Xenia Rubinos is all about experimenting and discovering. Whether she’s incorporating a new style into her music, exploring nooks & crannies in Brooklyn, or trying out the latest technology in her music videos, this soulful singer-songwriter is up for anything!
Calling her voice and style a “work-in-progress,” Xenia said, “I consider my voice to be my primary instrument and I try to use it as such. My music is soulful—it’s not soul, but soulful. It’s also energetic and rhythmically-charged.”
Growing up listening to everything from classical music to salsa,musical influences include ‘90s pop divas—Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey—as well as jazz vocalists who she discovered in her teens: Abbey Lincoln and Betty Carter, to name a few. She also admires Bjork for her knack for trying new things. “I’m always in awe of her and how she can reinvent herself and isn’t afraid to experiment,” Xenia said.
Xenia released her first EP, Magic Trix, in 2013, followed by Black Terry Cat in 2016. For that album, she said, there was a focus on the lyrics of the songs from the beginning. “I tried to be intentional from the get-go with lyrics,” she said. “Often times [in the past] I would just go with the sound and lyrics were the last thing I thought about.”
When it comes to the topics she writes about, Xenia said she focuses on “things on my mind: my experience, growing up here as a first generation child of Cuban and Puerto Rican parents; cultural identity issues; grieving and the loss of a loved one.” The song Mexican Chef, for example, pokes fun at “the reality of the service industry in this country” and centers around the people working in kitchens and other behind-the-scenes professions.
“My cultural identity is always in shift and in flux,” Xenia said of her Cuban and Puerto Rican background. “The more I understand about where I come from and who I want to be, the more my cultural identity grows. And that seeps into my music and how I speak and perform.”
Xenia also incorporates her ever-evolving style into music videos, working with directors on as many videos as she can, calling it “really fun and challenging.” The video for “See Them,” she created a 360-degree video for YouTube, which followed Xenia as she rides a bike around Brooklyn. “It takes practice,” to make a good music video, Xenia said. “So that’s why I do it as much as I can. I’ve been very lucky to work with talented directors and bring these videos to life.”
As a Brooklynite for the past 12 years, Xenia won’t need to travel too far to perform at BRIC JazzFest on Friday, October 19, and naturally, she’s excited to give her hometown a little love.
“In Brooklyn, the people are #1. There are so many different realities that co-exist and you can turn a corner and be constantly discovering,” she said, adding that she will be trying a few new things with her music and performance at JazzFest. “The audience can expect me to be in their face and energetic and put it all out there.”
As for the future? Xenia is currently working on a new album, and when asked about who she would love to collaborate with, she gave a shoutout to Seattle-based Shabazz Palaces. “I would love to collaborate with that duo and see what we could come up with,” she said. Even as she dreams up future collaborations, Xenia’s already ready to try something new.
See Xenia Rubinos perform on Friday, October 19 as part of the BRIC JazzFest Marathon!