"Life happens so chaotically and uncontrollably that it brings me a little bit of peace to be able to let things play back smoothly in my head. Not only does it all feel cinematic, but I romanticise everything too when looking back," says Queens, New York-based creative, María Isabel, reflecting on her tendency to replay important memories in her mind like a movie. And it's this same sense of thoughtful artistry that Isabel applies to her earnest songwriting, explaining that, "Most of my songs start out as poems. Having an idea and trying to fit it into song form immediately can feel a bit limiting to me. I love the freedom of poetry to start and then scaling it back into a song once I'm set on what I want to say."
From the impossibilities of physical distance ("You start your day while I end mine"), to emotional distance ("Running in circles but never together"), and endless missed connections ("There’s love in letting someone leave"), for better or worse, a long-distance relationship plays out on Isabel's debut 'Stuck In The Sky' EP. "Once I decided this was the story I was going to tell on this project, I wanted to tell it in the order it all happened," confides Isabel, offering some lessons learnt for others currently trying to make it work: "My advice is the same regardless of the state of the world. Commit. I think a person knows when something is worth fighting for and a long-distance relationship is a fight. Against geography, time zones, weak WiFi, contradicting schedules, and more. But none of that really matters when you want it to work, so commit to communicating and making time for each other, now more than ever. (Side-note: Knowing the other person's love language really helps)."
"I will make time for the face time," sings Isabel in debut single, 'The 1' - a fitting maxim for a year in which no human has been able to escape feeling socially isolated from their friends and family. "I think we’re all here primarily to love and be loved, so time spent with those people who keep you anchored is so, so important. We should all be getting that time in any way we can now. We’re not creatures of isolation, so reach out to your loved ones often," encourages Isabel.
And considering the difficulties of even short-distance communication in 2020, Isabel's lyrical vulnerability really resonates in title-track 'Stuck In The Sky' when she poignantly asks: "It’s in you that I confide / What happens when I can't find you?"
A lifelong poet, Isabel says about her EP's spoken word interlude: "'Light Your Way Home' is a poem I wrote in 2018 when the relationship became long-distance and I needed to talk about it without talking about it. Poetry came first for me. I’ve been writing poetry since I could write and rhyme. I’ve always had a lot of feelings and felt like I lacked a place to put them all down and eventually my notebook became that place."
And on her healing process: "I have learnt so much about my healing process, but I think the biggest takeaway I’ve had is that I have to give myself the time and space to feel what I’m feeling, regardless of how badly I don’t want to feel it. Letting in the difficult feelings more often helps them move through me more quickly."
On whether she thinks love is an action or a feeling: "Am I allowed to say both? I think it’s both. The feeling is the driving force, but love is made up of the actions you take to demonstrate that feeling. I think it’s summed up perfectly in a beautiful short story I found in The New York Times called 'A Bookmark Near The End'."
Hopeful in her song 'Salt Water' that, "Some things happen twice in a lifetime," we ask Isabel if she believes in fate and that if something is meant to be that it will be? "I do believe in a sort of self-fulfilled fate. I think if something is meant for you and you give it the time, energy and attention it needs, it will find its way to you," she concludes - as always, looking for that silver lining.