“Getting close to things that felt very hot, that I knew would hurt a little to touch but I wanted to do it anyway,” Camila Ortiz alias Otracami reflects on the allure of forbidden memories that shapes her debut album, ‘touching the stove coil‘. Her music is a navigation of past and present, a gentle excavation of life’s raw moments. “I’m grateful for my classical background,” she admits, acknowledging the role her early musical experiences play in her current art-pop explorations.
‘touching the stove coil’ is a wonderful collection of tracks, reminiscent of a colorful sunset over the sea’s waves, where Ortiz’s unrefined yet tender voice resonates deeply. Often stripped down to the essentials, with the guitar leading the auditory experience, her music is a calm breath in a world that seldom quiets down. In the hope that the loudness of life can pause for a moment, Otracami’s music is an invitation to listen, reflect, and feel.
In our interview, we talk about the inspirations behind her album, the intricacies of self-production, and the influence of New York on her music.
header photo by Morgan Askew
What inspired the lovely title of your debut album,” touching the stove coil”?
I was staying in this old house in Muncie, Indiana, for a residency. The kitchen in that house had an old electric stove with these beautiful spiral burners that would glow and turn a bright, chalky red. I was working on the album and spent most days writing a lot about home and my teen years, and then I would go into the kitchen to make an egg and look at the stove coils. They were so beautiful that I wanted to touch them. Looking at the coils felt a lot like the writing process—getting close to things that felt very hot, that I knew would hurt a little to touch but I wanted to do it anyway.
The process of self-producing is complex. What were some of the challenges you Faced?
One of the biggest challenges for me was knowing when to stop. A lot of these songs had been with me for years, so deciding on a final version for each one was difficult. I wanted to flesh them out as much as possible without working them so much that they lost the initial spark of aliveness that comes from the writing process. There were always infinite elements that could be tweaked or redone—it was a learning process to figure out when to keep refining and when to leave it.
‘Sai Is Driving’ is one of my favorite songs on the album. It has such a calm vibe. Can you share the story behind this song?
“Sai is Driving” came from a time my friend and I drove into a marsh. We were in her parents’ minivan trying to get as close as we could to it without actually being in the water and then, suddenly, we were knee-deep in mud and there was no way to get the car out. It’s about moments when you’re doing everything you can to avoid being stuck, but ultimately have to surrender to it.
“My biggest hope is that my songs can do that for other people too—make them feel understood.”
In what ways do you think music and art can contribute to conversations about mental health, especially considering the raw emotions present in your album?
Music has always been such a powerful way to access my feelings and give voice to things that feel complicated or heavy or unresolved. As a listener, I can think of so many songs that have made me feel understood in difficult moments or given me permission to feel things that I wasn’t able to articulate before. My biggest hope is that my songs can do that for other people too.
You mention starting from an angry or sad place when writing songs. How does the act of writing help you process these emotions?
It challenges me to figure out what is actually true for me, to clarify and distill my feelings into something that I can communicate clearly to a listener. At the same time, my songs are for me in the moment that I’m writing them, which removes the pressure of expressing something useful, productive, or oriented toward resolution. The feeling can just exist in its purest form, but still be communicated.
“Being exposed to a lot of classical and contemporary music expanded my world.”
How do you feel your classical music background intersects with the art-pop genre you are part of?
I’m grateful for my classical background—mostly that it gave me a language to start expressing my musical ideas at a young age. I was never a great classical musician, but being exposed to a lot of classical and contemporary music expanded my world and gave me a lot of useful entry points into composing and songwriting in any genre.
How has living in New York influenced your music?
I feel surrounded by a really inspiring community of artists. I’m grateful for the opportunity to go see music often and to get inspired by what other people are creating.
I’ve spotted some adorable four-legged companions on your Instagram. Are these furry friends part of your daily routine, and what kind of mischief do they bring into your world?
I have no furry pets of my own, actually! I have a turtle named Georgina. She mostly basks under a heat lamp and tries to escape her tank.