Yahritza y Su Esencia: 'You have to put love into music'
“Los rumores por hay, son verdad,” Yahritza y su Esencia, the breakout sibling group from Yakima, Washington, wrote in September, confirming that the rumors were true: they’d been nominated for two Latin Grammys, for Best New Artist and Best Norteño Album.
The good news came just months after the trio’s record-breaking “Soy El Único,” written by its leader, 16-year-old Yahritza Martinez, debuted at #3 on US Top Songs and #25 on Global Top Songs. Since then, the official music video for the breakup ballad has amassed more than 63M views on YouTube alone, and the group has earned fans all over the world for its stripped-to-the-essentials take on Música Mexicana. Earlier this year, the band’s members Yahritza, Mando and Jairo spoke about the practice and chemistry that creates their seamless sound, and why fans connect with sad songs.
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
I love to sing. I love to play the guitar. I love playing with my brothers” Yahritza Martinez
Yahritza, you just came home from school! What’s it like to live in your regular routine while experiencing a lot of new attention?
Yahritza Martinez: It’s mind blowing to know that, until now, I was just going to school, and coming home and doing homework. Now, whenever we have meetings, I have to come home and eat so fast so I can be ready for the meeting, and after, have time to practice with my guitar. It’s a different schedule. Recently, me and Jairo, we took our guitars to go play at school, just to like, sing with our friends and stuff. But so many people were trying to be sneaky, acting like they weren’t recording us, but they really were. Not a lot of people from Yakima have really gone up. So this is crazy for us and them, too.
What’s life in Yakima like?
Yahritza: Yakima is not so fun, so you have to make it fun your own way, you know? For us, it’s just hanging out with friends and making our own thing. We go to the mall sometimes and to my brother’s house.
How did all get into making music together?
Yahritza: My dad sings, and he was always singing karaoke with my uncles. My dad was into the old type of music; that’s why we like the more love type of music. Eventually Mando started singing too and that inspired me to try it. When I started singing, I wasn’t so good. Like I would be screaming when I sang and Mando would tell me, “Don’t scream.” But since, I’ve just been loving all of this. I love to sing. I love to play the guitar. I love playing with my brothers, which is the best, because we get along so well.
Our chemistry is like, hella good” Jairo Martinez
Jairo Martinez: How do you say it? It’s like our –
Yahritza: Our bond?
Mando: Our chemistry?
Jairo: Yeah. Our chemistry is like, hella good.
Mando: We've always been really close. Our parents taught us how to be humble and how to appreciate whatever we have. Even if we just go to the park with my parents and our family, we have so much fun just playing soccer with them or whatever. I think that's why we have such a good bond with each other. We do argue, but that’s sibling stuff, you know?
Jairo: Mando’s like the leader. He basically tells us, “Do this,” or, “it goes here.”
Yahritza: If we’re practicing and someone does something wrong, we know if Mando is mad, before he even says anything.
Mando: It's funny. With just one look that I give them, they know what to do differently already. I know what they’re capable of. They’re so smart. They can play any song, they don’t even need to know the notes. So if I tell them, “Hey, do it like this,” I know they can do that, 'cause I've seen them do that.
“Soy El Unico” is one of this year’s most-streamed songs in any genre, and you wrote it when you were just 13. How did you become so in touch with ideas about heartbreak at such a young age?
Yahritza: When I was 13, I watched a lot of videos on the internet and I would see people being so sad. They would post quotes and stuff. I just felt like if I wrote a sad song, more people would relate to it. Mando also had a relationship that inspired me to write.
Mando: In my last relationship, I feel like I got hurt a lot just cause I was giving this girl my everything and she thought she could find better. And even to this day she's like, “Oh, every guy that I want to compare, he's never like you.” So, yeah.
Your debut project was recorded in one session, and it does sound like a product of chemistry and love. And how would you describe what you all do to someone just learning about your music?
We don't need to do so many takes because before we record we already have everything practiced out. And we don’t do too much on the instruments so we can let Yahritza’s voice actually shine. With a different voice, you wouldn’t feel our music as much.” Mando Martinez
Mando: We don't need to do so many takes because before we record we already have everything practiced out. Before we show a song to anybody, we practice. And we don’t do too much on the instruments so we can let Yahritza’s voice actually shine. With a different voice, you wouldn’t feel our music as much. She’s singing her style.
Yahritza: The instruments complement my voice. They get along. It just fits.
The style of music y’all make has been thriving and evolving for a long time; why do you think your particular take on it has resonated so widely?
Mando: Guitars like this are always gonna be classic, you know? But I feel like people really like it because of the voice. We saw that people in Japan even listen to us. They say that they don’t know what Yahritza is saying, but they like that it’s nice and how it sounds.
Yahritza: People wanna see the type of love you put in, you know? You have to put love into music. I like writing music so that the people can like it. Of course I like my own music, but really I like that people can like listening to it. It’s mostly for the fans. I want people to be able to feel what we were feeling when we were singing, or playing the guitar. That’s what we’re trying to show people.
Your album tells the story of a relationship, and you created music videos for almost every chapter of the story. What was your favorite part about creating those videos? You look so effortlessly cool in them!
Mando: My favorite part of recording the videos was standing all three of us in a circle and playing. It was our first time ever, but we flowed with it so good.
Yahritza: My favorite was when me, Jairo, Mando and my big sister shot in the back of a car, and when me and Jairo had a photo shoot with all the cars behind us. We may not have always had what we have now, but we’ve always had the style. That’s your own thing.
As you embark on this career together, what do you hope will happen, for you and your fans? What would succeeding mean to you?
Yahrizta: For us, succeeding is probably seeing our family have a good life. My parents really did a lot for us and we just wanna give all that back.
Mando: That's our main goal in all this, making their lives less stressful. And for our fans, we really wanna see them in person. Give them a good show and give them their money's worth, you know? So we’ll be practicing.