Indie Mixtape 20: Half Gringa Is The Midwest’s Breakout Pondering Latina Poet

When searching for creative inspiration, Half Gringa — the powerful force in folk rock emerging from Chicago’s close-knit indie rock scene — can’t help but look inward. As a self-described introvert, the band’s lead singer and songwriter Isabel “Izzy” Olive draws inspiration from reflecting on her past, her roots, and how “blood ties can affect how we love, and how we love can affect what we pass onto progeny through our memories.”

Now with two full length projects to their name, 2017’s Gruñona and 2020’s critically acclaimed Force To Reckon, Half Gringa is now gearing up for the forthcoming EP Ancestral Home. So far, the project has been previewed with the single “Miranda,” which combines Mitski‘s emotional wit with Katy Kirby‘s mesmerizing lilt to craft a haunting and diaristic ballad.

Celebrating the impending release of Ancestral Home, Olive sits down with Uproxx to talk Bruce Springsteen, hide-and-seek, and a hatred of needles in our latest Q&A.

What are four words you would use to describe your music?

Pondering Midwestern Latina Poet.

It’s 2050 and the world hasn’t ended and people are still listening to your music. How would you like it to be remembered?

As someone who cares about the poetry in songwriting.

What’s your favorite city in the world to perform?

Chicago but Toronto is a close second!

Who’s the person who has most inspired your work, and why?

Probably Jens Lekman. His songwriting is so funny and sharp, and his songs are nothing like mine but I think that’s why I’m so inspired by him — the way he thinks about himself and other people and the little spaces we all occupy in the world is so clear in his writing. I’m always aiming for that.

Where did you eat the best meal of your life?

I think the goodness of a meal is really grounded in how satisfying it is, and that can be impacted by where you are, who you’re with, how you’re feeling about your life and yourself and by any emotional connection you have to that meal. So among the best meals I’ve had are paella my at my mom’s on my birthday, tamagoyaki and hot sake at the fish market in Tokyo, charcuterie on a roof in Lisbon with friends, hallacas in Caracas on Christmas, and pasta carbonara alone on my couch after a long, exhausting day.

What album do you know every word to?

A few, but notably Gia Maraget’s There’s Always Glimmer. I used to sing backup in Gia’s band, she’s the best. Her songs are so memorable.

What was the best concert you’ve ever attended?

Bruce Springsteen at Wrigley Field with my mom!

What is the best outfit for performing and why?

Anything with pockets for guitar picks and capos.

Who’s your favorite person to follow on Twitter and/or Instagram?

John Paul Brammer. His turn of phrase is just exquisite, I think I laugh out loud at every single thing the man tweets.

What’s your most frequently played song in the van on tour?

There’s a wide range of tastes in the full band, so it’s rare that anything gets played twice — but I think at some point when I’m in the driver’s seat I’ll put on Riders In The Hills Of Dying Heaven by Campdogzz. Love that record.

What’s the last thing you Googled?

“urban outfitters 2010 catalog” — It’ll make sense if you read my newsletter.

What album makes for the perfect gift?

Daniel Villarreal’s Panama ’77. It’s fun, lovely, jazzy, groovy. Impossible to dislike.

Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever crashed while on tour?

Slept on the seats of a black box theater in Charlottesville, VA.

What’s the story behind your first or favorite tattoo?

I don’t have one because I hate needles!

What artists keep you from flipping the channel on the radio?

Prince, Bad Bunny, and Dolly Parton.

What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you?

As a touring musician, any small kindness feels like the nicest thing in the world. Someone giving me an extra few bucks for a vinyl at a show, other musicians giving us a quiet place to crash, someone’s folks buying us a meal. It really means so much in the moment because of how brutal touring can be.

What’s one piece of advice you’d go back in time to give to your 18-year-old self?

Where you come from isn’t a weakness, it’s a strength.

What’s the last show you went to?

Elizabeth Moen at Schubas in Chicago!

What movie can you not resist watching when it’s on TV?

Purple Rain.

What’s one of your hidden talents?

I’m great at hiding — hide and seek and Sardines are the most fun games to me.

Ancestral Home is out 1/27. Pre-order it here.