Eileen Robles is a California-based singer/songwriter with Filipino roots. She released her first single, Mango Trees recently. Get to know her musical journey, the meaning behind her debut single and her personal advocacies.
Can you tell us more about your evolution as a singer/songwriter?
I’ve always enjoyed singing growing up, and the first song I recall ever singing is Louis Armstrong’s version of “Hello, Dolly!”. That was my mom’s lullaby for us, and every time I hear that song I get nostalgic. Music is a time machine of sorts and that’s what I love about it most. Before dabbling into songwriting, I wrote a lot of prose and poetry and I heavily journaled. I think I got my first acoustic guitar when I was about to enter high school and I specifically wanted to learn the guitar to write songs. Writing my first songs in high school was a magical experience. I felt like I was creating worlds and bottling up feelings and ideas into musical notes and lyrics. Ever since high school I’ve always dreamed of releasing an EP, but it wasn’t until January of this year that I decided it was time to make it happen. Out of over 10 original songs only 4 songs made the cut for the EP. I recorded demos for these and had help from family, peers, and fellow musicians in narrowing them down further to select my debut single which was Mango Trees.
What’s the concept behind Mango Trees and why did you choose it as your first single?
I grew up in the Philippines for majority of my life and in July 2015 I moved back to the United States. I think I wrote Mango Trees during my first week in California when I was feeling incredibly homesick and alone. Writing Mango Trees helped me cope with the sadness and it brought me hope. It’s a song about long-distance lovers and how watching the same sky brings them closer together in spirit. I chose it as my first single because a lot of my friends felt connected with it. I was touched that they could feel the emotions I felt while writing it and that it resonated with them. A quote that has always motivated me in life goes, “I write to know that I am not alone”. My fuel in making music is the chance that I can touch a stranger’s heart and make them feel less lonely.
What was it like recording your songs? Can you tell us more about the creative process behind your music?
I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my music and that makes the recording process tough for me. If I could do everything myself I would do it all just so that I can make sure everything is on point, and I’m glad that’s not the case because if it were than it will probably take me years before I can even release one song! I’m very tough on myself. Mango Trees was recorded twice, and the first version was done at a popular indie record label in the Philippines. I recorded it in 1 day since my trip back was short and I didn’t have enough time to allot for it. I liked how it turned out but I didn’t think it was good enough to release so I decided to redo it all from scratch with the help of my friend, mentor and producer Armen Yampolsky of Tournesol Records Los Angeles. Armen’s version ended up being the Mango Trees you hear today. When I go to a recording session the entire song has to be finished from start to finish. This means lyrics and melody should be final and we have a vision for the arrangement. At this point the only thing I have to worry about is recording all the vocals and my producer will do his magic. To me the most creative process lies in the songwriting.
What was the most challenging part of the recording process and how did you overcome this?
I sing all the time to myself, but I find it extremely difficult to sing in front of other people. I’m very shy when it comes to that and I get the worst stage fright. Which is why recording is way more fun compared to a live performance. I am only singing to one person when recording haha! The only thing challenging when it comes to recording is when the perfectionist side of me kicks in and I overanalyze my song and the way I sing it. I think that makes me sing more mechanical and I hate that because the emotions get filtered and the song loses its power. Armen helped me overcome this through his coaching and words of wisdom. We would re-record the vocals whenever I get too mechanical and he would help me get back into the mindset of focusing on feelings. Emotions breathe life into a song.
Any tips for fellow creatives who are starting to share their work to the world?
If you are feeling scared, insecure, and worried that no one will like or care for your creative work I urge you stop those negative, self-centered and crippling thoughts. Begin by shifting your mindset, and start thinking of how you can add value to others. How can you best utilize your gift/talent? If only you can benefit from it than that is the worst thing you can do. A gift is meant to be given or shared. Think of how you can be of service to others using your creative work. I recommend reading “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and “How Successful People Grow” by John Maxwell. Those books encouraged me to take the leap and start turning my dreams into a reality. Other tips: surround yourself with fellow creatives, big dreamers, and go-getters. Seek a mentor, do a lot of research, plan, plan, plan and execute!
If you could describe your music using only Filipino food, what would it be and why?
My music is like Ube Jam! It’s simply comforting, nostalgic and sweet.
Do you have any advocacies that you support whether personal or through your music?
I am a huge fan of Gawad Kalinga and I used to do volunteer work with them back when I was in university. They are doing their part in helping alleviate poverty in the Philippines by providing job opportunities and empowering communities. I found out about them through the social enterprise Human Heart Nature. HHN is a lovely business that helps support local farmers. I think anyone who is looking to start a business should delve into how social enterprises work. GK offers a model on how to start a social business and this is a great way to dip your toes into the water. We need to start coming together more and do our part in helping each other rise.
I’ve also recently became vegetarian and I am working on transitioning to a fully plant-based diet. There are a lot of studies, research and documentaries (Cowspiracy, Earthlings, Vegan Everyday Stories, Gary Yourofsky speech, etc.) that prove all of the health and environmental benefits of living a vegan lifestyle. We can get all of our nutrients, protein, and vitamins from a well balanced and wholesome plant-based diet. There is no need to kill animals. Meat eating and animal products are linked to heart diseases, stroke, etc. Even beyond that if most people can only see and learn about the horrible things that go on behind the meat industry and the amount of torture and turmoil innocent animals have to go through… I think everyone would turn to a plant-based diet. Not a lot of people know that animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of deforestation and it is also one of the largest contributors to human-made greenhouse gas emissions. Every voice counts and you have the power to do your part in saving the planet.
Follow Eileen on social media:
Where to find her debut single:
*Cover photo by Jonathan Keh
If you need help navigating the Philippine indie music scene, grab a copy of the Beginner’s Guide to the Philippine Indie Music Scene e-book. It lists down the bands you should know, ways to find gigs, as well as tips for when you explore the indie music scene. You can get a FREE preview of the e-book below: