Interview with Malena Cadiz


Malena Cadiz is a singer and songwriter based in L.A. Here she makes note of the unfolding process while navigating through life: finding her voice over time, learning to trust one’s vision, and recognizing intuition as a form of intelligence.

For me her voice and lyrics are like an abstract expressionist painting; a sensory and visceral overload. I find myself occupying a space between the present moment and my dreams; structure and unloosing; intellectual and physical; stillness and movement. It seems to capture a certain humanness of life. My insights from my past are made clear for a moment to remind me that future's unknown still exists and that presence is a transitory instant. The unfolding process offers comfort and nourishment.

Hi Malena! How are you feeling today? What’s in your eyesight?

Hi Gaia! I’m feeling good. I’m sitting in my studio with the fan on, looking out at dry brown grass on the hill behind our house. The air has been crazy from all the fires. I spent the week recording new material though, which always makes me really creatively nourished and inspired.

Share with us a little about who you are.

I’m a folk singer and songwriter based in L.A. I’m second generation Filipino-American and grew up between my mom’s place in Kalamazoo, MI and Singapore with my dad and stepmom.

Where have you been investing your time most recently?

I’ve been doing a lot of writing and music-making. Being homebound has been a real gift in that way.

How did you find your voice?

I feel like I discover my voice in layers and it’s ever evolving. I think because of the way I was raised and societal programming it took awhile for me to really trust myself and my vision. But I’m feeling more and more steady about following my own compass and not internalizing other peoples’ value-systems.

“I’m thinking about songs all the time though, doing dishes, in the shower, driving around the city, I’ll work out lyrics and melody singing to myself and voice memo them.”

Tell us about the space or place you work from.

I work out of a little homemade shack we have in the backyard. My husband and our friends built it from scratch a few years ago as a studio and rug store room. We have a family antique rug business ( It’s a very harmonious pairing. The rugs act as sound baffles and make the room beautiful.

What does your creative process look like? What informs your practice?

Since becoming a parent I have a very set schedule, Mikael and I swap on and off so I work every afternoon for 5 hours and then after my daughter goes to bed I come back out to the studio. I’ll usually have a spark of an idea, maybe a lyric or a guitar riff and then fill things out from there. I’m thinking about songs all the time though, doing dishes, in the shower, driving around the city, I’ll work out lyrics and melody singing to myself and voice memo them.


Is there a “structure” or “mood” you work within when writing and recording?

I wouldn’t call it a structure, but I come back to certain songwriting exercises again and again to cross-check myself. Like object-writing (free writing based on sensory experiences) and little flow charts I make to gauge the cohesiveness of a song.

Can you share the story behind Sunfair?

Sunfair was released a few years ago. I came out to the Joshua Tree from NYC for a month and sat and wrote it. It’s all about evaluating where you’re at in life, and choosing to move toward the light. My newer work is coalescing around the idea of trusting self and doubling down on your chosen life path.

Are there other artforms or artists that you dialogue with in your work?

Poetry and books are a big inspiration for me. I love Ada Limon, Rumi, Naomi Shibab Nye. I always have Italo Calvino’s “Invisible Cities” within quick reach. And visually I love the opportunity music videos present to collaborate and make a visual world for the songs. I’ve been working on a new one where I’ve been dabbling in more movement work, working with a great choreographer, so that’s a new and exciting thing for me to express myself and my music in that way.

Have things changed for you since quarantine?

Yes and no. I love spending time at home, so that’s been lovely. But it’s been challenging not to have any childcare help right now. I usually lead songwriting workshops every month and I really miss that. I miss seeing friends, seeing live music. My husband and I both lost a lot of work due to the pandemic, but we’ve been fortunate in many ways to still feel safe and stable.

“My newer work is coalescing around the idea of trusting self and doubling down on your chosen life path. ”

How do you think politics and our current political climate inform our voices?

This is a real moment of reckoning and a lot of people who weren’t super politically activated are feeling activated in this moment. I think we all have a responsibility to be speaking out, calling our representatives and doing whatever is in our power to make positive change right now. The stakes are so high and there are so many things to fight for. It can be overwhelming. Striving to make it part of my daily practice makes it feel like little by little I can contribute to change.

How do you nourish yourself to be present for your studio practice?

I meditate and do yoga and journal a lot.

Currently, what are you listening to?

I just got two records that have been on repeat, both West African artists Tidiane Thiam and Les Filles de Illighadad. And I have a real soft spot for pop country, I listen to that a lot when I drive.

Do you have any inner wisdom you want to share?

Stay curious.

How do you achieve your eupnea? eupnea: to establish residence in a normal, relaxed + unlabored breath.

I do a meditation where I imagine a pink-orange light radiating out from my heart. I’ll do it in the middle of the day when I’m feeling stressed even just for 30 seconds, it always feels centering.

Trace my footsteps backwards from the hallway to the stairs
Comes as no surprise I'm woefully underprepared
Lying on the kitchen floor, the cold linoleum
Getting by, getting high, getting absolutely nothing done

I love getting by with you
Riding the low and highs with you
Getting by with you

Caught a magic carpet from the deli to the moon
Spent a paragraph in Paris wearing out my blue suede shoes
And every now and then when it feels luck is running low
Double down and hit the ground and baby take a roll