On The Record: New York’s DOPICO chats to us about her rebrand, the industry, songwriting and living in NYC

You recently rebranded from “Madeleine Dopico” to “DOPICO”. What was your reasoning behind that change and what was the process like?

I’m glad I started out going by my full name when I began pursuing music seriously. It felt like I was throwing my rawest self into the industry and needed to explore how to mold my brand as an artist. The more I performed, wrote and released music, the more I felt the need to retain authenticity while making it clear somehow that I’m not just your friend next door with a guitar who makes music for fun. “Madeleine” is also way too hard to spell. 

“DOPICO” felt more to me like an intriguing contemporary artist, but it’s still my name. I also wanted to more intentionally honor my background. My father is a Cuban immigrant, and I’m particularly proud of how my family came to this country after losing everything and had to start over again to forge better lives. Leaning into the name “DOPICO”  motivates me to be relentless in building a music career from the ground up, even when it feels impossible. I also think the name is fitting for the modern, electro pop/soul big sound of my upcoming album (singles already releasing on Spotify). I’ve had the most success with songs in this style before, so I figured I’d try to explore that side of me further and see what happens.

Could you tell us a little bit about your songwriting process?

The most common way I write is by hitting a melody or chords on my guitar, piano, or now sometimes on Logic on my computer as I’m learning to produce- and then I improvise over it. Sometimes I have a buzzword or concept I want to sing about, but other times I have no idea what I want to write about until I open my mouth and random words and moods come out. It’s often therapeutic. I’ll start singing a line, then listen back to myself and think, “oh- THAT is how I feel about that?”. I’ll keep improvising lyrics and melodies until I find a line or concept I like and then stop and build off of it. I also keep hundreds of voice memos and notes on my phone with ideas. Sometimes lyrics or melodies pop into my head walking down the street, or awkwardly in the bathroom of a restaurant and I try to get them down and flesh them out later. 

What inspired you to write a Spanish verse in your new song, “Money”?

My 93-year-old Cuban grandfather is my hero. He is the most positive person I have ever met and his spirit is untouchable. When he’s well, he spends family gatherings dancing, serenading the table, and tapping rhythms on his wine glass until we all either laugh hysterically or join in. He keeps asking me to write something in Spanish so I figured it was about time I gave it a try. He wanted to sing the “Dinero, dinero” line on the track but the studio is a bit of a hike. 

Speaking of money, how do you afford to live in New York City as an independent artist?

Performing and partnerships with brands and ads help, but unfortunately, music can’t cover my bills yet! Beyond music, I’m very interested in the startup world and was running a small mental health tech company for the last couple of years. I started as a freelancer there, but because I’m so passionate about mental health and about people working on and getting to know themselves, I couldn’t help getting deeply involved with the company. Music is my first love, but I have other strong interests too. 

Outside of that business, I find freelance opportunities working with other startups, consultants, nonprofits, media, and content companies- you name it! I often have five different small streams of income at once. I’m very upfront and honest about my commitment to my music career, however- and say that I’m only interested in opportunities that allow me the flexibility to prioritize music. That’s why I quit my traditional desk job and left the security that came with it.

What are 3 misconceptions you think people have about pursuing a music career?

The hard part is earning money in music. That’s true! But as I wove into the lyrics of my new track, “Money”- people don’t necessarily focus on how much money it takes in the first place to make and promote music. When going for a certain sound, you have to pay for equipment, studio time, mixing, mastering, etc. You have to pay for photographers, videographers, your band- and sometimes can get generous favors, but also want to compensate other artists for their work. Even submitting to blogs often costs money, in addition to marketing dollars spent trying to push music out there. Before we can even think about making money from our art, so many of us need to have the money to put into it in the first placing, while also finding time and opportunities to pay our bills.

What trends are you seeing the music industry these days that you like, and don’t like?

I believe that the true role of an artist is to capture the human experience. We’re computing through our bodies, presenting and preserving, something about what it’s like to be alive. Other people can sing or vibe along, and that’s this amazing form of connecting and relating to each other that’s timeless. I think I tend to be pretty friendly and forthcoming, and I’ll sometimes get told that I should be “less approachable” even “more detached” because that’s what’s “cool” with modern artists. Frankly, I can’t stand that. Popular artists are still people and they’re still human, even if they want to present themselves as a curated brand. 

Something I’m excited about right now in music, however- is that more women are speaking out, stepping up and making waves as leaders of the industry. On the technical side, men are still far more represented than women (with production, engineering, etc), but as I’m hoping to join the movement of getting more women involved, I’m learning about all the progress out there. I’ve reached out to some pretty badass, powerful women who are willing to help me when they don’t need to- all in the name of empowerment and equality.


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