New York City-based musician Eva Westphal started writing songs at the age of thirteen. Her foray into music though began a lot earlier with violin and singing lessons laying the groundwork for her crossover to acoustic and indie pop. In recent years, Eva’s creative capacity has seen her write and record an array of wonderfully charming folk-pop entries. From the acoustic arrangements of I’ve Never Written A Song About A Boy to the pop-infused electro beats of Rain, Westphal seeks to engage audiences with her sincerity and remarkable outlook on life. Even her passion for mental health and LGBTQ+ issues are cause for celebration in songs like Things Don’t Fit and She’s Mine. More recently, Eva’s seemingly fearless exploration of music treads lines around her Latin heritage and pride as a gay woman on her latest release Hey Americana. With all that in mind, I recently caught up with Eva. Here is some of what we talked about.
Eva, tell me a little bit about your classical training in violin and singing and how that has helped shaped your transition into acoustic and indie-pop?
I started playing the violin when I was 6, so music has always been a really big part of my life. I have four little brothers who all play classical instruments, too – my dad really emphasized how important it was to him that we all play an instrument. I used to hate practicing every day, but now I’m so grateful because that was my introduction to the thing I love most: music. And then I’ve always written poems, ever since I was little, so when I turned 13 and begged for my first guitar I started writing my own songs. Those songs were acoustic pop because that’s what I listened to, and then my love for that genre just grew from there!
What do you love most about the acoustic guitar? Is there one artist above all others that inspires how you play?
I really love how versatile it is. I start writing most of my songs on guitar, although sometimes I use the piano. But basically, I love string instruments and I really like playing guitar while singing because it’s very expressive. I’m very inspired by Brandi Carlile – she’s part of my “holy trinity”: Kacey Musgraves, Taylor Swift, Brandi Carlile. Call me basic but they’re amazing!
When did you write your first song? And what was the moment when you realised you wanted to take it seriously?
I wrote my first song when I was 13 – well, my first real song. I had been writing tiny little songs for as long as I can remember. But ever since I really began writing, I knew I wanted to make music and kept working at it.
You wrote a song called Things Don’t Fit. I understand it’s a coming-of-age song. What was the inspiration behind it?
It’s about growing out of your old life and the way things used to be – the comparison in the song is between ripping my prom dress and also having a fundamentally different life than when I fit into that dress. I’m honestly just proud of how far I’ve come and wanted to tie that to a general message of acceptance and body neutrality.
You often write lyrics straight from the heart. I understand She’s Mine is a love song in dedication to your girlfriend. How important is the connection between intimacy or honesty and songwriting to you?
Yes, I wrote that song a little while ago for my girlfriend at the time – I love performing it because it’s grown to be a song about pride! The lyric video for it incorporated around 400 couples and their love messages to each other, which felt super special. For me, I can’t write songs without being honest with myself and with the people in my life.
How do you write in general? Do you do it every day, or do you simply wait for inspiration?
Any time I feel some sort of strong emotion or compelling idea, I try to make a song out of it. Honestly, anytime I’m grateful, which is a lot of the time, I get inspired to write. Sometimes inspiration just hits – usually a melody or a piece of a lyric – and I have to get it down as soon as possible.
Do you record things just to capture ideas, as well?
Yes, definitely! My voice memos and notes app on my phone are full of random little snippets of songs and lyrics. I have so many half-finished songs.
You are a wonderful champion of the LGBTQ community and mental health. Could you tell me a little bit about some of the organisations you are proud to be involved with? And how has advocacy shaped who you are?
Thank you so much! I’m so proud to be involved with Project HEAL, an organization I’ve worked with for years now. They’re an organization focused on parity in eating disorder treatment, something I’m passionate about as a person in solid recovery from my ED. I’m also lucky to have collaborated with It Gets Better and the Phluid Project, both of which have incredible messages for LGBTQ+ youth and the greater community. The causes I’m passionate about definitely inform my music and allow me to connect to the communities I care about on a deeper level!
Back to the music, what’s the story behind your new single Hey Americana?
Hey Americana is about an experience I had where a man flirted with me and my girlfriend at the time at a bar – I was in Spain, and my girlfriend was fully American (I’m American but fluent in Spanish because I’m Puerto Rican), so he started off by saying “hey americana” followed by a bunch of catchy phrases that were annoying in the moment but perfect for a song! I was so excited to record this one because it’s my first song in English and Spanish!
Finally, in reflection, what is your most memorable moment where you thought I truly love what I do?
I have those moments all the time, but pretty much whenever I get a message from someone who says my music has affected them in some way or get to meet people who listen to my music after my show (aka in person). It means the world to me that people take time out of their day to hear my music and what I have to say. I really feel so so lucky.
What a great find Robert. I love her wonderful, boldly honest lyrics, delivered with such pure vocals.
Eva Westphal sounds like an intriguing artist. Based on her name, which could be German, I never would have guessed she’s Puerto Rican. My wife is from Puerto Rico. Her last maiden name is Rivera-Anaya, which obviously sounds very Spanish.