When it comes to the debate over whether it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond or vice versa, Melina Duterte— the 25 year old singer-songwriter known as Jay Som—has come to a conclusion. “I think it’s better to be an established musician in the Bay Area and come to LA, then be a new musician and come to LA, which a lot of people do,” she says as a newly minuted Los Angeleno. “It was always in the cards,” she says of her move south. “I used to hate it, but I ended up loving it.”
“As corny as it is—the green smoothie drinking, Hollywood, Beverly Hills people—it’s really great,” she continues. “There’s always something to do. I like being around like-minded people who have similar work ethics. I need to be challenged and motivated to get better at what I do. I can’t be stagnant.”
And she certainly hasn’t been. Just a month after moving to Los Angeles, Duterte began working on her sophomore album, “Anak Ko,” which hits stores today. The album follows her 2017 debut, “Everybody Works,” and if early reviews are any indication, will cement Jay Som’s status as part of the indie rock elite.
The album is Duterte’s first as a full-time musician, having quite her side jobs following the success of “Everybody Works.” “The deal with being signed to a label now is you have to make things. I don’t have a problem with that, because I like to make and record music. But it is a lot of pressure,” she said. “This is probably the hardest job I have. It’s so public and personal. I’m always talking about myself. I’m literally always thinking about myself. I’m sure some people like it, but it’s driving me insane.”
The album captures a slew of emotions typically hard to put into words, or even a single song. Duterte struggles when asked to describe the album as a whole. “I don’t really have an idea of what albums are to me,” she said. “I listen to music and I have favorite albums and can asses like, ‘This album is about loss.’ But when you’re the one making it, you become too immersed. The first one, now I know what it means to me because I can step outside of my zone and look at my life. It was a very perfect snapshot of what was going on in my life, when I was broke and doing music for fun.”
In the grand scheme of things, a sophomore album is still early career, but Duterte is taking lessons she’s learned from the first record and applying it to the present, as well as the band’s upcoming world tour. “I had to grow up a lot from when I started touring,” she said. “Definitely no drinking. I’ve been sober for a year and a half. And you need to have your alone time. You are always moving. You’re thinking about the next city, the next thing. You can’t get too caught up in your emotions. And honestly, I think more people should. We need therapy on tour.”
Still, she’s enjoying every minute of it. “It’s more exciting than nerve-wracking,” she said of her debuting the album. “I don’t have to explain who I am anymore. “