"My dad was a musician, so I absorbed all his musical library," the singer-songwriter tells New Times by phone from her home in Puerto Rico. "There was a piano in our house, and I started playing silly, childish songs on it at 7. I started taking piano lessons when I was young, but even before that, there was always a microphone in our house, and there's recordings of me at 2 singing baby-ish songs."
Born Ileana Mercedes Cabra Joglar, iLe took the piano seriously as a child but abandoned the instrument when she decided to sing professionally.
"I still write my songs on the piano in my house, but I have a weird relationship with it," she explains. "I bond with the piano when I compose, but I'm spending the time learning how to sing. I took singing lessons when I was younger, and now I learn from interpretation. I keep challenging myself singing and look to find ways to evolve with my voice."
For her latest single, "No Es Importante," she decided to change up her routine.
"It is very minimalistic musically, which I enjoy in a weird way," iLe says. "Usually, I love to layer a song with instruments, but this was so intimate. At one point, we added some drums and guitars, but that made the song feel far away. It's very raw and rough but also very subtle. I started with three chords and added percussive bass in the chorus. there was very little in the verses, and then the chorus is like a tantrum."
"No Es Importante" was the first original song iLe worked on in a while, and she admits that pandemic-induced conditions prolonged the process.
"I'm used to being in my house composing, but still it was tough to find ways going out without going out. Looking out the window was my way of dealing. The election last year in Puerto Rico also made it hard for me to concentrate."
In an interview with New Times last year, iLe spoke about taking a stand against Gov. Ricky Roselló to call for his resignation and going as far as to release a protest song alongside Bad Bunny and Residente. Her last album, Almadura, released in 2019, also had a political bent, addressing the aftereffects of Hurricane Maria.
Now she's is ready to see and tour the world again. Her second show in more than a year and a half is scheduled for on Thursday, September 30, at the North Beach Bandshell — part of the Escala Sonora concert series — where she'll be accompanied by two guitarists, a bassist, a percussionist, and a drummer.
"I haven't traveled in so long," she says. "I'm excited and scared since things are changing every day. I'm anxious to have that connection with an audience again since I missed it a lot."
In the meantime, she's been preparing like a madwoman to put on a great show.
"We rehearse a lot," iLe says. "I get stressed since we haven't played in a long time, but it's exciting now that everything is coming together. The band has a lot of fun."
iLe struggles to communicate exactly what audiences can expect from her concert.
"It's hard for me to describe my music, but the concert is fun," she notes. "It can get deep because it's very personal for me. I express how I feel about what surrounds me. The experience is very healing for me, and I hope for the audience too."
iLe. 7 p.m. Thursday, September 30, at North Beach Bandshell, 7275 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-672-5202; northbeachbandshell.com. Tickets cost $25 to $50.