Exclusive: MARi Burelle on How She Embodies a Modern-Day Celia Cruz

·4 min read

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MARi Burelle tiene tumbao'.

The artist of Cuban and Puerto Rican descent fully represented Latinos in the American Song Contest, a live music competition hosted by Snoop Dogg and Kelly Clarkson, and left her mark on the music scene with her authentic voice, look and feel.

Burelle, who stunned audiences with her performance of "Fly" during the competition's semi-finals, has just started showing the world what she can truly do.

In an exclusive interview with People Chica, the performer gave insight on what it was like for her in the contest and who her greatest Latin music inspirations are.

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When did you know that singing was something that you wanted to pursue as a career?

I've been singing since I was a little girl, like nine years old. But the very first time I was in the school play in elementary school in New Hampshire and I remember I started singing, it got so quiet and at first, I was like, "Did I hit a wrong note, did I sing the wrong lyric?"

I was singing Flashdance or something like that and then suddenly the crowd just started to go wild and I was like, "Oh yeah, I nailed that. So, I'm going to do this for the rest of my life."

What was it like to be the singer that represented Latinos in the American Song Contest?

I feel like the best part was to be able to represent our culture and just show people that I was already a minority from New Hampshire, but being able to be in a competition like that for the whole country, for us was just amazing.

They got that little bit of spice and love, the way we dress and we don't care about anything. I thought that was amazing.

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You were among the final 11 artists that returned to the stage to perform an original song and you also made it to the semi-finals. What inspired you for this performance and what was your greatest lesson from it?

The song itself is called "Fly" and we did that going up on to this high riser and everything, which doesn't seem high on TV, but in person, it was pretty crazy and there's nothing to hold on to. I've done it before where you can hold a bar, you got a little harness on you and I was going up there and people didn't realize that I was really singing.

I got to represent the lyrics that I'm singing and show people that I'm not afraid and that I do have to spread my wings and fly and I had to get over that fear. I had to overcome a lot of difficulties in the semifinal, but I did it and killed it, I'm super proud.

You represented New Hampshire during the competition and its motto of "Living Free." How do you embody that freedom in your personal life?

I think I couldn't have grown up in a better state because that literally is my mantra. If you ain't living, then you're definitely dying.

I don't want to be a dead man walking, I live life to the fullest. I go through the craziest of things every day, all day, but I keep it moving because you just have to.

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Being of Puerto Rican and Cuban descent, are there any Latin artists that inspire your music? 

I think I just love the chops of Christina Aguilera and would love to do something with her one day. But then taking it all the way back to my hero, who is Celia Cruz.

I'm working on something really special, a song called which we all know—"La negra tiene tumbao"—as it's coming up on the 20-year anniversary.

We're putting that all together and it is going to be amazing because I'm kind of like the modern-day her with all the hair colors and fashion. I took it from the queen herself.

Now that the American Song Contest is over, what are you looking forward to working on next?

I'm going to take this platform and run with it. I am just finishing up my first EP in Spanish. We worked really hard on that and the tracks are so like me and woman empowerment.

A lot of people are like, "I'm a boss b***h,"  but if you're a real boss, you got to actually be that and come to the table with that. I really did this with this lyric and I think people are going to super feel it in the music, the lyrics, the emotion, everything.