Composer and singer Anaís Azul’s songs address themes such as queerness and mental health
Composer and singer Anaís Azul (’17) creates dreamy soundscapes in Spanish and English that are often raw and reflective. In fact, their new solo EP is titled Vulnerable. The child of Peruvian immigrants, Azul learned music theory covertly from a violist they sat next to in an advanced high school math class. They began arranging their own pieces at a Berkeley, Calif., after-school music program. At BU, their art and study ranged from salsa to orchestral, including composing a piece for the Chamber Orchestra of Boston. In 2020, Spotify included Azul’s song “Mi Piel” on its Best Non-Binary+ Artists 2020 playlist.
Did you grow up around a lot of music and art?
Both of my parents are visual artists. In the Bay Area, I grew up in art galleries, where there was always a piano. Wherever there was a piano, I would just kind of pounce on it and start tinkering around.
I grew up singing with my mom a lot, mostly carols during Christmastime. My dad and I made mix CDs together, and he would play me different albums.
Favorite class at CFA?
Orchestration. We learned hands-on techniques, like how do you construct a sound that you want to hear? What are the ways that you put a flute with a tuba (a surprisingly cool combination)? It was theoretical, but also architectural.
What inspired Vulnerable, your first solo EP?
After I got hit by a car in 2018, I realized I needed to be around creative environments and people I really love—not just people I can make really great music with. Vulnerable is a dreamy, bilingual, singer-songwriter-with-Latin-percussion-type EP.
Your songs include aspects of yourself, including queerness and mental health.
“Mi Piel” is about finding peace in not compartmentalizing me—yes, I am queer; yes, I am bilingual; yes, I am a teacher; yes, I am a community arts organizer; yes, I am a composer and singer. Yes, I am all of these things, and I’m not going to be ashamed of it.
As far as mental health, I was lucky to have parents that took me to therapy as a kid when they divorced. I have now been doing various forms of talk therapy for eight years. Each session allows me to open portals that often lead to songs of healing.
What’s your message for artists who are immigrants, or LGBTQIA+, or struggle with their mental health?
Our minds are really powerful. Be honest with yourself about your emotions. That means letting yourself be sad if you need to be sad, angry if you need to be angry. I made very intentional decisions in Boston about the people who were really supporting me there. This has led me to get an MFA in Composition and Performance [from California Institute of the Arts] and to produce my own music and feel super empowered.