XENIA RUBINOS started singing basically when she started talking.
“I guess it was a life dream to be a singer,” she tells me over the phone from her New York residence. “I idolized Mariah Carey when I was seven. I had, like, her poster on my door and it was a really big deal. And whenever a new record of hers would come out I would learn every word, and that was how I would spend most of my afternoons when I was six or seven—just obsessing over learning all these songs.”
Rubinos’ passion, focus, and creativity are immediately apparent, not to mention contagious. Years after she learned to nail Carey classics like “Someday” and “Vision of Love,” Rubinos attended Berklee College of Music in Boston where she studied jazz composition. But Rubinos soon discovered she couldn’t flourish as an artist and performer within the academic jazz tradition of interpreting a piece of existing music; she took a step back from the genre and learned how to write her own songs. Now, in support of her new album Black Terry Cat, she’s embarking on her first-ever national headlining tour.
Born in Hartford, Connecticut, the Afro-Latina singer/keyboardist has been known to sing in both English and Spanish, and her sound is multifaceted as well. Contrary to popular assumption, her music is most definitely not Latin. “I’ve been miscategorized in a way, sometimes by people who I know have not listened to my music and have just seen my name and seen what I look like, and they’re like, ‘Oh, okay: Latin artist.’”
Her sultry music is actually very difficult to categorize, and usually jams at an unmarked intersection of jazz, funk, electronica, punk, and indie rock. All these influences unify peacefully under Rubinos’ thoroughly trained vocality.
“I definitely come from a background of playing songs before you actually record them,” she says. “And now it’s a little bit different for me. This record Black Terry Cat was the first time I actually felt really... like the studio was somewhere I wanted to be, and I felt comfortable in, and I can’t wait to go back now.”
While her now-seasoned abilities as a singer/songwriter are immediately obvious, her lyrical content is also particularly intriguing, and often political on songs like “Mexican Chef.” On “Laugh Clown,” Rubinos goes off the cuff to imply her feelings about being tired, self-care, and the desire to stop giving a fuck.
“I haven’t plucked my eyebrows since last month / One of these days I’m gonna let my mustache grow back in.”
“I was trying to be more specific in my lyric writing and trying to be more intentional with the words I was using,” Rubinos says, “and what they were signifying for me personally.”
For the tour, Rubinos says she’s looking forward to playing the complex song “See Them” with her band for the first time, and perfecting a pre-show vocal and physical warm-up routine.
“My favorite part is getting to play every single day. That’s just the best thing that happens when you’re on tour. I get to share my music every day. No matter how I’m feeling, when I get to that point it’s just... my music is always there for me. And no matter how the show goes, it’s always the most rewarding thing to get to do that every day. It’s really a huge gift.”