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“Kicking It With” Mariah Colon

Written by on May 30, 2023

Singer-songwriter Mariah Colon is one of Chicagoland’s hidden gems. Blending multiple genres with show-stopping vocals, her sonic fluidity helps her connect to fans across the music spectrum. In a virtual interview, she breaks down her influences and her new single “Kick It With You.”

Forest Park, Ilinois-based singer-songwriter Mariah Colon is not bound to one genre. Since childhood, she’s found herself surrounded by music from across the genre spectrum — neo-soul and Lauryn Hill to Radio Disney and Hannah Montana. Today, she consistently blends elements from many genres to create her “ever-changing, genre-blending and groovy” sound.

“I try to integrate a wide range of genres through my early inspirations, breaking the barriers of a ‘one genre’ artist,” Colon explained. “My only goal is to capture all of this in my music.” That variety was on display during performances with Ric Wilson at House of Vans and Sonido 18 at the National Museum of Mexican Art, among other memorable recent gigs.

Her newest single “Kick It With You,” added to Vocalo’s on-air rotation for May, delivers infectious high energy with a dynamic beat that is easy to dance to. The single centers on relationships and how we can sometimes sabotage them, with lyrics drawing inspiration from a conversation Colon had with her mother, who frequently uses the phrase “kick it.” Colon hopes that her music can be an example to other artists to go beyond just one genre and have the courage to explore their fullest artistic potential.

“I hope listeners take inspiration to being fluid in sound, and limitless in the category they allow themselves in,” Colon said. “You are anything and anyone you allow yourself to be.”

As she gears up for upcoming performances this summer and prepares for new releases Mariah virtually sat down with Vocalo and talks about collaborating with hhunter, what she hopes listeners take away from her music and her sophomore EP in the works.

Photo courtesy of the artist, by Luis Ortiz

Where are you from, and where do you live now?

I am from Cicero, Illinois. I currently live in Forest Park, Illinois, west of the city.

What was the music you listened to the most as a child? How do you feel that music influences you now, if at all?

The music I listened to most as a child was a mix of neo-soul, pop and indie alternative. This ranged from listening to Lauryn Hill with my mother, listening to Coldplay every day with my brother whom I shared a room with, and hearing JoJo, Hannah Montana and Taylor Swift in my headphones after school on Radio Disney.

This influences my sound very much as I try to integrate a wide range of genres through my early inspirations, breaking the barriers of a “one genre” artist. I love the organic sounds of drums in neo-soul, the funky bass lines in pop music, and the dance essence in indie alternative. My only goal is to capture all of this in my music.

How would you describe your sound to someone who isn’t familiar with your music?

I’d describe my sound as ever-changing, genre-blending and groovy. Even the saddest of songs will have you nodding your head.

We see that you also play several instruments. How many do you play? Which one is your favorite to play and why? (If you can choose!)

I play any instrument I can get my hands on. Because I don’t read traditional sheet music, all the instruments I’ve taught myself have been by ear, listening to a sound and matching pitch. Examples of some instruments I can play are piano, guitar, bass, ukulele and drums. My favorite instrument varies in the stage of life I am in and the music I am trying to create. Growing up, keys were my favorite instrument to play as I never had to look out at the audience if I were keeping my eyes occupied. As I have gotten older I’ve found a love for bass guitar, and the way it works side by side with the drums.

Photo courtesy of yjr artist, by Amanda Huerta

When did you know that you wanted to be a vocal artist? What was your process when making that decision?

I knew I wanted to be a vocal artist as young as 10 years old. Without any influence from peers around me, I decided being on stage was where I felt most “me.” My first performance as a vocalist began early in fourth grade. I never gave it a second thought; it was what I chose and I still stand by that decision.

What’s one thing you hope listeners can take away from your music?

I hope listeners take inspiration to being fluid in sound, and limitless in the category they allow themselves in. You are anything and anyone you allow yourself to be. 

Congratulations on releasing your single “Kick It With You,” added to Vocalo’s on-air rotation for May! What’s the story behind the song?

“Kick It With You” was a quick first interaction studio session with Hhunter on his series “On the Hhunt” where he showcases collaboration with different artists. The title was inspired by a conversation I had with my mother, who used the term “kick it.” She talked about romantic relationships and used slang, but never truly gave a definition of what the phrase meant. With “Kick It With You,” the phrase could ultimately mean anything the listener believes it is. The song speaks about becoming so infatuated with someone you’re afraid you might sabotage the connection, because you’re becoming so invested into the connection.

How did you get connected with hhunter for the track?

Hhunter and I met through Instagram, exchanged a couple messages setting up a vocal session and that first time writing the song was our first time meeting in person.

You have performed at some pretty cool spaces in the city. Which has been your favorite place to perform? Why?

Every venue I’ve performed at has offered me beautiful experiences with so many different energies surrounding me. My favorite venue to perform at is Schubas. The venue provides such an intimate experience between the audience and performer with the perfect amount of room space and stage height. The lighting and sound are also run very nicely. Thank you to Schubas Tavern staff members for helping and supporting the community!

What has performing at a variety of spaces taught you about yourself as an artist? 

I’ve learned through a multitude of performances that each and every experience is different, depending on the audience. No show is ever the same, no vibe of the crowd is ever the same, and no musical bill is ever the same. I’ve learned to feel the energy of an audience and navigate through that space to engage a listener. This has taught me to become more in tune with other individuals’ emotions and body language. I’ve learned to adapt and take control of the attention of an audience through stage presence and confidence.

Photo courtesy of the artist, by Amanda Huerta

Do you have a pre-performance routine? What is it? How do you reduce anxiety before performing?

My pre-performance routine has unintentionally become listening to “I’m the Best” by Nicki Minaj and any dance song ranging from Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own” to “Disco Tits” by Tove Lo. Anything that can fuel my energy before a show is a must. To reduce anxiety about performing before the show, I truly just avoid thinking about it ‘til soundcheck. Once I am on stage, muscle memory takes over. I have a few affirmations I say to myself when I am stressed or nervous: “I am grateful, I am blessed, I am loved, I am safe.” This has helped me through anything that has made me emotionally compromised and unlike my normal self. It is reassuring and calming to me.

What is next for you creatively? Festival, new music, album, touring? Let listeners know!

The next stages for me as an artist are to release lots of new music in 2023. My next single “Full Time Lover” drops June 15. The rest of the year will include singles, collaborations and a sophomore EP. My next performance is June 30 at the Sonido Music Festival. 

Follow Mariah Colon on Instagram, and listen to the full “In Rotation” playlist on Spotify below.

Written introduction by Joshua X. Miller

Editing for length and clarity by Morgan Ciocca

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