Just one month ago, Ella Herrera was anxiously walking the Palm Beach State College grounds. The bright-eyed 18-year-old fought hard to earn a spot in the school's medical assisting program, and on this particular day, was participating in orientation. It was then that the gifted musician had an epiphany. "When I was soaking it all in, going to school just didn't make sense, because I knew what I wanted to do since I was eight-years-old, and that's becoming a singer-songwriter," she said.
Although she had made "a big fuss," about enrolling in the program, and had already gone so far as to purchase scrubs, it took a deep gut check, just three days before classes began, for her to open her eyes and come to the realization that music was all she wanted to do in her life. "Shoot for the moon, and if you miss you'll land amongst the stars." Herrera quotes the saying. The pressure from her family concerning a "backup plan" likely clouded her judgment on the matter, but now, she has clarity.
Herrera's biggest fear was waking up one day and thinking "what if?" Time goes by too fast for this firecracker, and she didn't want to waste any more of it pursuing something she didn't love.
Fast forward one month: Herrera is now working two jobs (waitress and selling shoes at Journeys) and preparing for her debut performance under the pseudonym Ver Des. She was rushing between responsibilities when New Times caught up with the chanteuse to chat about her first show. It will take place at Lake Worth's cushy coffeehouse Mother Earth this Friday. The singer demonstrated the composure and quiet confidence of a performer twice her age during our interview -- the first in her budding career.
She came up with the moniker just a few days after quitting school. The name Ver Des comes from the Spanish word for green, verde. Herrera's mother, with whom she is extremely close, calls her ojitos verdes, a diminutive that translates to little green eyes. Herrera, a West Palm Beach-native of Uruguayan and Costa Rican descent, knew Americans would have trouble pronouncing verde, so she split the word up, resulting in improved phonating from those who no hablan español.
The evening Herrera returned from dropping out of school, she faced a deluge of conflicting emotions. The singer then penned her first Ver Des song, "Fool." "I want to rip my heart out so I don't hear it pound/lay my body on a river and soak up the sound/wake up from this nightmare and run for the hills/when it's all said and done I'll be nothing but chills," she writes in the song's second verse. These are undoubtedly mature lyrics, not Justin Bieber or Rebecca Black fare by any means.
Funny thing, someone recommended this songstress call her tracks, "captivating little breakup songs." While we can't disagree with their entrancing nature, Herrera tackles much deeper subjects than heartbreak -- most deal with her inner turmoil and self-actualization.
The central theme that runs rampant in all her words is dreams.
Doesn't take a Harvard grad to figure that out, considering the name of Ver Des debut EP is I Keep Dreaming (which she will be selling for just three-dollars at the Mother Earth Show). "I'm a pretty big dreamer, and I think I'm going to stick to that" admits Herrera, who says the EP is chock full of "dream songs."
Her favorite number off I Keep Dreaming is "Inside Your Skull," which she describes as an inward conversation with herself about pain and ever-evolving dreams. Herrera delivers these soul-searching, Freudian lyrics with a sweeping croon, ending verses with a raspy, come-hither lure.
She says she has been getting the most interesting reactions to her tunes. "I've never heard acoustic music played like this before," seems to be the most prevalent compliment Ver Des' record has received, according to Herrera.
Although she captures the essence of the atmospheric folk of Sarah McLachlan with the edge of Patti Smith, her recordings are strictly lo-fi affairs. She recorded all of I Keep Dreaming in her bedroom, and most of it in one take. Her demo, available as a free downloaded on her Facebook page, was recorded in her bathtub (which was empty, in case you were wondering,) and in one take as well.
"Quality-wise, it's not perfect, I recoded all these songs on my laptop," says Herrera of her album. She finds satisfaction in the imperfection however. "I'm sure there are a lot of mistakes on the record, but I think all the buzzing noises, and finger slides on the fret board add a certain quality to the songs." For Herrera it's not so much about the fidelity of her recordings, but more importantly the impact they make on listeners. "I just want [listeners] to feel something when they hear my songs.
As far as where little green eyes sees her newfound music career going, Herrera is not enthralled with fame and fortune. "I don't know how far I'll make it, but what is far?," asks the contemplative vocalist. "As long as I'm happy and doing what I love, that's success. The award is not at the end, the award is the journey."