She is HYRA, the Nicaraguan-born artist finding her voice | Shifter Fest Q+A
HYRA released her new single "All That I Said" across streaming platforms on Oct. 23. Photo by Nadia Mendieta.
This is the first installment of exclusive Q+As with our Shifter Fest Vol. II performers. Be sure to check out their performances on our IGTV channel!
Just shy of 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Oct. 23, HYRA hopped on the Zoom call with a gracious smile. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail, bangs framing her face; her round glasses rested on the bridge of her nose. She sat in front of the headboard of her bed wearing an oversized gray sweatshirt from Los Angeles retailer Suay.
In pure comfort, I knew I was getting the most genuine version of HYRA, the 22-year-old Nicaraguan-born, Miami-raised independent musician. No gimmicks — just HYRA.
She’s already released two singles — “Sad Lullaby” and “Where We Can’t See” — earlier this year; the latter being featured in Spotify’s Fresh Finds: Latin playlist. Not only was the song added to the playlist, which has over 150,000 likes, but HYRA’s face graced the cover. She’s also been featured in the Fresh Finds: Pop playlist.
Her new single, “All That I Said” had just dropped that morning and I had been playing it all day leading up to our conversation. In its first week on streaming services, it garnered over 10,000 streams — a personal milestone for the singer. We talked about all things music, between her personal journey and where she finds inspiration. Without further ado, let Shifter introduce you to our first Shifter Fest Vol. II performer, HYRA!
Shifter Mag: You’re Nicaraguan-born, Miami-raised and LA-based. In what ways do you think your culture and upbringing impacts your music?
HYRA: I’m Latina, obviously, and I lived in Miami and then I moved to New York and then San Francisco and now LA. Every place that I’ve been has been a melting pot of cultures; so I think that not only me and my Nicaraguan, Hispanic, Latin-American background but every culture that I’ve had the opportunity to interact with and learn from and just be in those environments has made me appreciate everybody’s stories.
I think that influences the way I tell stories through my songs. It makes me want to push even harder to bring minority independent music artists not only into indie music but also the big pop world. I think it influences a lot of the decisions I make, how I represent my country and other creatives like me.
SM: How long did you stay in Nicaragua and Miami (and anywhere else you may have lived) before moving to the west coast?
HYRA: I was born in Nicaragua and I lived there throughout my early childhood. I was very little, but I think I moved to the U.S. when I was four and I used to go back every summer. I was in Miami until I was 18 or 19, so that was obviously a big formative experience. Like, that’s my hometown. I think a lot of the way that I live my life and the way I interact with and relate to people comes from growing up in the Miami community.
But I think I have a lot to owe to New York. I spent like three and a half years there; it sounds like a little bit, but New York is such a bustling city and there’s always something happening. College was hard. I had to pay rent myself and work 40 hours, plus being a full time student doing internships and working on music, going to Miami when I booked a show for the first time. There were times where I told myself “Well, if I don’t eat lunch right now, then maybe I’ll have enough money to take this subway train.” Experiences like that really just form the person that you are. I have so much appreciation for everyone that I met over there... I wouldn’t count out New York.
SM: Did you have a moment where you knew music was what you wanted to pursue, what you were meant for?
HYRA: I come from a very musical family. My great-grandpa and my grandpa from my mom’s side were both tenors (vocalists). They play guitar and they’re all proficient. My mom actually sang and performed when she was my age back in my country. Music has always been something that I grew up around. I can’t remember any sort of family activity, or holiday, or even just being in my house, where music hasn’t been playing.
I sang when I was little. Before I even spoke English, I was yelling Linkin Park songs. I’ve always felt like music is something that I should be doing. It always has taken me out of the present time, in both good and bad moments, and elevated my experience of life. Growing up, I’d watch my favorite artists on TV and listen to my favorite songs and think “Wow, this is something I can totally do.”
SM: How would you describe your musical style/genre and who are your main influences?
HYRA: I’ve been heavily influenced by techno and electronic music and hip-hop and R&B, which were the scenes I was involved in the most at the time [early in my career]. I’m influenced by people like Charli XCX, Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga. Those are all people I really look up to, so this HYRA stage is all of that finally coming together.
SM: This isn’t your first rodeo on the music scene. You used to make music under the moniker Dragon Fox — how would you say your musical journey as HYRA differentiates from the Dragon Fox sound you once created?
HYRA: In college, I used to put music out as Dragon Fox. That project started out as, “I’m gonna call myself something really crazy because I don’t think people are going to take me seriously.”
Then, people actually liked it. I wouldn’t say it took off, but I received a lot of positive feedback, especially from the Miami music scene. The more I realized that people care and that I’m inspiring and motivating people, it was like a culmination where I saw the sliver of light and I was like “This could actually happen.”
And then HYRA was just the evolution of all that. I’m finally doing what I really, really, really like to do, which is just pop music influenced by R&B, electronic and 2000s pop. The type of music is super different; I’ve thankfully been able to partner with really great musicians and the sound is a lot cleaner and it’s going places. Like the beat and the song comes together and it’s like, “Holy… wow, we did that?”
SM: What inspires you and what is your creative process like?
HYRA: There are definitely similarities every time a song gets written, but I wouldn’t say it’s formulaic in that way. It really just depends from song to song, like what am I inspired by? What do I want to say, did I find a story? The way I write… it’s stories that are very personal that I’ve been through that I just want to put into words. It’s stories that I see or hear, or something that plays out in front of me that I feel people should know. “Sad Lullaby” was super personal, it was something that I went through that I just wanted to express and tell. I just wrote it because I was feeling it at the time.
SM: You just dropped your new single, “All That I Said,” on Oct. 23. How would you best describe the song for new listeners? What inspired you to write it?
HYRA: “All That I Said” was inspired by a friend’s story. Their story really impacted me and I was so inspired to share that because I felt like it was powerful.
“All That I Said” is just one big emotional release and it’s like a POV of a person who’s seeing someone go through turmoil or any sort of bad situation where you see them struggling. It’s like, “How do I help you?”
I feel like a lot of songs are written in the perspective of the person who’s going through turmoil. That’s obviously very important but also the people who surround and care for this person are going through something. I was inspired to write from that perspective and how it’s also important; it’s written in the perspective of someone who’s hurting but that’s going to lend a helping hand regardless.
I think listeners can expect the most genuine story I’ve ever written, my most genuine performance. When I was recording in the studio to get those takes, I was legit like screaming, jumping, sweating because I had to get in that mentality. It’s very layered.
SM: Is there anything you know now that you would want to tell your past self?
HYRA: I’d say there’s no need to hide your true self. There’s really no point; people are going to like you for who you are and they’re going to support you. Some people are not gonna like it, and that’s okay. Not everybody likes the color blue. In the past, there have been situations where I wasn’t doing that and I was confused as to why the art was good and the song is cool, but why didn’t I love it? I think it’s really important to be 100% yourself and not be afraid of doing that.
Another thing would just be to keep going. Keep trying. Don’t be embarrassed to share your story or tell people you make music. That’s something I was scared of and now, I just want to scream it and tell everybody that yeah, I make songs. If you like it, you like it, and if you don’t like it, you don’t like it. But I hope you do like it.
Be on the lookout for HYRA's music visualizer for "All That I Said," dropping in November.
If you want to keep up with HYRA, follow her on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
You can also stream her music on Spotify and Apple Music and follow her for updates on future releases!
In the meantime, catch HYRA’s exclusive acoustic performance of “All That I Said” in our first installment of Shifter Fest Vol. II on our IGTV channel: