just coming out of me,” says Bejar, and victoriously at that. As she wrote about the rain and thunderstorms that used to put her to sleep in her house in the mountains, Bejar felt at peace. Of the song, Bejar says she “just tried to remember everything I love about Mexico and all the things that take me back to it…it truly captures what it is to be home.”
Bejar was able to satisfy her craving of a return to Mexico earlier this year, with the trip’s footage ultimately serving as the source of “Mexico”’s music video. Through the camera’s lens, there is a tangible nostalgia at hand, with the present joyfully merging with the past in a true realization of belonging. While not the focus of her homecoming, Bejar was in the midst of a creative lull when arriving in Mexico. Her past methodologies were proving unreliable: “If I get inspired, I get inspired, and if I don’t I’ll just have to wait for the inspiration to come,” she reflected, laughing at her prior artistic innocence. Returning to her roots proved to be the solution, along with working more collaboratively with others. In a week’s time, Bejar wrote 4 songs, a pace she had never accomplished before. Even more importantly, she gained clarity on how to approach songwriting moving forward: “The process now is just starting with an idea and making sure the concept is really strong and cool and something I can resonate with and write about, and then just putting that in my notes tab (laughs) and then coming back to it when I have someone that I can work with and fully write a song.”
This improved way of working isn’t fool-proof just yet. Bejar shares with me a recent anecdote about how she wrote a melody she saw as “really cool and really different. And then I showed it to (my friend) and he was like, ‘this is so cool.’ Then I showed it to my other friend and he was like, ‘I don’t love this.’ I was like, ‘ugh, damn it, I can’t write it anymore because someone didn’t like it!’” For Bejar, music is all about making a connection. That’s the primary goal of every song she makes, and for it to fall short for even one listener is disappointing. But that only serves to make the successes that much sweeter. “If even just one person really connects to a song, whether they ended up liking it or not, just being able to say ‘I was able to connect to even just one line’ makes me want to continue writing deeper songs about all of my fears, because I have a lot of fears,” says Bejar, with a nervous chuckle to close. Through songwriting, she’s learned to be less judgemental of herself as she’s now aware of the closure available to her by being open in her music. Self-identifying as “a very emotional person” (“I’m always the first one to cry”), Bejar’s found solace in writing her own ending to chapters of her life through her lyrics.
While she works through the intricacies that inform her character, Bejar continues to reflect on her soulful beginnings: in recognition of Mexican Independence Day, Bejar shares an acoustic rendition of “Mexico.” You can hear the stripped-down track now, on YouTube
In accompaniment with new music, Bejar’s voice is readily-available across her social media platforms: you can hear her live performance of an unreleased track, “Rosas,” on her YouTube page, along with as many covers as your heart desires - or can take in one sitting. In her cover of SZA’s “Kill Bill,” all anguish evaporates from the track but the song sounds more sinister than ever in her calmly-chilling register. Alternatively, Bejar has posted a cover of Declan McKenna’s “Brazil,” which she claims to be her favorite song to cover. When asked to elaborate on her reasoning, Bejar obliged: “In a lot of my songs I sing very softly, it's more of a breathy-whisper type of singing. And with “Brazil” I feel like I can just, like, sing and belt and it feels really good to belt it out…I can just let loose and let the words flow out of my mouth. I also really like how he says a lot of the lyrics; he doesn’t sing them, he just says them. It's really fun to play around with the dynamics of saying this word faster or giving this word the accent that he gave it. It's really fun to perform, obviously it's an upbeat song so you can move around and it's really fun.” Enlivened by her live performance, it’s hard not to feel as passionate about the cover as Bejar does.
To close, I ask Bejar to consider what she would be doing if not for music. I give her the floor and she declares it’s “story time,” and she tells me about her decision to study music in school, her sudden change of heart from wanting to be an entrepreneur, her passion for art that extends to painting and make-up, a fleeting dream of being a runway make-up artist discouraged by the challenges of finding opportunity. After being ushered away from Berklee in part because she knew no music theory, she attended school for a few more years while maintaining her focus on music. Now it’s become her priority, and she hopes she never has to look towards another profession again. While her story was thoroughly enjoyable and full of twists and turns, it seemed as though there was only ever one answer. If not obvious enough from her current position as one of music’s most captivating voices, it was clear from the reflexive look of panic that flashed across Bejar’s face when I first prompted her to consider a life that exists outside of music. It's been her life for as long as she can remember, and seemingly every available moment has been filled with the enchanting presence of her singing voice. After hearing Bejar’s voice even once, it’s just as hard for fans to imagine a life without Bejar’s mesmerizing music.