Mali Velasquez will make you blush with embarrassment on debut track “Tore”

Nashville-based singer-songwriter Mali Velasquez cements herself as a singer-songwriter to watch with “Tore”, the first single off of forthcoming debut album I’m Green, out October 13 via Acrophase Records.

Based in Nashville by way of Texas, Mali Velasquez is a much-needed fresh voice.

Velasquez seems acutely aware of her newcomer status. Her cheekily titled forthcoming debut record, I’m Green, serves as a double entendre, winking at the fact that she’s just getting started. Despite her relative obscurity, the record already has a seal of approval from producer Josef Kuhn, who has become something of a lucky charm for up-and-comers due to his involvement with recently established heavy hitters like Annie DiRusso, Samia, and Hannah Cole. Legend has it that Kuhn reached out to Velasquez after seeing a YouTube video of the singer-songwriter performing a track from I’m Green. It’s not hard to believe this story, as Velasquez‘s vocals and lyrics are instantly arresting and addictive. She is the musician we have been waiting for.

While Mali Velasquez has shared that portions of I’m Green explore grief in the wake of the passing of her mother, recent release “Tore” mainly deals with the inward struggle of self-acceptance. Velasquez explains, “All of these songs are about is my relationship with myself, but also the relationship of ‘self’ as a reflection of my relationships to other people.” This comes through spectacularly in the accompanying music video for “Tore,” which is a fever dream of evocative images, threaded together by clips of Velasquez singing directly to the camera and expertly directed by videographer Reed Schick. Recurring images float in and out of frame, including: Crushed fruit, glasses of water, paintings that become warped, midriffs of young women. As a viewer, one intensely feels the message of the track bleed through. Here’s a berry that looks perfect on the inside; here’s what it looks like when you crush it. Here’s a glass of water; here’s how it distorts the reality behind it. And so on.

Velasquez‘s voice has a familiar, homey quality. Her vocals earn easy comparisons to somber singer-songwriters like Adrianne Lenker of Big Thief, Lomelda, and Julien Baker. That’s not to say that her performance is derivative. There’s a depth to Velasquez‘s music that puts her in a league of her own. When listening to her music, I want to cry with Mali; I want to mourn with Mali; but more than anything, I want to listen to more of Mali. This is due in part to Velasquez‘s poetic lyrics, which focus on small details to communicate larger ideas and pose big questions to the listener. In “Tore,” the artist explores the idea of self-sabotage. She croons, “Made you blush with embarrassment / Which made me feel irreplaceable / But the way I act’s unforgivable.” Anybody who has dealt with anxiety will be able to relate to these spiraling thoughts, this inability to simply be comfortable. As the track comes to a close, the galloping guitar and soulful drums that have provided a sturdy backbone to the track begin to devolve, hinting at the breakdown in self-confidence that Velasquez sings about.

Speaking further about the track, Velasquez reflects, ” ‘Tore’ is a song mostly about my own way of self-sabotaging. I have no idea how to combat being embarrassed all the time still, but explaining it some has helped. Being comfortable in my skin is something that feels out of reach a lot of the time. I put a lot of my ideas of not knowing how to feel or what to do or eat or wear into this song.” Clearly, Mali Velasquez puts a lot of thought into the meaning behind each of her releases. This meaning and profundity shines when listening, but most of all, her music is just really, really pretty. Do yourself a favor and listen to “Tore” at the link below– Even if it’s just so you can brag to your friends that you listened to Mali Velasquez back when she was green.

Claire Greising