Westchester Native Brika Could Be Miami Music's Next Big Thing

"It was a challenge. I had never before sung in the snow or the cold or the altitude we had in Aspen," 21-year-old singer-songwriter Brika tells us during a short break from the recording studio. Last weekend she performed at the X Games in Colorado. Not easy for a Miami resident. But more unbelievable for her than the mountain climate was the size of the crowd that came to see the Westchester native. "There were a thousand people there and they say four million people were watching it on ESPN."

A few years earlier, back in high school, Brika was intimidated to play in front of a crowd of one. Her boyfriend at the time heard a song she wrote and urged her to sing it in front of his father, Julio Reyes Copello, a Latin Grammy Award-winning producer who previously worked with Ricky Martin and Marc Anthony. She giggles now thinking back to how intimidated she was. "I wasn't ready. I kept saying no but he dragged me in front of his dad to play."

Needless to say she impressed. Reyes Copello quickly signed her to his label Art House Records and in December 2014, Brika put out her first album, Voice Memos, which she said got its title from her working methods. "Before I ever intended to make a career of music I recorded songs as voice memos on my phone. I thought with this album it would be cool for people to hear the rough draft all the way to the finished, produced version."

She goes old school with her vocal influences, naming Billie Holiday as her favorite singer, and more contemporary with her songwriting heroes, listing Coldplay and John Mayer among them. She has an eclectic taste when it comes to the songs she covers. She's recorded Justin Bieber's "Sorry," Shaggy's "It Wasn't Me," and most recently the Brit-pop of the Arctic Monkeys' "Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High." 

"I listen to a lot of music but with covers I try not to do anything too obscure," she says. "I want them to be something people know and enjoy."

Brika's plan for 2016 is to keep recording new music with a light schedule of live performances sprinkled in, including February 25 at the Filling Station Lofts where she will be accompanied on guitar by Guillermo Vadalá. Though she has now conquered a national television audience, Brika says she is still working on her nerves when she stands in front of a crowd. "In the studio I feel confident, but I'm still growing as a singer in live settings."

Rooftop Unplugged With Brika. Thursday, February 25, at the Filling Station Lofts, 1657 N. Miami Ave., Miami; 305-901-5900; fillingstationlofts.com. Admission is free but due to capacity you must RSVP via eventbrite.com

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