YENDRY Doesn’t Have Time for the Constraints of the Music Industry

YENDRY is as authentic as it gets.

In an increasingly competitive market such as the Latinx music industry, the Dominican and Italian singer stands out due to her refreshingly honest approach to her artistry. On her signature tracks, such as “Nena” and “Barrio,” her ethereal vocals shine over Caribbean-inspired beats that pay homage to her home island, her multicultural upbringing, and her family. But YENDRY doesn’t feel the need to fit into a box, representing what the industry at large expects from a young, burgeoning, Latinx pop star.

“I’ve always felt like if you try to be something that you’re not, it’s not going to work. Even people that tell me sometimes, ‘Oh, but you’re not really Dominican. Oh, you’re Italian.’ … I just sing what comes out from my heart,” YENDRY tells BAZAAR.com. “I know it can be harder, but if you’re just yourself, you can’t go wrong. I know this could sound like a [contrived] statement or whatever, but that’s the truth. One day, it’s going to be me on a stage trying to sing for people, and it needs to be real. I need to feel what I sing. Otherwise, it’s not going to work.”

Below, the songstress speaks with BAZAAR about how she broke into the music industry, her biggest influences, and why she’ll never stop repping the Dominican Republic.

Tell me about your journey into music. Why was this something you knew you wanted to do?

I think like a lot of people, I got in contact with music when I was a kid through my parents, because they were listening to a lot of music in my house. There has always been a lot of music, and it was two different sides. On one side, there was salsa, bachata, merengue, and reggaeton. On the other side, there was Michael Jackson and Barbra Streisand and Whitney Houston, that world. I grew up with this and watching MTV. I’ve always sang, and I’ve always danced to the music, and I’ve always felt it.

At some point, I started to sing, and I realized that I really feel complete when I sing. I was singing for myself, honestly. Somehow I realized that I could provoke something in people, just through my voice. That’s why I decided to get out of my room and try to make this my job in my life. I’m happy. I don’t regret it.

You grew up in two very different places, the DR and Italy. Tell me how the two places shaped your sound.

I think I got from the DR the rhythm. I think every time I get into the studio, I like to start from scratch, and those rhythms are the ones that I have inside me, it’s in my blood. Also, I’ve been listening to a lot of melodic music, so all those melodies comes from there.

Living in Italy got me in contact with Italian music as well and Neapolitan music through my grandparents. They were listening to this Neapolitan music that was really, really melodic and had different scales. I think those two worlds, they come together inside me, and it just comes up like that.

Who were the influences you looked to?

Of course, when you grow up, you start to have your own tastes in music. For me, I was a kid, and it started with, obviously, TLC and Destiny’s Child, that world. But then, it kind of became a more personal research for what I really felt. I think Frank Ocean and J Paul were two artists that I was like, “Oh, this is something different. This makes me feel different.” And then, I started to follow James Blake. From there, I started to listen to Radiohead and Massive Attack, and try to find out more music, more alternative music, if you want to call it like that.

My taste in music, it took a different direction right now. That’s why when people ask me for my influences, I’m like, “Okay, this is really hard, because I really listened to a lot of things.” This morning, I was listening to Thundercat, and yesterday night, I was listening to Gloria Estefan. It’s vast. My influence is big.

Are you a Frank Ocean stan? I can hear that in your music. It has this soul that you’re not really used to hearing.

I’m a little nerdy, I listened to Frank Ocean. … I was listening to him when he didn’t release music, everything was on YouTube. Like “Sucka for Love” and “There Will Be Tears,” all those little songs. I like to research music, and I like to get there before the masses.

Your family has played a really important part in your life as well, especially your mother. How has she supported you through this musical journey?

It was not easy, because the first time you say to your parents that you want to pursue a musical career, they’re like, “Okay? What’s the job about?” They don’t really understand at first. I don’t come from a wealthy family. Of course, they were scared. They were like, “Okay, but you have no support. We can’t give you financial support for this. It’s going to be harder for you.” They were really, really rational. They told me, “Okay, if you decided to do this, we’re going to support you, but it’s going to be really hard, because you don’t come from already a musical background.

I have no one in my family that’s inside the music industry. I had to learn everything by myself. Now, they are really, really supportive. I feel like they are really proud, which is something that we don’t realize until they just turn up and listen to your music. I was like, “Mom, why are you listening to my music?” And she’s like, “I listen to it every day.” Oh! I think now they realized. … They still don’t know what I’m doing. They know that I’m in the States, and I’m doing interviews, and I’m doing promos, and I’m going to the studio every day. For them, they are outside, so they just don’t really know what’s going on, but they’re really supportive.

The financial [aspect] is really important. For example, for the first year, I was going to the university to study philosophy. They were like, “Why are you studying philosophy? This is not going to give you any money.” At the same time, I was working at a restaurant, and I was helping my family financially. I was the one that was helping them. That’s why they were like, “This is going to be hard, because we don’t have financial support for you. It’s going to be super hard.” It was, and it still is. People tell me, “Oh, but you’re famous now.” No, that’s not true. I’m investing everything I have in the project, because I have a big, big vision.

Many of your music videos are filmed in the Dominican Republic, and you’ll showcase your old neighborhood and the very street your house was on. Was that a conscious creative decision for you?

I feel like I’m a little bit mysterious on social media. People don’t really know where I am, where I live sometimes, and this is something I’m improving with. At the same time, they don’t really know my stories. Even if I have a song out with like “Nena,” even if I explain it in interviews and stuff, new listeners—I like to refer to them like that—they don’t really know your stories. They just come up after that, and they’re like, “Oh, I like this song, ‘Nena.’ What’s this about?” I’m going to have to explain it, and explain it a lot.

I felt like I wanted to give something, and I wanted to tell my story, and I wanted my mom, my family, my grandma to be part of this, and I wanted it to go back to the place where I was born. When I was there, I was like, “You know what? I’m going to develop this video for the song, and do it and film it in my neighborhood.” Because I felt the support from them. Everyone was helping from the speakers to my cousins. I have something like 40 cousins. They were helping me with everything. I worked with a stylist from the Dominican Republic. The brands were all Dominicans. I wanted to do something that was impactful there.

We didn’t prepare anything. We just got there [in Herrera] and everyone was going crazy, because I was there with Mozart La Para, who is super big, super respected. The kids were going crazy. I feel like I gave something to the people there.

The media have been covering this Latinx boom in music for the last few years. What do you think of this explosion on the scene right now, and how do you see yourself fitting into it?

I think Latin music is having a boom, and it’s also now going through a change. Before it was more systematic—it was more inside the box. I feel like right now, the Latin community is really experimenting. There’s a lot of new artists that are experimenting for real, with different sounds. There’s a lot of artists that are also not just adapting to reggaeton, but they are bringing all their [cultural] rhythms as well, because we have so many. I’m really proud to be a part of this.

How I could fit myself, though, is weird because I sing in Spanish and English, and I will always have that European side, because I grew up there. I see myself not only in the Latin space. This could sound pretentious, but I feel like I don’t want to just be a Latin artist—I want to be an artist that brings the Latin side and the European sides [to music]. I hope I will keep on experimenting with lots of music, because I feel like we can do amazing stuff from here.

This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.

Photos courtesy of Davide de Martis. Design by Ingrid Frahm.

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