Tell me more: Boricua Indie Artist Melissa Ocasio
In our Tell Me Más Q&A feature series, we ask some of our favorite Latina artists to answer their BFFs’ only questions about them, revealing everything from the read their latest to the songs that get them hyped. This month, we sit down with fellow Puerto Rican indie artist Melissa Ocasio.
Since the pandemic, Puerto Rico’s indie music scene has exploded. It is as if the island is giving birth to new talent every hour – and it seems that it is almost impossible to keep up. Melissa Ocasio is one of the artists who emerged during this revival. Artist Boricua has been making a name for herself as an alternative indie meets electro-Caribbean artist, ever since she released her first official single “Agárrate,” a call-to-action song about the femicides happening in Puerto Rico.
On March 6, 2020, Ocasio released “Agárrate” to the world. But the song was two years in the making.
“I wrote the song ‘Agárrate’ back in 2018. I was living in New York, and I remember learning more about feminism and everything related to our rights as women. ‘Agárrate’ was born because of the femicides that were happening in Puerto Rico”, Ocasio tells POPSUGAR. “Everything started because of Valerie Ann Almodóvar Ojeda. She was a girl who was murdered. It was a very big deal, and it was an issue that struck me. I was living in New York and thinking, what do I do?”
In 2018, Ojeda was just one of the many women murdered on the island. At the time, femicides were occurring every week, making Puerto one of the regions with the highest femicide rates in the Americas. The Ojeda case galvanized Puerto Ricans on the island, prompting many women to take to the streets in protest. Ocasio’s intention behind “Agárrate” was to raise awareness about the issue. What she didn’t expect was that this was exactly what she needed to finally start her music career.
“I wrote this song, and in my mind, I wanted it to be an anthem. ‘Agárrate’ was a call to action. It was a warning, like FYI: women are taking the streets ,” Ocasio explained. “We are not going to be silent. We are going to talk about this. We are going to fight for our rights until the patriarchy is over.”
Ocasio released the song a year after moving back to Puerto Rico from NYC, where she had been living for a few years taking on media jobs to financially support her dream of becoming a a musical artist. Although she had written some music and performed in a few places in NY here and there, artist Boricua felt that she was not building the movement she had hoped for. So in 2019, she packed her bags and went back to live with her parents in Gurabo, Puerto Rico.
“It felt like one of the lowest points of my life. I had ended an ongoing relationship, and I was also trying to deal with trauma and all these things that, as a Latina and as a Puerto Rican, I am not. talk about it,” she says. “So, I started going to therapy that year, and at the end of that year, everything changed.
Ocasio began to delve into her creativity and focused on writing and creating music. Her style became more expressive and unusual, wearing funky vintage pieces and getting a sexy pixie haircut. She was becoming more authentic herself. It was around this time that Ocasio was introduced to her current agent, Rafa Rivera Rodriguez.
“I played his first song for him [“Agárrate”] , and he was like, we can work with this. Let’s do it,” Ocasio says. “The way he took me made me feel okay, I can do this. I was confident before, but now, I finally found the right people to work with.” It was Rodriguez who officially recorded Ocasio’s “Agárrate” at AQ30 studios in Bayamón, Puerto Rico .
While working with Rivera, Ocasio began to sharpen her voice. It’s free flowing, experimental, and yet so caribeño. Her musical influences have a lot to do with it. Ocasio grew up with two church-going Baptist Christian parents who were also very musical. Her mother sang, her father played the trombone, and they were both big salsa fans. They were also very involved in their church’s worship choir. In addition to singing in church from an early age, Ocasio took singing lessons, musical theater classes, and piano lessons. She grew up listening to many classic Puerto Rican salsa and Pop en Español artists like Julieta Venegas, Natalia LaFourcade, Shakira, and Juanes. Although Ocasio’s sound isn’t really compared to anything else, she credits artists like La Lupe, Bomba Estero, iLe, Las Añez, Carla Morrison, and Perotá Chingó for influencing her. on her music.
After the release of “Agárrate”, Ocasio not only began to feel more grounded in her art – she also began to dig up her religious beliefs. After growing up in a Christian church, she found herself dismantling and demolishing everything she had been taught about spirituality and theology.
“I started to find myself as a goddess. Like, I have the power in me. And I started to rewrite my ideas about religion,” she said. “It all started with meditation. I started journaling and writing down everything that was happening in my mind and heart. I was combining my thoughts and feelings and writing it all. I also started learning about how to connect with this. [higher] source of energy.”
In 2021, she moved out to Los Angeles with her current partner, who is also a music artist, to make the connections she needed in the entertainment industry. However, Ocasio felt the pressure to make money, so she took another media job that she says took her life away. But this year, she realized that the only way she was going to make it as a music artist was if she put all her time and focus on her music.
“I realized that music was my path,” she explains. “I was born to do this.”
So Ocasio quit her day job on March 15, and on March 21, she released her debut EP “hola, imposter (hello, imposter),” a collection of four poetic tracks that touch on topics she has experienced in her own career. One path is called “Síndrome de la Impostura”, which translates to impostor syndrome.
“I think everyone at some point has to deal with it,” she says of impostor syndrome. “But I think for me, since I first started writing my songs, I felt very confident about my singing. But I wasn’t so confident about the lyrics and my music
The EP’s first track, “Silla Enfermiza,” which translates to sick chair, touches on how trapped Ocasio felt working at her last 9-to-5 job together to the fear that she would lose the financial security he had provided. At the same time, “La Pared” is a song about what happens when we raise emotions.
The track “Vuelo (Flight),” deals with “Síndrome de la Impostura.” It represents where you get to when you can break through the impostor syndrome.
Since releasing her EP, Ocasio’s career has been taking off. This month, she started her first tour, “A Las Músicas,” with Puerto Rican singer/songwriter Andrea Cruz – they will play shows from August 8 to August 31, in cities from Mexico City to New York. She is proof that when you do the hard work but also surrender to the universe and trust the process, your hopes and dreams can manifest into reality.
“I think I started manifesting this cycle earlier. I think I put it out there. I had so many notebooks with my thoughts and the obvious stuff this,” she said. “[When people listen to my music], I want them to feel whatever they need to feel. I write with purpose and intent, but it also has the freedom to be whatever the audience wants it to be.”
Read on to find out who Ocasio’s album is on again these days, her dream collaboration, and the beauty product she can’t live without.
POPSUGAR: How has music healed you?
Ocasio: I have healed in many ways, but I can say that it has allowed me to heal my inner child.
POPSUGAR: Who are your three favorite artists right now?
Ocasio: Phony PPL, MARO, and Japanese Breakfast.
POPSUGAR: What’s your next album?
Ocasio: “Casa” From Natalia Lafourcade.
POPSUGAR: If you could collaborate with any artist on your next track, who would it be?
Ocasio: Las Añez.
POPSUGAR: What beauty product can’t you live without?
Ocasio: SPF – I’m pregnant.
POPSUGAR: What’s your favorite Puerto Rican snack?
Ocasio: Sorullitos with mayoketchup.
POPSUGAR: What’s your latest TV binge?
Ocasio: Just finished “Sex and the City.” Finally I was able to watch all the seasons in order.
POPSUGAR: What was the last book you read and what did you like about it?
Ocasio: “La Hija Olvidada,” a novel by Armando Lucas Correa. I liked the story and how religious and language topics were dealt with from a little girl’s point of view.
POPSUGAR: If you had one last day to live, how would you spend it?
Ocasio: With all my loved ones gathering together, dancing, talking, and eating at a campo in Puerto Rico.