UB Exclusive Interview: Tracy Cruz Speaks to UrbanBridgez.com
Her music hinges on heartless dissonance and jolting hope. Tracy Cruz’s music represents a vast, magnificent blend of polarities. We never get just one side of her; we get the kaleidoscope. Her song lyrics and production will unfailingly take you on a musical excursion, intended to resonate with all who experience it. As surely as it will crush your soul, it will also elate you. A vocal powerhouse, one that can speak a universal language, can only back up this aural diversity. Tracy’s alluring voice is comprised of sounds old and new, resembling Jill Scott’s throaty moans and Sarah Vaughan’s lyrical accentuation, all while still managing to remain distinct.
Born in Quezon City on the island of Luzon in the Philippines, Tracy grew up in an encouraging household where she watched with eyes of wonder as her mother and grandmother serenaded around the house. With a vocal range that stretched from unbelievable lows to soprano highs, a refined tonal quality and a few scribbles in her notebook emerged. Without forgetting her indigenous roots, Tracy developed musical mannerisms that were influenced by Filipino songwriting styles. The fearless admittance to thriving passion in Filipino ballads was something Tracy wanted to revitalize in her lyrics. That Tracy was influenced by her vocal coach – Ledisi – is obvious too. Oftentimes, she approached her voice as a melodic vehicle that interpreted the Word of God. With unfettered freedom and full self- expression, she discovered memorable ways of coloring church songs with rich meaning. Audiences often fell to their knees in response. Tracy humbly responds, “It’s not me who is singing; it is God moving through me.” With the guidance of Ledisi’s unapologetic, freewheeling style, Tracy Cruz soon gained the confidence to “step out” and touch a wider audience.
The evolution of Tracy Cruz’s music is a testament of the highs and lows of her life. With warm welcoming, Tracy simply “lets us in.” Each album, each song, offers a glimpse into the different chapters in her life. In 2005, her EP entitled, Illuminate Love, featured Kanetic Source, former emcee of Ozomatli, and accumulated national recognition. Tracy’s debut album, Feel’osophy (2008), was awarded three Muse’s Muse Awards for “Best R&B CD Project of 2008”, “Best Lyrics Female”, and “Best R&B Single Female.” Acclaim from Feel’osophy boosted Tracy’s profile in the industry. She was able to share the stage with Apl. de Ap of the Black Eyed Peas, Sy Smith, Mark de Clive-Lowe, Martin Luther, Jaguar Wright, Latoya London, Zion I, Pep Love, Living Legends, Breakestra, The Bangerz, and Crown City Rockers.
Upon listening to her new album Universoul Symphony, Tracy’s recalibrated confidence is wildly apparent. The album unveils the struggles of being an independent artist, the joys of being loved, the hardships of today’s economy, and surviving in a world riddled with injustice. Yet, Tracy envelops all of it and re-fashions it in a beautiful light.
Anyone would notice the subterranean depth that Tracy dared to dive into for Universoul Symphony. The production is lush with extravagant layers and unexpected instrumental choices. Best of all, the hypnotic backstage works perfectly with Tracy’s upstage lyricism. This is not the Tracy we knew from the past. Yes, she’s bigger, badder, and wiser. But best of all, the mad scientist has explored her mystical experimentations and she’s not afraid to show her work.
Recently Aries from UrbanBridgez.com caught up with Tracy Cruz and spoke to her about her new release “Universoul Symphony,” her current hit single “Love’s Galaxy,” her personal connection to Ledisi, her influences, how she juggles business and family and much more!
UrbanBridgez.com: I Just gotta start by saying, your voice is amazing!
Tracy Cruz: Thank you so much!
UrbanBridgez.com: When did you discover your gift and realize you wanted to be an artist?
Tracy Cruz: I started singing when I was 2 and right off the bat I fell in love with music. It made me really happy whenever I sang. I saw how it made others happy. My Grandma and mom, encouraged me to sing wherever I went. To showcase my love for music. Also my Grandfather and whenever I saw them they would give me money to sing for them. So that was cool, I was like how ever many songs you like (laughs). So my family really supported me since the very beginning. Growing up music has always been apart of my life from music lessons, then choirs and bands. Just really trying to absorbed music, I love how you can fully express yourself with music. As far as a career, I realized it in 2005 when I released my EP. This lady had sent me an email through MySpace. She said thank you for creating “Struggle” I was finally able to let go of my pain and finally cry and leave my past behind. So once I got that message, I was blown away. I wanted to make it my mission to create music that was honest and healing in a sense. Music that people can relate to and get some kind of comfort through my lyrics. So every since that day this is what I wanted to do, I wanted to touch people and touch people in a positive way.
UrbanBridgez.com: What goals did you set for yourself when you went in to record “Universal Symphony”
Tracy Cruz: I wanted to create a concept album, I wanted to make sure me and husband didn’t just string songs together but create a concept. With interludes, an intro, etc. We wanted to make sure the title related to the whole album. So we went back to the drawing board when we started “Universoul Symphony.” We were like “Feel’osophy” was really mello (laughs) so we wanted to make this one more upbeat and aggressive and set out to create a new sound for our listeners to hear. So we went through all the sounds on his keyboard and bought alot of new sounds like drum samples, you name it. So we reinvented the sound I believe and with “Universoul Symphony” I had high expectations, I wanted to make sure we created songs that were more concrete and had more intricate musical & vocal arrangements. And really come away from what we were producing in the past. So in all, we wanted to create an album that was more engaging as far as vocally. In fuse symphonic and electronic sounds with neo-soul and to make sure we brought something new to the music scene. We didn’t want to just keep making the same feel good songs and same style, we wanted to surprise our listeners by letting them know where we are now & how we’ve advanced.
UrbanBridgez.com: Love’s Galaxy is a really nice video, how did you guys come up with the concept for it?
Tracy Cruz: Thank you! We wanted to make a video that actually shows galaxy’s in it. Me and my husband were like what are we going to do, draw galaxy’s (laughs). So he was doing a search online and found footage from the space shuttle website and incorporated alot of those into the background. I’m not a technical person, I leave that to him (laughs). So to enhance the lyrics we wanted it visually stimulating as well. So that’s how we came up with it and being it is about love, we filmed our entire family to make the message stronger!
UrbanBridgez.com: Love’s Galaxy has also been making alot of chart news on the dance charts, congrads! Where do you currently sit on some of the charts like the PHAT 50?
Tracy Cruz: Right now, I’m actually on the Phat 50 in the Never lands it’s #4, I’m on the UK Soul chart at #4 as well with the album “Universoul Symphony” and some other things. I’m so thankful, I just wanted to share my music. So this is just extra and I’m thankful to God for these opportunities and to be recognized for my love for music. This is just the icing on the cake (laughs).
UrbanBridgez.com: Ledisi who we love here at UB has a special connection to you, tell our readers about it.
Tracy Cruz: Ledisi was my former vocal coach back in 2000. I heard about her on the radio in the Bay area and she had song an accapella song and I was blown away, I was like I have to find this lady (laughs). So I did some research and tracked her down, I’ve been following her music and found out she taught at a jazz school. So I wanted to meet her and I contacted her and we met for a few months. She really inspired me to sing very expressively and bring life to the words you sing. She also inspired me to stay true to myself and write my own lyrics, so I really draw from her alot when it comes to my own career. She has worked so hard to get to where she is and I applaud her for staying true to herself and she’s living her dream, I’m so proud of her!
UrbanBridgez.com: How have you learned to juggle business and family?
Tracy Cruz: Ok (laughs). Business and family has alot of challenges. Because as an indie artist you’re doing everything! You’re doing the promotion, email blasts, sending out the promos, selling CD’s, so it takes alot of your time and very overwhelming. As far as juggling them both. I always make sure I set aside time to do both. Like in the mornings I do the business things for a couple of hours. Then I’ll shut that off and won’t go back to it. Then I will handle everything else like the cooking, taking care of my kids, helping with their homework, spend time with my husband, all of that stuff. I just really try to set aside time for those things. So things won’t clash, I never clash business with family life! My family comes first!
UrbanBridgez.com: Some of my favs by you are Emotional Love, I Breathe You and Flowers & Candy, what are the top 3 songs you’ve recorded thus far?
Tracy Cruz: I would say Flowers and Candy, Love Galaxy and Joyful Rain and those are all from Universoul Symphony. From Feel’osophy I would say Emotional Love, Blue Eyes and Don’t Leave.
UrbanBridgez.com: Who are some artist you would love to work with in the future if given the opportunity?
Tracy Cruz: My #1 choice is Jill Scott, I love her, she is so amazing. I have all her albums, I watch her YouTube videos, I go to her concerts. I study her, I admire her work so much! As far as others, DJ Jazzy Jeff, The Foreign Exchange even if it’s just vocals and as far as production for timeless music, Stevie Wonder or Quincy Jones that’s like in my dreams (laughs).
UrbanBridgez.com: (laughs) If you speak it, it will come!
Tracy Cruz: And Diane Warren. She is amazing!
UrbanBridgez.com: Outside of music, what else do you have on your plate, what’s next for you?
Tracy Cruz: We’re actually working on a remix album and we’re working on our official record release event.
UrbanBridgez.com: Anything else you want to leave your fans with?
Tracy Cruz: I want to thank everybody for their support! Thank you for being there for me since the beginning, thank you for following me on this journey and appreciating what I love to do. I also want to thank my fans for always encouraging me and motivating me to stay focused on my purpose. I really appreciate your love and support!