A year ago, 15-year-old Yahritza Martinez was playing football for AC Davis High School in Yakima, Washington. When she wasn’t in the field, she and her four siblings got up early in the morning to help their father pick fruit in the Yakima Valley.
Today, Yahritiza, singer, songwriter and guitarist of her sister trio Yahritza y Su Esencia (Yahritza and Her Essence), is at the SoHo House in downtown Los Angeles, to promote the release of their debut EP, “Obsessed “, which immediately became the No. 1 Latin album on Apple Music.
In mid-February, a snippet of Yahritza y Su Esencia’s breakup ballad “Soy El Unico,” written by a 13-year-old Yahritza, went viral on TikTok. After the song was released by their label Lumbre Music, it soared to No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart and crashed the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 20, making Yahritza the youngest Latin performer ever. to enter the all-genre. chart.
“Yeah, it’s crazy, because it was our very first song,” says Armando Martinez, 24, who plays 12-string guitar. “Like, we hadn’t posted anything at all.”
Mando, as he is called, started playing the 12-string guitar six months ago. His younger brother Jairo Martinez, 17, plays the acoustic bass known as bajoloche, which he learned last summer after getting frustrated trying to learn the guitar. Yahritza started playing guitar about a year ago.
“[Our parents] have been very supportive,” says Yahritza. “When I was younger, I saw my father sing and I wanted to be like him.”
“But I also got it from him,” she said, pointing to Mando. “It was he who inspired [me and Jairo].”
Mando was born in Jiquilpan in the Mexican state of Michoacán – the same place their parents were born – while Jairo and Yahritza were born and raised in Yakima.
The trio grew up surrounded by Mexican music, watching their father play in a family band with their two uncles. Mando joined the band when he was just 10 years old, playing keyboards.
Yakima is known for its agriculture and vineyards, and the siblings are no strangers to the long hours and hard work it takes to maintain that reputation. Their father started taking them to the fields when they grew up a bit to teach them his secrets of fruit picking and how to earn money in the fields.
“Once you start getting older, you step onto the court with your parents,” Mando said. “Since we were 10 or 11, we used to go and help my dad pick apples, cherries, pears.”
The family band was discovered via TikTok after Riverside teenager Ivan Cornejo’s cover of Jairo and Yahritza’s “Está Dañada” went viral in November. Within minutes of uploading, their video started exploding on the platform – it now has over 80,000 likes, and Jairo and Yahritza have a combined total of around 1.7 million TikTok followers.
A few Zoom meetings later, Ramón Ruiz, CEO of Lumbre Music, already knew that these kids “could be the next big thing.” He and label president Alex Guerra flew to Yakima and signed the trio.
“[Musica Mexicana] was categorized and placed in a section that does not correspond to Yahritza,” says Ruiz. “Even if you don’t speak Spanish, you fall in love with the music,” Ruiz said.
The band notes Mexican lo-fi singer-songwriters like Kevin Kaarl and Ed Maverick as two of their influences. But it is clear that Yahritza y Su Esencia has a style of its own.
Mando and Jairo play simple chords that work together to complement Yahritza’s vocals. Mando points out that he’s “not the best” on 12-string guitar. “I try to make his voice shine, so I don’t overdo it,” he says.
On the roof of the downtown SoHo House, Yahritza sports a Chalino Sánchez t-shirt – a shirt she admits to having stolen from Jairo. For Yahritza, the first song that comes to mind when she thinks of the king of corridos is “Nieves De Enero”.
“It’s my dad’s favorite song that I sing,” Yahritza said.
Yahritza and his brothers are slowly acclimating to their newfound fame. (Their sister, Adriana, manages the group.) Yahritza and Jairo are still high school students. Mando talks the most, Jairo the least. The tomboyish Yahritza, who exudes confidence in the group’s videos, tends to shyly look away when answering questions. They pat their shoes lightly and talk about their visit to Surgeon Studio, a bespoke sneaker studio in Los Angeles, where they played football with its founder, Dominic Ciambrone.
“He got muscled by her,” Mando points to Yahritza as they all laugh.
After the interview, Yahritza, Jairo, and Mando unclip their black cases to reveal their instruments. In the blink of an eye, the trio strums a few chords and begins singing “Soy El Unico” for The Times, their crew, and anyone else on the roof willing to listen.
“Soy El Unico” has become a heartbreaking anthem for many, but it was written by a 13-year-old who was inspired by studying other users’ TikToks going through their own relationship drama. She remembers reading a line from a TikTok she was watching, and that’s when everything clicked for her.
“It was, ‘Oh, you won’t find anyone better than me.’ That’s where I got the idea from,” Yahritza said.
One of the first listeners to her song was Armando who, at the time, was dealing with a breakup with a longtime girlfriend. Yahritza’s powerful voice and lyrics made him realize the potential the song had to reach people around the world.
“I want people to know this song isn’t about my ex,” he says with a smile. “Because there are rumors on TikTok.”
At first, Yahritza was “really scared” to release “Soy El Unico” because she thought her brothers and family would believe it was her who was heartbroken.
“She was 13 at the time. We thought, “Who are we going to have to beat?” “, joked Mando.
Today, the video for “Soy El Unico” has over 16 million views. The trio’s new EP “Obsessed” consists of five songs, three of which (“Soy El Unico”, “Enamorado” and “Dejalo Ir”) were written by Yahritza, along with covers of “Siendo Sincero” by Los Del Limit and “Esta Noche” by Nivel Codiciado and José Mejía.
In the parking lot of SoHo House, a valet raves with the trio about his daughter’s obsession with them, even asking to record a birthday video to send to her later in the week.
“It’s like we’re making their day just by being there,” adds Mando. “It’s crazy.”