She’s already been hailed as the “the Spanish Rihanna” in Spain’s music press and whether you agree or not, there’s no denying that Aleesha is set to take the music world by a storm.
Actually of British stock but spending her childhood growing up in Ibiza, the 20-year-old singer left the electronic music Mecca two years ago to pursue her own career in Barcelona. Her sound, which she’s honed in her apartment in Barcelona’s Les Cortes neighborhood, couldn’t be further away from that associated with her native island. Merging equal parts hip-hop and pop with occasional injections of subtle Latino rhythms, it is the result of her multicultural upbringing spent listening to her mom’s Whitney Housten records and watching American TV shows.
Although her goofy Instagram videos might lead you to think she’s not all business, Aleesha Rose, known just as Aleesha, has been writing and recording her own songs, taking every gig she can get while still juggling a day job. Only last year did she manage to earn enough from music to quit her job in retail and dedicate all her time to songwriting.
Since then, life has been a whirlwind for the rising musician. This year, she’s launched her first full EP 19:19, picked up sponsorship from Barcelona-based clothing brand Desigual (you can see her sport a pair of the Barcelona brand’s jeans in our shoot), reached 35k Instagram followers, and amassed almost 300k views on YouTube. She also made her major festival debut at Primavera Sound last month and will follow up with a performance at Sónar this Friday.
We were in Barcelona for the festival, so we caught up with Aleesha to get the scoop on the best local hangouts and talk music, her childhood, and her new EP.
When and why did you move to Barcelona?
I moved to Barcelona in September of 2017. I’ve always wanted to pursue music, but I needed to go to a city to do that. It was either going to be London or Barcelona, but Barcelona was closer to home. Also, everyone that lives in Ibiza moves to Barcelona to study, so I had friends here too.
Do you think the city’s influenced your sound?
I have blood from all over the world – my Mom is British-German and my Dad is Dutch-Indonesian. I’ve never listened to something because it was from or associated with a certain. I just listen to whatever I want to listen to.
That explains why you sing in both English and Spanish.
I just flow easier in English, but I love Spanish just as much. I speak to my sister in Spanglish – I can speak Spanglish better than I can speak English or Spanish. But when I’m singing, language is just not something that I think about. It’s whatever comes out at that moment.
How did you get into R&B music growing up on the island so known for its electronic scene?
In Ibiza, electronic and techno is in the clubs but you don’t go to clubs growing up. I grew up listening to the music that my Mom played, which was a lot of Whitney Houston, Lionel Richie, and Amy Winehouse. I always watched English music shows on TV that focused on American or British pop. Also, we would go camping every summer with my family and these trips were like a reunion of different cultures. We would just spend the summer together, everyone would play different music, and I would just feed into it all and get inspired.
Did you ever consider moving to Madrid?
I really do not like Madrid. I come from an island, so I’m way too connected to nature to be able to live in such a closed city. I feel super claustrophobic there and just the vibe, it’s not as artistic as Barcelona. Everything there is more of a competition between artists and there’s no support. I feel like Barcelona’s more creative and multicultural. That’s why I prefer it.
What does the Spanish music scene feel and sound like right now?
I wouldn’t say it’s hard, but I do feel like in Spain, people just don’t understand me that well – me as an artist, me as a musician. I’m not saying that they don’t appreciate me or support me, but I just don’t feel the same as other artists that live here. I don’t know how to explain it, but I just feel like they don’t get me.
Do you feel that’s more because of your sound or because of who you are as a person?
I think it’s because of my sound and my personality. In Spain, I feel like there’s more of a cliche or a stereotype of what an artist should be and that’s not me. People here are pretty serious in a way. I love entertaining, I love having fun, and I always do my own thing. Growing up I was inspired by a lot of international artists, which has influenced me a lot. I can play my music to someone living here and I can play it to someone living in the US and they will fuck with it way harder than Spanish people.
That’s funny you say that because I felt like maybe that would be changing now.
Oh, it definitely is. That’s why I’m still here. I have a friend who’s also into making his own music and he felt the same way. He was like, ‘Well, instead of leaving and just letting it be how it always was, let’s make room for artists like us.’
Do you feel connected to Barcelona now that you’ve been here for a couple of years?
I didn’t even miss Ibiza until now. I was just over it. I’ve been so concentrated on my music that I didn’t even notice time passing by. I stopped for a minute and I was like, ‘Yo, I’ve literally been here for two years now’. Barcelona really means a lot to me.
You took us to Palau Sant Jordi today – why is that place so special to you?
When I first got to Barcelona, there was no place where I would actually feel alone and relaxed and just think and listen to the thoughts in my head. In Ibiza, I would just drive up to a mountain or to a beach where I could just be alone. Palau Sant Jordi was the only place where I started to feel comfortable with where I was living. I still go there to watch the sunset when something happens in my life or something leaves or a new opportunity comes up. Just have a little moment with myself and make sure that all the decisions that I’m doing are right.
Where are your other favorite spots to hang out in the city?
I spend a lot of time on my balcony and in the recording studio. Another place that I like to catch the sunset is the rooftop at the Desigual headquarters, it’s a really pretty view that looks over the ocean. I played a show here recently and have a lot of connections to the brand so it’s a special spot for me.
Tell us about your first full-length EP 19:19 that’s just been released?
It’s my first EP ever and I wanted it to be only me, no collabs, nothing. I went out to Atlanta to make it because there was a producer there that I had worked with before in LA. So I went there for a month and it just worked –writing, recording, mixing, everything was made in a month.
You played Primavera and you’ve got Sónar coming up. What does it mean to you to be playing these big festivals in your city?
It means so much to me, just a few years ago I hadn’t ever even heard of these festivals – living in Ibiza you don’t really care about anything else. When I got here last year, I got invited as a friend to an influencer thing, but not to perform. I remember I was so happy they invited me because I was broke as hell and I got to go to the festival. I told my friends when I was there, ‘I’m going to perform here next year. Trust me, I’m going to be at this festival’. And everyone was like ‘you trippin’, but I did. It’s not that I expected it, but I worked so hard to get it.
What should we check out at Sónar?
Definitely stop by my show – I’m going to bring a friend of mine on stage with me who also just released his first mixtape. He’s also doing his own thing – he sings in Spanglish and is inspired by other artists. I think he’s pretty fire.
And any other spots to visit while we’re in town?
If you want to shop, Flamingo’s store is great. I buy a lot from there. But if you want to really see what we do here, the best place to go is around MACBA [the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art] where the skaters hang out. I go to a place called Kino Bar a lot, but you can just walk around the streets there and you’ll find lots of nice little bar, shops… everything that you need.
Check out Aleesha’s favorite spots in the map below:
Learn more about Sónar festival, here, and catch Aleesha’s set at 6 p.m. on July 19 at the Sónar XS stage.