Fun, inspiring, upbeat and positive are characteristics that help make up the unique and creative rising music artist and actress Carolina Hoyos. Dedicating years to developing her craft, Carolina is set to impact the music scene with an infectious blend of alternative and pop elements. Carolina will release “Te encontraré” (a new single off A Girl I Know’s EP “Disco Encontrado”) on June 14th. This new track serves as a fitting follow-up to 2016’s “The Lost Tapes” and was produced with help from fans who funded the project through an intense Kickstarter campaign. To make her vision a reality, Carolina enlisted the help of AGIK’s longtime fans to create an album that could be dedicated to her father and his fight against cancer.
However, Carolina’s talents aren’t limited to music. While she began dazzling audiences as a childhood concert pianist, she soon went on to spend three seasons as a host on “MTV Hits,” as well as making cameos in “Under the Silver Lake”, “Gene Simmons: Family Jewels” and Pharrell Williams’s video of the Oscar-Nominated song “Happy.” She’s the type of talent who continues to challenge herself with every new project. Her next role is no exception to that rule. Blending her passions for music and acting, Carolina will soon grace the screen alongside some of Hollywood’s most sought after actors in Nicolas Winding Refn’s highly anticipated new Amazon series, “Too Old To Die Young.” Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with this star on the rise to get a glimpse into her unique career. Along the way, she offers insight into her creative process, the making of her highly-anticipated new album and her evolution as an artist.
How did you get involved with the creative arts early on in life?
My older brother started taking piano lessons and whenever he would try to practice I wouldn’t let him. My parents finally put me in classical lessons when I was 3. So, I blame my brother for being the gateway and my parents for being enablers.
There is no doubt music is your true love and has had a huge impact on you. What are your first memories of music?
Piano duets with my brother! And my other brother and his friend learning GNR’s “Sweet Child of Mine” on guitar! I also remember mimicking Patsy Cline as a little girl and my sister having me sing “Crazy” for my parents.
What went into finding your creative voice early on?
My parents wanted us to be able to try anything and everything. We were very fortunate in that way. And we basically popped out of the womb dancing. If my parents were having a card game on the weekend, we’d come along and dance the night away. That doesn’t sound right – dancing at a card game … but that was how we rolled! We were always openly expressing ourselves.
Who are some of the people who played a role in your growth as an artist?
My mom was always encouraging me. She was my stage mom, booking me to perform at events in the community and taking me to my concerts, auditions and shoots. My aunt first introduced me to Nina Simone and Janis Joplin and it was then that I realized I wanted to sing.
Dedicating yourself to your art is a big step. Did you ever have reservations about taking the plunge?
I never consciously decided to do it. I was communicating as an artist before I could really speak English or Spanish, so I consider music my first language. I tried to quit once and leave the business entirely. I didn’t last but a month! I was miserable.
You have a great creative outlet with A Girl I Know. How did the project get started?
I wanted to make a solo record. I’d fronted so many bands and really wanted to make something I could call my own.
A Girl I Know has a unique sound. What went into finding that sound and direction? Was it something obvious from the start?
I was really loving Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and Holly GoLightly and the Broke-offs at the time. I was inspired by their throwback inspired sound and felt most at home going in a similar direction but with my sensibilities. I’m a fan of so many genres so that was the one unifying part of it.
A Girl I Know will release the first single (“El Diablo”) off the new EP, “Disco Encontrado,” on June 14. How did the ball get rolling for this new release and made now the time to bring it to the masses?
I was asked to sing in Spanish for a TV show and the process made me connect with the language in a way I’d never done before. That show, “Too Old To Die Young,” premieres on June 14th, so the world gets a really nice two-fer of my singing in Spanish!
Did you have goals, aspirations or a vision when hitting the studio for this batch of songs?
These past few years, I’ve been reconnecting with my multi-cultural roots. I’ve visited Peru, Ecuador, Spain, England, but now I need to go to several places in Africa. As music is my first language, it’d be divine to go on a world tour, with my music, while I reconnect to the places where all of my recent ancestors came from. That and I’m really looking forward to making music videos for this batch – that I will direct!
Was there anything you wanted to accomplish technically or narratively you might not have tried before?
I’ve been singing half of my life set in Spanish, ever since we shot the show. The vowels don’t change in Spanish and they flow so nicely. I took my time finding the right words for each song so I could incorporate this new voice I didn’t know I had.
Tell us about the songwriting process for your music. What changed and stayed the same through the years?
I still prefer playing musical chairs with my instruments. I never know if my mandolin or my pan flutes or my accordion will inspire the next song. I also purchased my first electric guitar because I intend to go a bit dirtier on the next record. I haven’t woken up out of a deep sleep to write lately, but that’s because my brain is going in several creative directions at the moment. But I’ll get back there someday.
Since you’ve lived with the songs for a little while now, which ones resonate with you the most and has you excited to bring to the fans?
“El Diablo” and “Te Encontraré” are some of my faves. There’s more emotion in both now and they seem a bit darker without being obvious like some of my louder tracks.
Where do you look for inspiration these days?
Life. Reflection. Community. My puppy!
Tell us about the first song you wrote.
I hadn’t actually planned to become a songwriter. The first complete song I ever wrote was when I’d just moved to NYC and I was riding the bus to my job, which was at an audio post studio. I sang this random tune into my voice recorder and, on a break at work, I grabbed one of the studio guitars and figured out which chords to play with my new tune. My future bandmate at the time walked into the room and asked me whose song I was singing. It was called “Waiting For You” and I’m sure it’s on Myspace somewhere! As for A Girl I Know, I was singing in another band at the time, and we often wrote songs on our own but sang them together. “Waking Life” was one of those that I sang on my own so it was a natural fit to include on my solo album.
People might take for granted what it takes to keep a project moving forward in this day and age. Tell us about what goes into keeping a project like A Girl You Know on the rails and moving in the right direction.
Inspiration, motivation, dedication. And a safety net. I ran a Kickstarter to finish this project a few years back and it really helped me get over the finish line. I’d had some setbacks when I took care of my father during his cancer treatment. He’s so healthy now and the process was worth it. People were very generous and helped me get my record out, but I was exhausted and didn’t have it in me to keep pushing for traction in the live club scene. Organizations like UAII, Pukúu and LA Skins Fest welcomed me to share my music at their community events and it feels like I’m home again, the way my mom would book me at community events as a child. Their warmth has really put the fire back in me.
You have many productive years ahead. Where are you headed musically in the future — both short and long term?
I’m definitely going to be making films and scoring them, like Boots Riley, Rob Zombie or even Frank Sinatra or Bjork. There are so many stories I want to tell and the music will be part of a much fuller picture. I’m also acting in a new series that I’ve been asked to write songs for, so those songs might show up on my next record, too. It’s all very exciting stuff.
As an artist, many things can be said about the current state of music. What excites you about the music today?
Distribution comes in so many forms. Equipment is more affordable and accessible than it’s ever been. Marketing and social media has changed the way people find you and your music. And it’s so much easier to find other creative people with similar goals. I collaborate with several friends in comedy troupes I’m a part of and we all work on passion projects together. One of my pals, Jazzy Byner, made this great comedy sketch that needed a very specific song to fit the mood. And now I have a brand new music video teaser that will be seen by an entirely different audience! Check it out at this location!
What’s the best way for fans to help support your project and keep it growing?
You will soon be seen in Nicolas Winding Refn’s highly anticipated new series, “Too Old To Die Young.” How did you get involved with the project and what can you tell us about your role?
I auditioned for the show and actually forgot about it. A couple weeks later, I met with Nic in person and he offered me the role then. My character, Antonella, has had it rough. She’s doing the best she can with what she’s got. And much like me, she takes risks that pay off in a big way.
What did you bring to the role that might not have been on the original written page?
The way Nicolas writes and directs is so intense, but not in an exhausting way. He really let us breathe and take space in the world he created. We really got to take our time and find our places. So that white space on the script – it was FILLED with subtext. He didn’t have to write it. It naturally happened. So I guess you can say I brought my instincts.
What other projects are on your radar that we should be on the lookout for in the near future?
I’m directing a music video for “El Diablo” and a short dramatic film called “Children of the Sun.” I’m also acting in a new series called “Blackwater” and this song features in the pilot!
What are the biggest challenges you faced and overcome as an artist?
Embracing my ancestry. I was in an acting class with an amazing coach who told me I needed to connect to my blood memory. I went through a lot of ups and downs the more I discovered, basically re-traumatizing myself by what I’d learned. But now I carry those stories with me and I wasn’t a complete human without them.
You have many irons in the fire, which is great! Was it difficult to find a balance personally and professionally?
I’ve had tons of growing pains trying to balance my personal and professional lives, but I feel like I’ve hit my stride these last few years. I don’t drink, smoke or take any drugs. I eat healthy 95% of the time and try to exercise regularly. I steer clear of toxic situations and focus my attention where I get inspiration, like volunteering or performing for my community – or playing with my dog!
You do amazing work for very worthy causes. Which are closest to your heart these days that we can help shine a light on?
I just joined forces with Chicas Rockeras SELA and I can’t wait to take part in their all-girls band camp! I also recently learned about Sister Inmate and the work they do to support people affected by incarceration. I hope to work more closely with them very soon.
You faced challenges and learned a few things along the way. What’s the best lesson we can take from your journey so far?
Breathe, heal your past traumas and spend time with your loved ones. Our time is limited!