I ‘m a folk singer and songwriter based in Los Angeles. I grew up between Kalamazoo, MI, with my mother, and Singapore with my father. My dad’s a first-generation Filipino-American, and moving between those two spaces informs a lot of who I am and the stories I tell. The importance of belonging and community has been central to my work. I discovered my mom’s record collection when I was in middle school — Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen. I saw footage of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez performing at the Newport Folk Festival and thought, “I want to do that someday.”
Tell us about your new album, Hellbent & Moonbound, and the inspiration behind it.
The title Hellbent and Moonbound was inspired by Ada Limón’s poem “Drift.” The phrase “moon-bound and hell-bent on defying the usual gravity of this spin” really stuck with me. To me, “moonbound” means moving towards light, whatever lights you up, often through darkness, and “hellbent” is with a deep commitment and determination – defying the gravitational pull of anything that might hold us back. This became the spine of the record, and I like to think of each song almost like a rib, connecting to this central idea from a different angle.
What was the songwriting and recording process?
I wrote these songs over the past seven years after releasing my last album in 2016. It was a long, marinating process. A lot had changed for me; I’d uprooted my life in New York and moved to California, I became a mother, then the pandemic hit, and I — like a lot of us — went inward and found solace in being creative during that time.
What do you hope your fans/listeners take away with them when they listen to your music?
Writing these songs helped me navigate moments of struggle and self-doubt. They gave me a place to feel both my pain and joy and give words to all the questions I was grappling with. The art I love best lets me see my own story in a more compassionate, romantic light. I hope my songs might connect with people that way. They aren’t my proprietary story anymore; if anyone else sees themselves and connects to my words, that’s a great honor. If they bring anyone else joy and ease or accompany them on a long car ride or while they cook a meal, that fills my heart up.
When did you first pick up the guitar, and what drew you to that instrument?
When I was in high school, my dad brought a nylon string guitar home from a business trip, and I was immediately obsessed. He taught me some chords and gave me a songbook, and I spent every day after school in my room learning songs and then started writing my own. It’s an ongoing journey, and I’ve dedicated the past couple of years to going back and studying again. I’ve been taking lessons with Molly Miller, who’s amazing. Having a woman teacher has been really inspiring. When I was growing up, there weren’t many women around me who could shred like that, and I’d never heard of any female guitar teachers in my town. Now that I have a daughter, I can see so clearly how important that representation is, and I love seeing more and more girls picking it up.
Who are some of your musical influences?
There are the ‘70s folk classics I mentioned earlier. Some contemporary artists I really admire are Damien Jurardo, Feist, Bedouine, Aldous Harding, Angel Olsen, Cassandra Jenkins, and Madison Cunningham.
Right now, I’m really enjoying this moment of the record being out in the world; I love hearing how people are connecting with it. I’m trying to allow myself some stillness and soak that all up! We’re celebrating with a record release party at Gold Diggers on Dec. 3rd. Lots of new visuals in the works — and I just listened down to the entire BBC “Witch” podcast (highly recommend) that got me really inspired and some new songs brewing.
Connect with Malena Cadiz
Hellbent and Moonbound track listing:
- Museum Shores
- Whatever You Need
- The Real Thing
- My Kind of Thief
- Getting By
- Hellbent & Moonbound
- Call It a Night
- Child Again