My Life In Music: Mexico's queen of R&B, Girl Ultra
The Mexico City-based singer talks about the eclectic range of influences that shaped her fluid sounds
Saturday 24 September 2022 By Soho House
Mexico City’s Mariana de Miguel, aka Girl Ultra, might seamlessly weave between genres, but wherever she takes her music she manages to stick to her roots. Known for her smooth Spanish language R&B, Miguel is part of a wave of musicians infusing American – and global – pop culture with a Latin-American sound. Listeners have never been more attuned to this, embracing the nuances of music outside of the traditional mould.
But Miguel is also in a state of exploration herself, pushing her sound and incorporating her wide range of influences. Her latest EP EL SUR is emblematic of her approach, bringing her supple voice over both house beats (‘Amores de Droga’, ‘BOMBAY’) and alt-rock arrangements (‘Punk’, ‘Nada q hacer’). For someone who grew up with dance and rock music, it’s a natural extension, but Miguel’s musical journey goes deeper than that – which only gives promise to what else she’ll explore next. Here, she speaks to Soho House about where it all started, and the eclectic artists she’s drawn towards.
Can you remember when you first discovered your love for music? Describe it for us.
‘I think it was through my dad. He was really committed to show me an endless possibility of musical taste, from Mexican rock bands like Caifanes or Santa Sabina to Enio Morricone’s soundtracks, or even disco fever like Sylvester or Electric Light Orchestra. But also, my mum is a big fan of Mexican radio and baladas from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, so she showed me Mecano, Emmanuel, Rocío Dúrcal, and I think [from] there comes my love for the Spanish language in music.’
What was the first album you ever bought? Do you still listen to it?
‘It was Punto from the Mexican pop band OV7. That was also my first concert ever. My dad was carrying me on his shoulders the whole night.’
What’s your ultimate comfort track?
‘Music Has The Right To Children by Boards of Canada, the whole album. Comfort to me lately comes in the form of no words.’
Do you ever listen back to your own music? If so, which track means the most to you and why?
‘I actually don’t [unless] I have to revisit something technical or remember a part of me that’s kinda gone. But when it’s a fresh release I play it a lot, before and after it comes out.’
Who are your key musical influences?
‘I have a lot, but the artists who really made a long-term impact on me not just musically, but personally, are Björk, Julieta Venegas, Arthur Russell, and Grace Jones. I love the way they embrace the death of self, in every project. I think change is very human and it always seemed to me that it’s part of their artistic persona.’
If you could play one instrument that you don’t currently play, what would it be?
What’s your favourite gig memory?
‘Road trips with my band, when we were about to hit any city – like minutes away from getting there – we used to play music that was originally from there. Like arriving in LA, it was The O.C. soundtrack.’
If you had to pick a soundtrack to your life, what would it be?
‘It’s gotta have some drama and mystery. Maybe it would be written by Ennio Morricone, but with some PJ Harvey vocals and Car Seat Headrest lyrics.’
Who are you listening to most right now? What’s top of your most played list?
‘Imogen Heap, Petite Amie from Mexico, Las Grecas, Brutalismus 3000, and Andy Shauf.’
Name the artist you’re most excited about right now and explain why.
‘Tokischa – she makes me very happy.’
What’s your pre-performance ritual?
‘Drink a lot of water and then slap myself in the face.’