On Why I Do This

By Darlene Cuevas | May 5, 2017

Not too long ago, I was asked why I chose to be a singer-songwriter, in spite of how difficult it can be to be brand-spanking new, female, and a visible minority.  Here is my response:

At some point, I decided to fight the fear, and really put my music out there for others to take notice. I have always been somewhat afraid to expose my music and voice to wider public scrutiny. You see, in the back of my mind part of me felt like I never truly belonged in the Canadian music scene – I was born too different and “ethnic” looking, and from a modest immigrant family very far removed from any connections to the industry. I put off pursuing my dream of a music career initially because, to be honest, I felt that nobody believed it could ever be a dream come true. It was just some pipe dream that I would eventually wake up from, even though at my deepest core I knew that I was actually denying my true calling.  These doubts haunted and convinced me that I could never be good enough. About two years ago, however, I awoke from this negativity and followed my heart with equal parts humility, grit – and, yes, blissful naivety. I have learned (and am learning) so much about working hard and fighting for what you believe in – even in the face of rejection from those who do not understand my music, or why I stubbornly choose to do what I do.

On Being a Woman... 

I grew up with the ingrained prejudices that women need not be as technically skilled or as musical as our male counterparts, and that we should focus instead on being pretty and having the most waifish and/or diva-like voices.  Oh how I wish I hadn't!  My one regret as a musician is not recognizing earlier on the urgency to be as technically proficient as possible.  I did not need someone else (and most likely a man) to write the musical accompaniment for me.  Part of my artistic motivation comes from wishing to right this wrong, and I think that is why I insist on playing and getting better at the guitar.

... and a Visible Minority.  

This is the biggest self-imposed hurdle of the three.  I grew up without any role models in music who looked like I did, and so it was natural for me and everyone around me to assume that it just did not happen.  I was born the wrong character in the story of how it all should or could be done.  If there is one lasting thing I hope to achieve, much greater than me and my music, it would be to help change the story for those growing up who are ethnically “different looking”, and traditionally under-represented in Canadian music and popular culture. We too have a voice and can create art that resonates with others just as effectively as anyone else's, given the opportunity. We are so much more than just cultural tokens and “niche marketing”.  We are a vital part of today's cultural fabric, and are much better at representing our common thread than most would give us credit for.

Photo Cred: Naomi Peters