This is part of a long-running series called Why We Create, where I talk to producers, composers, and musicians from the extended IMF community, and from all over the world. We talk about about what makes each person tick creatively, what they get from making and sharing their work with others, and what drives them to create.
Camoragi’s music weaves between trip hop and harder electronica, but always has an insistence to it – I just can’t help but be drawn in. Her production is unusual – ambient, glitchy, exaggerated, but in the end smooth, flowing, emotional. Her vocals drift and glide over factory rumbles and lilting guitars and pianos. It’s a hard combination to pull off, and she does it well.
I had the opportunity to chat with Camoragi recently. We talked about her recent album april 25, her current musical endeavors, her recent move to a new country in pursuit of her musical dreams, and more.
She and I also made a spoken word piece for Indie for a Cause Vol 3. You can check out both her album and the spoken word track at the links on the right.
Our interview is below, edited for clarity and brevity. Please enjoy.
How did you get into music?
I grew up in El Salvador, and my family has always been creative. My father plays piano…he used to play in church, and at weddings and whatever. My mother is a singer, and they met playing music together. I also had an aunt who played piano- she taught me to play my first song when I was nine. It wasn’t anything fancy—just a kids’ song—but it was fun for me.
My mother used to sing all the time, around the house and everywhere. A lot of the songs my mom used to sing were in English, like Whitney Houston and other popular stuff. My aunt played in a philharmonic orchestra, and because of her I used to hear a lot of classical music as well. I wasn’t into rock and heavier music back then, because my mom didn’t like heavier stuff and wouldn’t play it around the house. I didn’t learn to appreciate heavier music until much later.
I have really fond memories of my mom and sister and me singing along with karaoke DVDs on Sunday afternoons—sometimes for hours—while we were cleaning and making dinner and whatever. We used to sing canons together in the car. Music was just everywhere around me, and I saw that if I wanted, I could pursue music myself.
I’m really grateful that my mother took notice of my musical ability and interest. She taught me guitar, and it just came to me really easy. She told me that I needed to go somewhere to get the right instruction. When I was 13, I started to go to a music academy after school for a few hours a day. I studied classical guitar and music theory there. These were some of the best times of my life. I would go to the academy in the morning, then to regular school in the afternoon, then back to the academy. We used to do a lot of performances, and I made a lot of friends who were also musicians.
I wrote my first original song when I was in eighth grade…it’s lost now. It was a classical guitar piece that I wrote as sheet music. I loved music so much, and I was inspired to make my own. I didn’t really think too much about it – moving from learning to play to composing music just happened organically.
Did you think you wanted to pursue music as a career?
I wasn’t really sure about it. There were people around me who said, “music isn’t a career,” and I guess I bought into that. When I was deciding what to do in college, I went through a process of convincing myself that I shouldn’t continue pursuing music seriously, even though it felt like more than just a hobby for me then. I stopped studying and composing music for about five years, and just came back to it really recently.
Are you still in El Salvador now?
I actually just moved from El Salvador to Argentina a few weeks ago. I live in Buenos Aires now. I came here to be with my boyfriend—who is from here—but also because I wanted to immerse myself in the music scene. A lot of the popular music in Latin America comes from B.A. – I was really drawn to the idea of being part of such a vibrant scene. I grew up in a city in El Salvador, but Buenos Aires is much larger and more culturally rich – it’s actually about as big as all of El Salvador.
The other night, I went to a street concert in the historical center of the city. It was a free public performance, organized by the city. It was amazing – it was a 10-person group that was playing improvisational jazz, and I was out enjoying the show till four in the morning.
But in the end, I moved here because I have a really different perspective on music now. I discovered that I do want to pursue being a professional musician. So, I’m working to create a space for myself where I can make music, and where people can really appreciate what I’m doing. I want to be part of a musical community, where other musicians can inspire me, and be inspired by me. To me, Buenos Aires equals opportunities to perform, and to be heard, and to experience lots of other music.
How did you find your way back to music?
I re-discovered music in 2020, during the pandemic. I was in a bit of an existential crisis. I had dropped out of college, and was working a job that I didn’t like, and in a relationship that wasn’t working.
So in February of 2020, I decided to make some music. I downloaded Ableton, and I had no idea how to do anything. I didn’t have any particular goal. It didn’t even occur to me that I would release songs or whatever – I was just looking to find some meaning in my life.
I had a lot of free time in the early part of the pandemic, and I really dedicated myself to learning the software and exploring making songs that were more accessible than what I had done before. Up to then, I had only composed classical music, and hadn’t really worked in popular styles.
It took me some time to learn the technical aspects. I’m still not all that good at mixing and mastering, but I found that it was pretty natural to me to compose songs, and I was happy with what I was making. Even the first songs I made sounded pretty good to me, but when I played them to other people, they said that the songs didn’t sound complete. I had to teach myself how to make sounds sound finished.
By going through this process, I found my creative voice. I could make choices about what I liked to hear and how I wanted my tracks to sound. It was really interesting to me to create a sonic fabric for a song, and really push my sound design abilities.
I’ve learned to listen to music with my producer’s ear, and to hear the things that I really like, and use those ideas to inform my own music.
What kinds of experiences have you been exploring?
I’m not interested in writing love songs, or abstract things. I want to express myself and write from my own experience. I always want to go deep and explore a feeling or an experience, and to make music that feels like that feeling, or evokes that experience.
For instance, Drowning In Heavy Words was about a specific feeling that I was having. I realized that I was suffering because of the words of others, and it made me feel like I was drowning. I made the track with a lot of sounds to convey this…sounds like crushing waves, and the moments when you’re inside the wave and it’s silent. I wanted to literally evoke the experience of drowning.
I wrote the intro to the track based on an adaptation of a classical guitar piece I used to play. That song meant a lot to me – it was one of the hardest songs I learned, and it was nostalgic. It brought me back to those times when I was surrounded by music, and really enjoying it. The rest of the track was about my journey that took me away from that feeling.
The song came together really quickly and easily. It’s the last song I wrote for the album. I did the whole thing – composition and production – in just a couple weeks. The process of writing it really helped me connect the dots of what was making me unhappy, and to make decisions about what to do differently.
How has your production style evolved?
I learned that other people couldn’t hear the things I heard in my songs. I found that I had to exaggerate things in the songs to have the effect I wanted. I discovered that music needed more components that could affect the listening experience. I wanted to connect emotionally with listeners.
The changes in dynamics and tone, and volume, and silence… They create a specific experience, and I use these things to create the experience I’m learning for. I was taught that silence is maybe the most important part of a piece of music. As I listen to songs I liked, I found that a lot of the abstract things I heard really affected and inspired me.
Is that your favorite track you’ve released?
Actually, Through My Eyes is my favorite. It was the first song I made, and the beginning of this process that I’m now living out. I haven’t made anything as good since then. It’s about being in this place of anxiety. I didn’t feel like myself…I didn’t even recognize myself. After I made this song, it started the process of self-investigation that I’m still in now.
What has that self-discovery been about?
For a while, I didn’t feel real at all. I felt like I was just watching a character, and that character was me. It was really bothering me, and I wanted to understand why I was feeling that way. I started to learn about psychology…I watched a whole lot of videos, especially the Psych2Go channel on YouTube. I realized I needed to make some changes, and end relationships with lots of people in my life that were making me unhappy. I especially needed to end the romantic relationship I was in at the time. I think other people looking at my situation would have been able to figure this out pretty easily, but it was a difficult process for me.
I had the idea that other people should look out for me, and that I needed that because I wasn’t able to look out for myself. The process of creating music really changed this for me. I had to make my own decisions about what to do, and how to do it…what sounds to use, and what words. I had to learn to trust myself and build my self-confidence.
This journey hasn’t been easy, but I really feel like a new person now.
What kind of music inspires you?
It’s always classical music for me. Chopin is my favorite pianist. I love orchestral music, like Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky. All these things really inspire me, because that music can evoke an emotional experience, and can make me feel joy or sorrow, or whatever. There usually aren’t lyrics at all, and even when they are, they’re not necessarily in a language that I understand…this doesn’t take away from their emotional impact.
I also listen to a lot of popular music. I’ve recently been inspired by a lot of R&B and soul. I really love Amy Winehouse, and Aretha Franklin, and lots of jazz singers. I like dense compositions with strings and horns and whatever.
That’s interesting – I don’t hear a lot of R&B and soul in your music.
Yeah, you’re right. But I know that I need to make music that moves in that direction. When I was working on april 25, I didn’t really plan to make an album in any specific style, and there are all sorts of styles on that album. But I’m thinking now that I should really make an actual plan for my next album.
I’m also really interested in working with a band—working with a group of artists. I think it will bring my creativity to a new level.
Do you want to keep making solo music as well?
Both are interesting. The process of making solo material is really introspective and personal for me. I think a band would be a totally different process, and I’m interested in exploring ideas with other musicians.
How did you find IMF?
I was looking online for places to share my music. I was on Tiktok, and saw a video of someone who was talking about how they made their OnlyFans work. They were talking about Reddit, and how they used Reddit to help people find them. So, I thought, “maybe I can use Reddit to help people find my music…” I created a Reddit account, and joined a few subreddits that were about sharing music, and getting feedback. I shared a cover song I made on a couple subreddits just to see how everything worked.
I was a bit lost actually…I didn’t understand the rules, and I still don’t really get how Reddit works. One of the comments I got on a post was encouraging me to check out the IMF Discord, so I did. There were a bunch of people there when I joined, and people welcomed me, and encouraged me to share a track to introduce myself. I did, and people listened to it, and they appreciated it. I could tell from their comments that they actually really listened, and appreciated what I was trying to do. It was really apparent that they wanted to support my creativity.
So, I stuck around, and I found that lots of people on the Discord are really skilled and creative. I learned a lot from everyone there. People reached out and asked me to sing on their tracks, and that meant a lot to me. I really want to be more active doing that sort of thing. I love it when I get to write lyrics or write harmonies. It was really interesting to just sing – it’s the thing I love most. Working with other artists and contributing my vocals has really been great for me.
I was really active on the Discord for a while – not as much recently.
You’re also part of the Ladies of IMF server – what’s that like for you?
It’s really cool. I remember when it first came together. Atlantic Canyons talked to me and invited me to join, and I said, “yeah, that would be amazing!” It’s not like all the women there don’t talk in spaces where there are men around, but it’s really great for me to see that there are so many great women producers, all in one place. There are so many, and they’re awesome.
Everyone has to overcome demons to make music, but it’s really powerful for me as a woman to see others who I can look to as an example. We can share experiences with each other. I feel inspired by the women there, and I feel comfortable asking other women for help.
Are you working on new material?
I didn’t do much creatively in the later part of 2021, because I was working through all the changes I had been making in my life. But starting at the beginning of this year, I’ve been working on some new songs. I have about five now that are in various stages of development. I haven’t decided whether to make an album, or just a bunch of songs.
I’m trying to push myself to develop my production skills, and my composition and arrangement skills – I want to work with larger arrangements of more instruments.
I’m also thinking about working with bilingual lyrics – I want my Spanish-speaking friends to be able to understand and relate to the words I’m using. I’m writing some Spanglish lyrics now – we’ll see if I stick with that, but it feels pretty interesting to me at the moment.
This interview has really helped me think about what I want to be doing creatively. I’m excited to go right now and work on new music!