Newcomer, Puerto Rican songstress Zayra Alvarez handled herself like a seasoned veteran at a recent show at the salsa club The Conga Room. Draped in black tight low risers and lace bra, surrounded by her all male band, she sounded great and looked fabulous. Her small legion of fans sang along to her single “Hoy” from her debut CD Ruleta (Brando Records/SonyDiscos). She’s graceful with attitude when she performs. Every note escaping from her mouth reveals her passionate core.
Born in Arroyo, Puerto Rico, Zayra knew she had to sing but didn’t know how to do it. “I got started by accident,” she recalled. “I didn’t have any connections at all. There’s a lot of talent. But families are raised to work. Aspirations are very, very low. So when a daughter tells her mom she wants to be an artist, Mom laughs and says ‘yeah right, you better go to college’.” And she did. Alvarez studied industrial engineering.
While vacationing with a girlfriend in Dallas, Texas, she decided to stay for five years. Her friend moved out and Alvarez found herself completely in charge of her life for the very first time. She came to dislike her job, feeling the infectious bitterness of her co-workers, who like a lot of us, work only for the paycheck and benefits. The experience motivated Alvarez to return to her music. She found other musicians who shared a similar passion for music and lyrics. The following year, she doggedly performed the Dallas club circuit. One night she caught the ear of her current manager who signed her. Alvarez happily quit her job, devoting all her time on her budding musical career.
Her writing process is almost cathartic and she takes intricate steps to express what’s in her heart. “It’s a whole procedure. Anything can trigger it. I have a room with candles and little angel figures. I just sit there in total silence, listening to what’s inside me.” And what’s inside her is a plethora of emotions dealing with love, break ups and survival. The CD Ruleta is a fusion of radio friendly pop, tinged with high energy and soulful bits of a poet’s heart. Alvarez knew what she wanted and executes it beautifully in Ruleta. “I love putting a variety songs together because I get bored really fast. I have to have different things to do. I put the album together thinking about the live show.”
Like many up and coming artists, the hardest part isn’t the instant adulation or the never-ending tour schedule. It is getting radio play. This isn’t surprising to Alvarez who understands that hot singers, who can guarantee an audience, will have their records spun constantly, while others grind their teeth for a small glimmer of air time. She understands that radio tends to give the audience only what they think they want to hear, sticking to a steadfast formula. “Because of that, people don’t know who I am. It’s a slow process to be known. I’ve had opportunities to open for good bands. But it’s still a little difficult within the Latin community.”
What’s high on her agenda these days is getting herself known to the public and staying on the radar for her growing fan base. In the meantime, Alvarez left LA in a U-Hall and drove herself back to her home in Dallas. Later, she plans to visit her family in Puerto Rico and begin the grind of touring all over again. Alvarez has no problems managing her chaotic schedule. She lives for it. It’s this enthusiasm, that she takes with her on stage, that people soak up.
“I just want to share my passion and talent. I love doing everything. I play. I sing. I write. I do everything. The bar is alot higher now. You have to be able to do a lot more than sing and be pretty. People are demanding. Hopefully people will be inspired to find their own talent, whatever it is, and follow through with it.”