Luisa Lopez proudly describes herself as a singer-songwriter from the South, yet she hopes her newest album, 45, will transcend those boundaries.
“What I really want audiences to do is to find themselves in these songs,” the Nashville musician says, “and I think that people can.”
The numerical title represents Lopez’s age when she began to record the album, as well as her personal response to the 45thpresident. As a child, she absorbed the music from her mother’s collection of 45s – mostly the pop records of the day – while her aunts and uncles preferred listening to country gold. That influential mix of soul and country, merged with the electronic soul music she loved as a teenager, creates a singular style on 45, which she produced and recorded in San Francisco and Nashville.
Although her mother’s family roots are in Mississippi, Lopez grew up in Houston, Texas. As a latchkey kid, she spent many afternoons of her childhood keeping an eye on her younger brother. When she was around 10, she started passing the time by humming made-up melodies and then coming up with lyrics, often based on the loneliness she felt. “I think the writing was a way to express myself in a way that I normally wouldn’t know how to express,” she says.
The father of a childhood friend lent her an electric guitar and she spent her teen years teaching herself how to play it. Later in life, she added acoustic guitar, drums, bass, and piano to her repertoire. Though she developed her singing talent by studying tenors like Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson, she finally discovered her own natural voice when she was around 20 years old. “I was learning how to relax and sing a song the way I sing it,” she says. “It felt momentous, like, ‘Oh, I actually like this voice!’”
As a young adult, Lopez served as a supply specialist at Fort Jackson, an Army post in South Carolina, then settled in Nashville in 1997. Six years later she formed her first band, FINNA, and wrote, arranged and produced their 2005 album, Protect Me From What I Want. She followed that with a solo album, Cigarettes and other dirges…, in 2010, which earned positive notices from the Nashville Scene. In time she issued a clever, country-tinged single and video titled “Charley,” as well as a holiday track, “Spend Your Christmas With Me.”
Although Lopez spent years traveling the world as a single woman, she briefly set music aside in the mid-2010s and made a concentrated effort to find a partner. She also spent time volunteering for Thistle Farms, a residential recovery program in Nashville for women who have survived violence, prostitution and addiction. Now married to a professor, Lopez found a renewed inspiration to create music during a year spent in San Francisco as part of her wife’s fellowship and sabbatical.
Although Lopez considers it “my social commentary album,” the eight songs on 45also represent a positive new phase of her life and career. “It’s liberating to be able to say the things that I need to say, and how I need to process culture right now,” she believes. “I want people to feel something. I want them to feel inspired. I want them to put themselves in these sounds and I want them to want to hear from me again. I want them to be curious about what will be next.”