Catriona forays into songwriting, drops 'Love Language'

Published December 9, 2021, 10:08 PM

by Robert Requintina

Catriona (Warner Music Philippines)

In the beauty pageant world, the name Catriona Gray needs no introduction as she holds the title of Miss Universe 2018, being the fourth Filipina to win the competition.

This Filipino-Australian artist is also a host and charitable spokesperson. These days, Catriona adds recording artist to her career milestones and goes by the name Catriona in the music world. Catriona holds a graduate certificate in music theory from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts.

“Love Language” was written by Catriona Gray herself, drawing inspiration from the different love languages we use to express affection for one another. Whether through words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, gift-giving, or physical touch, we all have a preference and long to be understood by those who love us as well as make sure our love is felt by those whom we love. The track talks about ‘missing’ each other and wanting to be seen, felt, and heard.

Warner Music Philippines

“Love Language” is Catriona’s first foray into songwriting and with the help of Filipino-Australian artist/producer Cabu, who is known for his tracks landing on globally known music channels such as Majestic Casual, Lofi Girl, and Lo-fi on YouTube.

The track resonates with a more sophisticated pop approach with a hint of jazz and R&B, which beautifully complements each other to a subliminal matched genre. “Love Language’s” music video was premiered on Nov. 19 at 12 midnight on YouTube.

In this exclusive interview, Catriona shares her thoughts on the creative process in writing “Love Language,” her musical influences, and why she’s so excited to be part of Global Pinoy Music (GloPM), a special project of Warner Music Philippines.

MB: Congratulations on your latest single. Tell us about your first composition “Love Language?”

Catriona: “Love Language” is a love song. It makes the difference because my other music releases have been very associated and greatly aligned with who Catriona Gray is as a beauty titleholder, as Miss Universe, or as an advocate. Not to say that it isn’t relevant anymore because it very much is. I’m still very much active in my advocacies and in my causes. But this is my first foray into songwriting, and that is signified by being under Catriona, and not Catriona Gray. It’s the first song I’ve ever written myself. It was written during lockdown, when I was in lockdown for two weeks in Australia last May while I was waiting to see my parents. And of course, it’s created in collaboration with Cabu (Billy Cabusas), who is an Australian-Filipino producer. So that was an experience of firsts, with which came with a lot of nerves, but also in seeing what the song became and the vision that accompanied it. I’m very, very proud of what I’ve been able to create. Warner Music Philippines has been so supportive. Of course, it’s part of the Global Pinoy Music project. It has a great messaging in that campaign. I’m very proud to be a part of it.”

Warner Music Philippines

MB: It seems like you also enjoyed doing the music video for “Love Language.”

Catriona: Very much so because I’m a creative. I’m a very visual person. And I’ve always loved storytelling, but this is an approach that wasn’t necessarily defining what the song meant for the audience. So it doesn’t necessarily have a storyline, but it is pure visuals and I just wanted to create this visual spectacle and I think it was executed gorgeously, and I’m very, very happy.

MB: So what’s the most challenging part about writing songs?

Catriona: I think just overcoming the initial fear because I’ve never written a song. More so, I’ve never allowed someone to listen to an original song that I’ve written at that moment of me having the first bare bones of what the song was, which is literally just me humming a lyric over a progression of chords, which was really the track that it was brought up. That was so scary. I never realized how vulnerable you have to be a songwriter because it’s really as if you’re releasing a page of your diary to the world. For instance, to interpret as they wish, and that was a very vulnerable situation to put myself in. But it also felt like a little of an adventure, and for it to be greeted with such warm reception has been very heartwarming for me and just overcoming.

MB: You’ve dropped three songs this year. So are we going to hear a lot of Catriona in the music scene next year?

Catriona: It’s something that I really want to pursue, and I feel like I have a little of confidence more than I did at the beginning of this year. So I’m really proud that 2020 was a year of growth for me. But yeah, there’s definitely something on the bucket list and something I hope to bring to the public next year. But yeah, very exciting times ahead.

Warner Music Philippines

MB: What was the role of music in your life when you were younger?

Catriona: When I was a kid, I was always listening to music around the house. And I think it’s very interesting things because my dad was born in the 40s, my mom was born in the 60s, and I’m born in the 90s. So the generations of music that we play in my home are very diverse. I grew up listening to Elvis (Presley) and Frank Sinatra, as well as the disco hits of the 80s. There’s a little bit of piano and, of course, me being a 90s baby and growing up through the different music that came. About my earliest memories of music, I joined a school choir at the age of eight. At that point, it was just something for me to explore, and I ended up really enjoying it and I went on to join musicals at the age of 15. So that’s just kind of funky.

MB: So who are your musical influences?

Catriona: I was a little girl who loved entertaining, whether it be putting on a little concert at home or dancing or just you know. Being on stage is something that I really was drawn into as a young girl. But I was also very much influenced the first time that I heard Miss Saigon on a cassette tape. It’s my dad’s favorite musical. And when I found out and discovered that the lead was Lea Salonga, a Filipina, I just had a bit of a lightbulb moment like, here’s a Filipina performing on an international platform. I was just so amazed. Likewise, I just hear the power in her voice. I was emotionally drawn to the message of music, especially when it was in a live setting. So I think that’s really what inspired me to take the path of music.

MB: Share us your creative process in writing a song.

Well, it feels a bit funny talking about it because I haven’t done it enough to try the true and tested process. But the process for ‘Love Language’ books, I’m a very emotional person. I’m also an analytical person. So when I go through feelings, or I hear stories from others, I really like to understand what’s happening. And so I like to analyze and pick things apart and think about them. I usually write down a lot of different notes, whether it comes in the form of a poem or a lyric. I’ll write it in my phone or in a notebook. And I just leave it, and so that’s what happened with ‘Love Language’ when I heard the track. It was just a progression of chords, but they were these jazzy chords. And as I was reading through my old notes in my phone, I stumbled across this lyric, and I was like, “Oh, this kind fits.” And then I just created a lyric from that. So that’s just how it came to be. And I actually didn’t have a lot of revisions on the lyric.

I’ve never met Cabu in person before. I’ve only met him over Zoom. I’ve heard his tracks and they’re fantastic. He’s on Spotify and did really, really well. And also Warner Music was in the loop, and I was sent over these lyrics, this melody, hum over these chords, and I was so scared, but it was warmly received, and they really encouraged me. And that’s how ‘Love Language’ was born. So I guess if you could call that a process, be it from your own thoughts or maybe from the story that you hear just finding an idea to play off and then creating something from that.

Warner Music Philippines

MB: Tell us about your first meeting with Western Sydney producer Cabu?

Catriona: It was so funny because I was so scared, actually, because he wrote a message to me. And he was like, I can’t exactly remember the exact words that he used, but he was like, ‘are you kidding me?’ Or something like that. And I was so scared because I was like, Oh my God. He hates it. I’m so embarrassed that I even sent it to him. And then he’s like, ‘No, I’m really so surprised. I did not expect it.’ I’m super impressed. And I was just like I was not expecting it. Because, you know, as a newbie, I was expecting a lot of edits, a lot of retweeting because I didn’t want to I know I’m just coming in here. And then the next kind of challenge to go through was when I came out of the quarantine, flew to Sydney, and then the next day, I met Cabu. For the first time, I went to a studio I’ve never been before, and it was just the two of us. We just went, and we recorded and finished like in a day.

MB: You’re part of GloPM project, that aims to showcase Filipino talents from different parts of the globe. How significant is this program to you?

Catriona: I think it’s amazing. Filipinos are so talented, more so, they are world-class. And through this project, we’re able to connect Filipinos who may be based in other countries and really bring their talents together to create music. And I think that’s wonderful, considering, you know what we’re all going through. We’re still at a distance because of pandemic travel restrictions and all of that. But being able to come together either virtually or through whatever means and create music together, that’s uniquely the noise that comes from Filipino creatives. I think it’s a remarkable thing. And it just proves even more just how talented and resourceful Filipinos are in this field.