Story + interview by Allie Volpe
About an hour north of Phoenix, Arizona is the experimental city of Arcosanti. Surrounded by miles of desert, the architectural wonderland is inspiring enough for the residents that live there and manage the town’s bell casting business. But for one weekend a year, the space turns to creatives and musicians who mingle and perform throughout the cliffsides, amphitheaters and stone structures for Experience FORM, a music festival curated by Los Angeles outfit Hundred Waters. This year’s festival, held May 12-14, boasts performances from Solange, James Blake, Father John Misty and Skrillex.
In the midst of the sandy views and sea of tents of FORM 2016, Los Angeles-based singer Azul brought her soulful melodies and commanding voice to the festival for the second time. Drenched in sunlight in the epicenter of the desert oasis and performing on a seldom-used piano, Azul performed brand new song “Playing With Fire,” a song she had written just a few days prior to the festival, for the first time for Out of Town Films.
You wrote the song you played for us just about a year ago before you drove to Arizona for FORM. How has life changed since then?
Life changes every day for me and I am learning to go with the flow. Since then, I finished my album and have been working behind the scenes a lot.
Are you able to look back on the song and reflect on that period of time?
I was really beginning a period of self-discovery and soul-searching that will be a lifelong plight. I was just beginning to grow into myself and now I feel a lot more comfortable in my skin and ready to put myself out there, I had a lot of growing to do and I feel like I have come into my own now.
Tell us about your time at FORM last year. Did the festival impact your music at all?
FORM has a way of expanding your imagination and has this supernatural quality to it, in just the space itself and then the festival is super inspiring and has taken on a creative life of its own and that energy extends after you leave in terms of showing you the power you have to manifest creative goals. I'm sure in some way I've been influenced by it and by my interactions there. It was inspiring for me especially as a very new artist to have an opportunity to play there.
Are there any recordings of that song?
No, it's not been recorded yet. My second record is what I'm working on now, and it'll be more a stripped down project, so I feel that it will be more cohesive with that body of work.
Tell us about your musical background. When did you first start writing songs?
I knew even as a child that this was what I wanted to do. I was granted a scholarship in grade school to go to a music conservatory and later to train classically in high school. Then I got super into old jazz and began really getting serious about writing and recording about six years ago .I wrote and recorded my first song then.
At what point did your music as it exists now start to form?
Being at Family, the artist development company I was with in 2015, was where I had the space and resources to really expand and begin to see myself actualize a vision, but art is a constantly changing thing for me. I write based on my emotions and they are deep and volatile and sometimes sweet and light. I never go into writing for a particular sound, I just let what I'm feeling come out and work around that, so as I grow and expand my music does too.
What meaning do you get out of your own music? What do you hope fans glean from it?
I get a release out of it and I hope listeners will get the same, or feel something. We live in a very numb society so if I can get people to reflect on emotions then I feel like I've helped in some way, or in the way I know how to. At the end of the day people will relate your work to their experiences which may vary greatly from your own intention when it's being written, so once you write a song it takes on it own life and is not yours anymore.
What are you working on now?
Videos and visuals, also gearing up for a lot of upcoming shows.
How does Los Angeles play into your creative identity?
I don't really think it does. I grew up here but I've always thought of myself as my own environment, as narcissistic as that may sound. I don't really listen to many current things because I kind of like to stay in my own head so I don't ever compare myself to other current trends in music. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or bad thing, but it helps me.