Vivi Rincon’s newest song “overflow” is about just that: overflowing with emotion. Meanwhile, Rincon herself is overflowing with talent.
A current senior at Berklee College of Music, the 21-year-old singer-songwriter is already taking the indie pop world by storm with infectious melodies, driving production and cathartic lyrics for every occasion: breakups, queer love, codependence, the list goes on. Her debut track, the dreamy, wistful “if we lived on the moon,” went viral on TikTok last summer, and now Rincon is gearing up for the release of her first EP, “crash landing,” out on February 22. INTO sat down with Rincon to talk about how songwriting can be therapy, being brutally honest through music, and why no one’s asking Taylor Swift how to write straight songs.
Hi Vivi! So, you’re only 21, but you’re already killing it with your songwriting — how long have you been at it?
I’ve been writing little songs here and there since I was honestly, like, 7 or 8. Really, really young — not good songs, by any means. But I’ve been experimenting with writing songs since I was really young.
And now that you’re older, how do you feel like you’ve developed that songwriting muscle?
Well, now I go to Berklee, and I study songwriting there. I feel like all I have to do for school is write, write, write, write, write. I tend to write a song a day, or a couple songs a week. And I feel like that has really helped me figure out what I want to sound like and what I want to write about, and I feel like I’ve been through enough to really dig deep and write about all the stuff that’s inside: all my emotions and feelings that are a little sticky, if that makes sense.
Speaking of which, let’s talk about your latest single, “overflow.” What inspired the song?
I’ve had a girlfriend for three years in February. Love her; she’s the best. But the beginning of our relationship was a little rocky because I was struggling a lot with my mental health, and I was struggling with an eating disorder, also. So I was worried that my struggle was going to push her away, that I was just going to overflow with all these emotions and all of these feelings, and that I was gonna be too much to handle, I guess.
I wrote about that experience and that fear of abandonment when you feel like you’re too much, like you’re a burden. But I wrote that song probably a year or two years after that situation. So I was able to reflect back on it and put myself back in those shoes, which is interesting.
How do you feel about reliving those difficult memories and turning them into art?
I don’t want to say I love it, because that’s a little weird. But I really enjoy going back and writing it, because the writing part is like therapy. And I don’t have such a hard time going back — I go to therapy. I mean, I’ve been to therapy for years. I love therapy! Yes! So I feel like in therapy, I always do that. So it’s not very difficult for me to go back and feel those things again. Especially with a fresh perspective, you know?
Do you have a favorite lyric from “overflow”? Or a favorite element of the production?
My favorite lyric is in the second verse. I just like the whole second verse, where I say, “Maybe I’m still a kid who built a home on the borderline of loving you and hating me and everything I grew up to be? Will I ever break through if I’m clinging on to you?” I really like that, because I feel like it perfectly describes the idea of the song, that line.
My favorite production element is the bridge, when my amazing producer Matt Martin did this really cool guitar line, like, [imitates guitar] — I can’t do it. It sounds weird. But it sounded so cool when he did it. And I love guitar lines. My favorite part of writing and music is the guitar line.
I’d also love to talk about your upcoming EP “crash landing” as a whole. I’ve been lucky enough to listen to the whole thing, and I’m very excited for it to be on streaming so I can put it on my playlists.
Of course! What do you see as the overall story of “crash landing”?
Honestly, the EP is about how I see relationships. I mean, I don’t mind getting personal, because that’s just my whole career. But I’ve had BPD, which is borderline personality disorder, for years of my life now. If you don’t know what that is, it’s very relationship-heavy — like, fear of abandonment and feeling like people are gonna leave you. You feel emotions really heavily.
I wanted to write, honestly, an EP about that experience. About my life as I’m struggling with it — not even struggling, but just using it as inspiration at times. Because it’s really messy, you know? So it’s really about that, but for everyone to relate to it, it’s really just about relationships. Everyone feels extremes in relationships at times. Being in love is so beautiful and difficult. It’s about the two extremes.
Was it ever scary or intimidating for you to be so candid in your music?
I feel like I’ve never had a hard time with being honest about my life. It’s just a part of who I am. So I don’t really feel like I need to censor it in any way. I’ve always felt open about it, and I’m lucky enough to feel that way.
I also wanted to ask about queer representation in your music. One thing that sticks out to me is the everydayness of it all, if that makes sense. You have songs that are specifically about queer experiences, but even the inclusion of certain pronouns in your songs about relationships feel instantly relatable as a queer person.
Honestly, when I’ve done interviews in the past, I’ve had people ask me, like, “How do you write queer songs?” Or, “How do you write queer music?” And when I write, I don’t think to myself, “I’m gonna write a queer song right now.” I just write about my experience, and I am queer. I’m a lesbian. So I write about being a lesbian. I write about my relationships with women, and my girlfriend, and the past, and whatever. But I never think to myself, “Oh, I’m going to write a queer song.” It just kind of happens.
There’s a perception, I think, from non-queer people, that there’s some kind of effort or intention to being queer, when really, it’s just who we are.
Like, no one would ask Taylor Swift, “How does it feel writing a straight song?” No one would ask her that.
I think someone should! Are you a Gaylor truther?
Actually, I don’t know! I would obviously love it if she was gay, because I love her, and I am gay. But I don’t like to assume.
Absolutely. And I love her and Joe — but it’s still fun to speculate. Anyway, back to you! What do you hope people take away from your music?
My favorite thing that people tell me when they listen to my music is, “Oh my gosh, you wrote a song about my exact experience. It’s like you’re in my brain.” I’ve gotten that a couple times — and I’m so thankful that people listen to my music. Like, I’m still shocked by it. But people have said that, and I feel like I really want people to feel heard, and understood, and like they’re not the only person in the world to ever feel that way. I want people to connect to it in a way that feels cathartic.
Totally. I think there’s a lot of relatability in specificity.
So, you’re still in school. But what’s next for you after graduation?
I’m moving to LA. I’m gonna go there with my girlfriend, and we’re just gonna grind, I guess, as artists do. I mean, I write music all the time. I’m constantly writing songs, because it’s just my favorite thing to do in the whole world. So I’m sure there’s a project in the future that I’m going to be working on soon, but I’m not sure yet. We’ll see! I just have so many songs that I have to figure out where they fit.
“overflow” is now streaming on all platforms, and “crash landing” is out February 22.♦
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.