Crystal Velez’s new album, Make Up My Mind, begins with a trembling synthetic atmosphere. Her voice, along with a head-bobbing beat, comes in quickly. “I don’t know know what you’ve done to me. All I know is something’s missing when I’m not with you.” Her voice is effortless; the songs are soulful and instantly grabbing. Even when she sounds heartbroken, somehow an air of romantic optimism shines through.

Crystal Velez came to Lakeland from Puerto Rico in 2013 to attend Southeastern University. It was at SEU that she met Evan Eliason, a fellow music student and up-and-coming music producer who she would later collaborate with to develop a sound for her first solo album. She says, “When I first got to Lakeland, I was in a different place (artistically). I knew I wanted to pursue music, but I didn’t have a sound. All of that came in Lakeland.”

She began working on music with Evan at a local recording studio in Lakeland early in 2017. By the time they’d finished her first single, “Sweet Music,” Crystal was having problems with her voice. She underwent surgery to remove nodules from her vocal chords, a scary procedure for a singer. The surgery left her on strict vocal rest; there would be no singing or talking for several months while she recovered. When her voice was fully healed, she got back to work in the studio.

“It felt like a long time coming.  ‘Sweet Music’ really felt like a tease. It wasn’t until my senior year, after my surgery, and after I had released the single that I realized I wanted to cultivate what Evan and I had started.” Crystal went through countless voice-memo song ideas bringing her best writings from the past two years to develop in the studio with Evan.

Evan Eliason’s production on the album is striking but never overpowers Crystal. The instrumental arrangements stay sparse and focused, making use of traditional funk and hip-hop grooves in the drums and bass, while layers of synths and manipulated vocals fizz and swirl around Crystal’s confident melodies. Despite the elaborate production, Evan challenged himself to keep the listener focused squarely on Crystal’s vocal. “I wanted there to be a revealing sense of Crystal’s true vibe, one that’s always playful and can find a way to laugh in any situation, even if it’s right after singing one of her most heartbroken lyrics.”

Make Up My Mind was released on all digital platforms on May 4, 2018, with an album release party at Credo Coffee Shop in Orlando. Crystal said, about the creative community in Lakeland, “When I think of Lakeland, I think of a place where a lot of my artistry and creativity in my craft was developed… Lakeland is a place where art is being birthed, and we may not see all of it yet, but it’s coming to the surface.”

Here is a curated playlist of local bands, singers, and songwriters making great music right here in Lakeland.

Video shot at Cob & Pen

Video shot at The Vanguard Room