Isabella Lovestory

Photo by Fatine-Violette Sabiri

Isabella Lovestory is Montreal’s reggaeton pop queen

An interview with the Latinx singer ahead of her Osheaga Get Together set this weekend.

There’s an honest-to-goodness Latinx popstar in your midst, Montreal. Isabella Lovestory writes Spanish-language songs and conceives eye-catching videos with a worldwide appeal, but they’re made right here.

Lovestory released the Mariposa (Butterfly) EP in 2020, featuring the warmly received clicking footwear anthem “Kitten Heel,” and hasn’t really rested on her laurels since, dropping a remix album and a trio of new singles in 2021, including future-minded banger “Tranki” most recently. 

Lovestory is has a wealth of pop knowledge, but has also shown a penchant for bending the laws of gravity. She’s demonstrated that pop is truly an international language, and the more elements you add — from reggaeton to K-pop and hyperpop — the more personalized it gets.

Many Montrealers will be introduced to her this Saturday at Osheaga Get Together when she takes over the River Stage at 3 p.m. We chatted via email about reggaeton, friperies and breaking the rules of pop in advance of her Osheaga appearance.

Erik Leijon: When did you move to Montreal? Did you move for music reasons?

Isabella Lovestory: I moved here 10 years ago from Honduras. I moved with my parents and little brother because of my mom’s job. Thankfully it became so that I could pursue music comfortably here.

EL: How did the Isabella Lovestory project come to be?

IL: Three years ago I was studying fine arts at Concordia, creating visual art mostly. I got really bored with the exclusivity of the art world and wanted to create art that is accessible to everybody. I started experimenting with songwriting and singing and became addicted to how fun it was. I realized that channeling all my creativity into music is the most liberating because there’s not only the sonic side, there’s the storytelling that goes into writing and the visual side as well: the music videos, designing my merch, creating outfits, imagining a whole universe where my character exists. I’m completely addicted to fuelling every aspect of Isabella Lovestory.

EL: Are you looking to subvert the idea of the pop star in any way, and if so, how?

IL: I’ve always consciously and subconsciously tried to break all the rules presented to me. Naturally this happens when it comes to creating art. For me, I like to do things differently.  I like playing with the idea of being a popstar, of what it means and how I can destroy that meaning and make it my own.

EL: What is it that draws you to pop stars?

IL: I’m hypnotized by the fantasy, the allure, the impossibility and perfection they create for themselves. The routine of being glamorous and the self-indulgence that comes with it. Untouchable angels.

EL: How are reggaeton stars maybe different from English-language Canadian/American pop stars? Is there a difference?

IL: Reggaeton artists are Latinos, therefore the culture that they talk about is obviously different. I do think a lot of my generation’s reggaeton artists come from immigrant families that are now living outside their home countries, and that unique upbringing creates a different way of seeing the world, and a consequently a unique way of making music.

EL: Do you write the songs with videos/visuals in mind? Your videos always seem well thought out in tandem with the songs.

IL: My songwriting is always visual, writing songs is like writing tiny little films. I love creating vivid images in peoples head with my lyrics, and to imagine the video or artwork that goes with it is always a fun adventure for me. I love letting my imagination be crazy.

EL: Montreal is often thought of as being along French-English lines (even though there’s a sizable Latinx population), including musically. Are there any challenges to being a Spanish-language artist in Montreal?

IL: Of course it’s still not as popular as French or English music, but I’m seeing way more support and love this year because Latinx music is increasing popularity. It’s really positive and exciting to have a reception in a place where that language isn’t spoken. I think it’s fun to play with languages, for example in K-Pop they always throw in an English word in there for English speakers to sing along better. Using different languages in a song makes it more global and accessible to different types of people.

EL: Do a lot of the clothes from your videos come from Montreal shops? Based on the video for “Alo,” I assume you’re a fan of Plaza St-Hubert? Where else do you go? What do you look for?

IL: Plaza St-Hubert was the first place that truly fascinated me when I moved to Montreal. Back to when it had the old awnings was my favourite era. I still thoroughly enjoy the ancient sex shops, bead and fabric stores and delicious food. Whenever I feel sad I go there and get lost in it. I’ve been around many cities in the world and I have to say Montreal has the best second hand shops. I really hope Plaza St-Hubert doesn’t get completely gentrified anytime soon, it’s my favourite place.  I go to all the Renaissance and Value villages in the city, as well as the tiny little bazaars I encounter. I try to find the rare stuff that no one has and that, I like knowing no one else has what I have.

EL: I didn’t get to go, but the people who went to your set at L’Entrepôt77 this summer said it was really cool. What was that show like for you?

IL: Due of COVID, it was the first time I had the chance to perform my EP “Mariposa”. The energy was insane, full of love and pure fun. Everyone was ready to dance and scream, I felt so grateful that my music had the power to make people feel so good.

EL: You’ve had the chance to travel a bit lately. Where outside Montreal have you done shows? How have they gone?

IL: I tried going to Mexico earlier this year but they returned me because they thought I was falsifying my Canadian permanent resident card, and I have a Honduran passport so that didn’t help. I tried going again earlier in September and this time they let me in. It was the best trip of my life. The love from the people there gave me so much hope and life. I’m going to Europe and hopefully Latin American countries soon, I can’t wait to see it all. I’m a Sagittarius so I love freedom and travelling. ■

Isabella Lovestory will perform as part of the Osheaga Get Together at Parc Jean-Drapeau, Oct. 1–3, $85-135

For more Montreal music coverage, please visit the Music section.