Photo by Amanda Julca
By Carlos Harrison

Photo by Amanda Julca

Living La Vida Sofía

By Carlos Harrison
Alumna Raquel Sofía, who performed in UM’s Festival Miami last year, is a rising star in the music business.

Raquel Sofía’s road to a Latin Grammy “Best New Artist” nomination last year began when she was 7 years old, singing and writing songs about boys she had crushes on.

In between, she discovered jazz and, later, a like-minded cadre of musically “obsessed” peers at the University of Miami. She supported herself as a wedding singer and then sang backup for Juanes and Shakira before becoming a breakout indie star with one of Sony’s first digital recording deals, measured in streams and views instead of simply album sales.

Sofía, B.M. ’09, grew up listening to an eclectic mix—James Taylor and the Beatles, Bob Marley and Juan Luis Guerra. Then, at 15, she says, “I fell in love with jazz. I don't know where or how or why, but all of a sudden I discovered it and I wanted to be Ella Fitzgerald.”

That led her to the Phillip and Patricia Frost School of Music, which she calls “one of the best things that happened to me.”

“When you’re in high school and you want to be a music major, especially in a small town like Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, you’re more than likely the only one,” she says. “So I always felt like I was different.”

At UM, “you’re surrounded for the first time in your entire life by people like yourself. You’re surrounded by other musicians who want to do this.”

Sofía’s break came about three years after graduation, when the Colombian rocker Juanes hired her as a backup singer for his “MTV Unplugged” tour.

She seized the opportunity and returned to her writing roots. “And as soon as I switched from English to Spanish, things just started growing and just sounded more natural. I found my own voice. And it all started happening right then.”

She launched a YouTube channel that got her noticed. By the following summer, she was opening for Juanes on tour.

That led to her first EP, Te Odio Los Sabados (I Hate You on Saturdays), including the single “Agridulce,” which has grossed over 11 million streams and made her a Spotify “Artist To Watch.” In 2015 Sofía returned to her alma mater to perform at Festival Miami. Her repertoire included tunes from her first album, Te Quiero Los Domingos (I Love You on Sundays), which debuted last June at No. 1 on iTunes Latino’s “Top Latin Albums” chart.

“Raquel is one in a million,” says Sony A&R Manager Isabel DeJesus. “Without a doubt, we are witnessing an icon in the making.”

Raquel Sofía is scheduled to perform at THE WYNWOOD YARD on Saturday, January 9, 7 to 11 p.m.