Isa Marina Lopez, better known by stage name Isa, is a second-generation singer, songwriter and model of Cuban and Dominican descent. Inspired by the likes of Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, the Bronx-raised beauty always had a passion for music and performing. At the age of nine, she taught herself how to play the guitar using the chords from No Doubt’s ‘Tragic Kingdom’ and got involved in musical theater, local talent shows and choral groups.
The 24-year-old Latina later fell in love with classical opera and decided to jump on a plane to her native Dominican Republic aged 14. She enrolled in the prestigious Marianela Sanchez School of Music, where she was trained in operatic technique for four years by famed lyric soprano, Marianela Sanchez. Her time in the DR strengthened her vocal range (D3-D6) and gave her voice the power that she is now known for.
After graduating, she spent two years interning with major record labels EMI Music and Capitol Records. This experience influenced her decision to steer away from classical music and focus on creating a more commercial, contemporary sound for herself as an artist. Not just a pretty face, Isa also has a Bachelor’s degree in communications with a minor in English Literature, which has helped her to market herself effectively for longevity in the industry. While studying at Pace University, she released her debut EP in 2013. Montage showcased her musical versatility with everything from haunting ballads to EDM/pop tracks.
“Take It Slow” is the lead single from her upcoming sophomore project, Mirrors Volume 1, the first instalment of a two-part EP series. Her dulcet vocal tones and vulnerable lyrics against the piano make for an enchanting aural experience, reminiscent of the late Selena Quintanilla. The track explores the aftermath of a painful break up and the notion that stillness can help you to achieve clarity and make better relationship decisions. Isa comments: “There is no resolution by the end of [the song]. It’s literally a song about being still. There is no right or wrong move, there’s nothing really to do but let life flow naturally no matter how painful it may feel to not have a solid ‘yes’ or ‘no’ at the time.”
How did growing up with immigrant parents from Cuba and the Dominican Republic in New York affect who you are as an artist today?
I truly believe that growing up with immigrant parents gave me a dose of reality from the very start. They instilled in me that I need to work hard for what I want, nothing was going to be magically handed to me. Even as a child, I knew that I was going to be a very successful artist.
Seeing my parents do everything within their possibilities, and even creating [their own] opportunities, to provide a better life for my brother and I; while still maintaining humility and a positive outlook, created a [work ethic] that I apply to all of my work and how I interact with others during my creative process.
In NYC, hustle is the name of the game; having thick skin and being ready to pound the pavement in order to move forward with any endeavor. I can honestly say [that] I got the hustler’s spirit from my parents; that drive. I could’ve given up a very long time ago, but I haven’t and I won’t, no matter how far I get.
As a child you became fascinated with Maria Callas in Puccini’s ‘Tosca’ and opera music in general, so much so that you became classically trained as an opera singer. What was it about classical opera music that made you want to emulate it?
There is something so beautiful and enticing about classical opera music, ‘Bel Canto’ specifically (beautiful music). Opera was everything I envisioned singing to be; the passion with which the vocalists evoked emotion, the drama, the regal theatrics, the costumes. I mean…life stories told in this way touch you that much more. What got me was the technique, how were these singers able to create such gorgeous sounds and bring their voices to such high planes? Opera made me truly appreciate the voice as the precious instrument it is.
Your new single “Take It Slow” is about pausing for a moment of clarity before rushing into a bad decision when it comes to romantic relationships. How important is being rational when it comes to matters of the heart?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned when it comes to matters of the heart is that you truly have to be in love with yourself first. We hear this all the time, “love yourself,” but what does that really mean? It’s not being/looking cute or having your hair done. Loving yourself is being [good] to you, your mental and spiritual wellbeing.
It’s so important to remember who you are at all times and to be aware of your surroundings and whom you’re surrounded by. Being rational in matters of the heart is as simple as following your gut feeling. I’m a true believer that your gut feeling never lies; if it doesn’t feel right or if you’re having doubts, love yourself that much more to say “no” or move on. Don’t end up going along for the ride that deep down you know you’re not ready for or truly don’t want to take.
You talked about how the song was inspired by a past relationship you had that involved cheating. What advice would you give to someone currently in a similar situation with someone they love?
The situation wasn’t specifically about cheating. It was a ‘situationship’ that blew up and turned into a complete mish-mosh of emotions and confusion. Ladies, if [you’re in] a situationship, RUN FOR THE HILLS LOL. We were dating exclusively, and while there was the intention of it developing into a formal relationship, his ex became a third wheel in the situation and it went downhill from there.
My advice would be to always have yourself as number one, again truly love yourself. I was so focused on this individual and that relationship that everything else fell to the wayside. I made him my whole world, which was a huge mistake, but a big lesson for me nonetheless. Had I been more in tune with myself, I wouldn’t have chosen to ignore so many blatant red flags from the very start.
If it doesn’t feel good to your spirit, it’s time to let it go. It’s okay to move on and move forward. Don’t think of the time spent as time wasted. I learned so much about myself and was able to grow so much since that experience, it’s crazy. I’m a brand new person compared to who I was way back when and that’s a beautiful thing.
“Take It Slow” was produced by D. Robb, how did that collaboration come about? Are there any Hip Hop artists you’d like to work with in the future?
At that point D. Robb was my live show pianist. I love to create songs from scratch and not just write over a beat, so the collaboration was super organic. Once I’d written and sent over my demo, we literally sat at the piano and fleshed it out.
There are so many Hip Hop artists I’d love to work with! Nas, to do a real Hip Hop jazzy record. J. Cole, he just gets it! A$AP Rocky, Uptown all the way; Common, Drake…the list goes on. If Pac were still alive, that’d be a given. He’s my favorite Hip Hop artist of all time. He kept it all the way real.
What’s next for you after your upcoming EP Mirrors Volume I drops?
Once MVI drops, my goal and intention is to tour. I have so many supporters spread across the US and I so badly want to get out there and rock with them. I’m working on making that happen!