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  • Justice Petersen

Xondra Finds Herself Again Through her Debut LP “A Lot to Unpack”

Listeners can dance, laugh, and cry as she lets her “inner whisperings” take center stage.

Xondra refers to her collections of songs as “universes” as they emulate different moments in time from her life. In her debut LP that came out on August 3, the Long Island-based singer songwriter has created a heartbreaking yet cathartic universe that represents a journey of grief, healing, and coming back home to find yourself again.

Written after ending a toxic relationship and moving back to their home state of New York, Xondra says they weren’t sure how they were feeling about the situation until they began to write about it.

“I process things a lot through making art,” she says “It felt like a lot of these songs kind of wrote themselves. I would just be sad and then I would sit on my bedroom floor and write them, and then I was like, ‘oh, that's how I'm feeling about it.’ But then I felt better after. After, it was catharsis…I think I got a clearer image of what I thought at the end of it. After writing that many songs I was like, ‘okay, I think I got all my feelings out.’”

Xondra, a.k.a. Alexondra O’Connell, says they always wanted to be a singer. As a really introverted kid, the only time Xondra didn’t feel shy was when she was singing, dancing or performing. Inspired by iconic musicians such as Taylor Swift, Amy Winehouse, and Ella Fitzgerald, Xondra is an experimental pop musician as she features a variety of genres and musical styles in “A Lot to Unpack”.

“I feel like life is too multidimensional and everyone is too multidimensional to stick to one thing for me,” they say. “Every time I go to sit down to write something, I'm feeling differently every time, and I don't really make any rules for myself in terms of expressing and being creative.”

At her core, Xondra is a songwriter. She enjoys playing with different types of genres of her music, and no matter how a song may sound, at the heart of every one of her songs is her unique and honest point of view.

“I feel like each different genre, each different type of music, is still very true to me. I just have different things I'm taking from all these genres that I really like,” she says. “That's why I love pop music, because whereas I'm exploring with all these different sounds on the album, I think at the core is pop songwriting. I think my lyrics and my main melodies are still very pop and R&B.”

Half of “A Lot to Unpack” was written on her own, and the other half was written in collaboration with others. Collaborating with several friends and artists on this album, Xondra says that writing this album was almost like a therapy session. She and her trusted friends would sit down together and talk about life as melodies and chord progressions would inevitably join their discussions.

“I'm definitely a very emotional person and I love words, so it's very cool to get to sit with my friends…I think it maybe would be different if I was writing with strangers or maybe I feel like it would come out maybe a little bit different,” they say. “I wanted to write with people who I'm very comfortable with, because it was such a vulnerable thing. And that's why a lot of it I spent writing alone too, because I was like, ‘this is between me and myself, I got to get these feelings out.’ I think it's easier to be vulnerable sometimes when you really trust people are going to hold that space for you.”

“A Lot to Unpack” is an album where anyone can find a song that will make them feel. Whether this feeling is joy, sadness, or the bittersweet feeling of having your pain be seen and heard, all lovers of music will find themselves finding peace in Xondra’s beautiful chord progressions and soft singing. On upbeat and lighter tracks like “U.G.L.Y.” and “Haha”, listeners can laugh at Xondra’s clever and biting lyrics of revenge and letting go. On more melancholy songs like “Business Casual” and “Hard To Swallow Pill”, Xondra perfectly captures the feeling you get after a bad relationship that seems to combine acceptance, rage, and the deepest kind of sorrow.

One song that Xondra says has been on their mind often is “Fond of You”. Her favorite happy song on the album, she says that this song focuses more on the positive aspects of ending a toxic relationship and looks more on the bright side of what the relationship once was.

“I feel like sometimes when you're in a toxic relationship and a really bad breakup, you kind of get stuck in all the negatives and everything bad that's happened,” she says. “I definitely am…an emotional person, and I'm also a very big romantic. So when I lose a love, I'm like, ‘it's the end of the world’. But I wanted to have a moment to recognize…regardless of it crashing and burning it still meant the world to me and it was still a beautiful moment in time, or some beautiful experiences within the terribleness.”

Xondra also enjoyed writing the track “Extrañas Perfectas”, which was their first song they’ve written with Spanish lyrics (which they say they couldn’t have written without the help from their Nana who acted as Google Translate over the phone). Being half Irish and half Puerto Rican and Cuban, she wanted to incorporate Spanish in her music for the first time.

“It was really a lot of fun getting to sing in Spanish and write lyrics in Spanish,” she says. “It's a sad song, but it's also like, ‘just consider me a stranger. You don't even know me anymore. I'm just gonna vibe out.’ That was kind of fun to feel. I'm definitely the type of person who cares too much. People who are really cool and don't care at all, I would love to be that but I'm not. I care too much and I can't even try to be cool like that. But in that song, in that moment, I felt more like, ‘whatever, let it go.’ So I was like, I'm gonna savor this because usually I'm obsessing over feeling too much.”

In her music, Xondra captures feelings of feminine rage as her writing is often influenced by feminist themes and concepts. On her song “Ruthless”, for instance, she paints a picture of a 1950’s housewife-esque relationship over gorgeously orchestrated ukulele and subdued strings. Xondra says that as a shy child and a “people pleaser”, she often felt stifled or not heard throughout her life.

“I didn't really know how to get out all of that energy, because I wouldn't consider myself a very angry person. I definitely have a lot of inner rage, but most women do because of the state of the world and our personal experiences,” she says. “I think that music has helped me get that inner rage out in a healthy way because I could name what I'm feeling, and hopefully it gives a voice to other people who are feeling this too. Because it can be very isolating having those feelings and being stifled as a woman.”

Despite the place where this album came from, Xondra says that she wants listeners to know that she is still an incredibly bubbly and joyful person. Although “A Lot to Unpack” addresses the hurt following a bad breakup and the emotions that are felt while you’re in a toxic relationship, this doesn’t mean that Xondra isn’t perfectly capable of being her silly goofy self.

“I feel like this album was all of the feelings of heartbreak and loss and love and I think that's really hard for people to feel their big feelings,” they say. “I feel like this album will take you on a ride and let you feel all those big feelings. I think that's really important. And then at the end of the day, I hope everyone listens and they go off and they can be their goofy little selves too.”

Essentially, as Xondra has learned to find herself again and become the best version of her true self as she has written “A Lot to Unpack”, she has taught listeners that they can do so too. They can be anything that they want to be, and nothing should stop them from doing so, whether it’s a bad relationship, the state of the world we live in, or themselves.

“I try to be, in my musical persona, everything that little me would have wanted. Because I was so shy and quiet, I want to make little me proud at the end of the day,” she says. “I want to be the cool person who speaks their mind and doesn't let people quiet them forever. Because I think that everyone [has] things to say, and deserves to be heard. I think as I develop my artistry more, having the strength to speak up and speak out about things that I've experienced is hard, but it's definitely worth it. And I hope that other women do that more and more often, and I hope that they feel that in my music that I want them to do that too. And I hope that they are.”

Listen to their latest music HERE Keep In Touch: INSTAGRAM | TIKTOK


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