In an age where the old artist’s adage of “any press is good press” has evolved into constant self-promotion across multiple platforms, Alina Baraz is still taking her time. For many years, only a few pictures of the Cleveland-born, L.A.-based singer could be found on the Internet, and she rarely gave interviews.
Her debut, the 2015 collaborative “Urban Flora” EP with Danish producer Galimatias, was recorded over two years — most of which found Baraz working via computer while locked away in her bedroom.
The pair didn’t even meet in person until the project was completed, and it’s likely that isolation informed the 25-year-old songwriter’s decision to maintain a low profile.
But the EP was an unexpected hit, and coupled with the success of Baraz’s follow-up EP, April’s “The Color of You,” the silky-voiced chanteuse has slowly started to embrace her rapidly growing popularity.
“It had to happen at some point,” said Baraz before a recent show at the Warfield in San Francisco. “I’ve gotten to know my fans so well, that I feel like I owed it to them to give more of myself. They give me everything. So lately, it’s felt more and more like an even exchange. People have asked me why I’m so mysterious my whole life. But I really never try to be.”
Something she does try to be, however, is painstakingly honest in her work. So much so that Baraz has overcome her once serious aversion to live performances (“I’ve grown to love being a performer”), learned how to work anywhere (“I used to hate writing in studios”), and developed a system for instant creation that specifically combats superfluous embellishment and false narratives.
“I don’t work on a song for more than a day,” she said. “If I have to come back to a song, then I’m never going to finish it. I just know I’ll never be able to capture it in the same way I first felt. If I can write and record it on the same day, then I won’t have to mimic any kind of emotion. It’s the most real it can ever get.”
Lofty ambitions can easily make their way to the back burner when offers like opening eight dates for Coldplay come through. But even when playing to audiences 25 times the size she usually does, the young singer always tries to find a way to make it about connections.
“Opening for Coldplay was insane,” Baraz said. “It’s a completely different vibe. But energy is energy. And it ended up being the most personal that I ever got in confronting my own music. The arenas are so huge that it really felt like I was singing to myself. And if I’m fully expressing myself, and I can relate to it without hiding behind any kind of metaphor, then I know that others can relate to it as well.”
Baraz is still working on her official debut album but hints that there will probably be some kind of other release before that is completed. Much in the same way that the minimalist R&B and lush production on “The Color of You” expanded upon the late-night, downtempo lullabies of “Urban Flora,” whatever comes next will look to push those sonic boundaries even further.
“I’m always interested in experimenting,” Baraz said. “I don’t know what the point is if I’m not pushing myself to grow. I have to try new things. This will be another chance for me to do that.”
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 24 and 25
Where: Observatory North Park, 2891 University Ave., North Park
Tickets: The Oct. 24 show is sold out. Tickets for Oct. 25 are $35-$99.