This Boulder Songwriter Chronicles "Barista" Love in New Music Video

Pamela Machala's new music video, "Barista," will premiere at the Walnut Room on August 8.
Pamela Machala's new music video, "Barista," will premiere at the Walnut Room on August 8. Danielle Anderson, Whip Star Wonder Marketting
When you walk into a coffee shop, you’re greeted with an assemblage of different sounds. Most of the time, it’s the calm bustle of a dozen different conversations happening in close proximity to each other, the sound of milk being steamed, shots being pulled, and names being called. If you’re lucky though, you might hear the bouncy, jazzy piano pop of Pamela Machala.

Machala’s witty, eclectic, and charmingly technical take on piano-pop is catchy, engaging, and thought-provoking all at once. Her stage presence sits somewhere between a cool, laid-back grace and the inner-workings of a pop-mastermind trying not to shine too bright.

One of her finest achievements as a songwriter thus far is her song “Barista”. The song begins with a quirky beat of coffee shop sounds—the aforementioned hum of milk steaming, cups hitting the counter, and shots being pulled—and then slides its way into a charming tune that captures the experience of being a barista while also bordering on an offbeat love song. “Do you need me, do you need me/Do you need me like you need your coffee?” she sang, finding a familiar yet fresh way of asking the age of question: Do you love me?

“I worked as a barista for the better part of six years, and at one café, I had a regular who was also a musician. He mentioned that there were so many cool sounds in a coffee shop, and if I ever thought of making a beat out of them. I walked into a café and just sampled all the sounds—the grinder, the beans pouring into the hopper, hot water pouring into a cup, milk steaming, scooping ice—everything. My producer told me it sounded like a coffee-themed version of ‘Money’ by Pink Floyd,” Machala said over a cortado on a cool morning out in Boulder.

Now a full-time musician who no longer needs to work in the service industry to get by, Machala is releasing a music video for “Barista” on August 8 at the Walnut Room in Denver. With opening sets from Shelly Rollinson and Rachel Price, and full-band set from Machala, the song—released in 2015 on her sophomore album When I Get Home— is finally getting the visual treatment it deserves. Taking visual inspiration from Emily King, one of her favorite artists, it’s a love song to working in coffee and simultaneously a commentary on the scorn and disrespect that often comes alongside chasing a career in foodservice.

“The video has a lot of cool coffee shots, but it also deals with the human side of all of that. The song is about my love of working in coffee, and that whole experience. The other element I was trying to talk about was how people who work in food service are often not afforded the same respect that perhaps they should be. Many, many customers are sweet and awesome, and they talk to you, but there are others that talk to you like you’re a fucking idiot because you work in food,” she said.

With its cleverly sampled beat, effective and on-the-nose commentary on working in food service, and it’s love song leanings, “Barista” is a piano-pop delight with enough magnetism to make you hum it under your breath while you’re out for coffee.

Despite her music fitting right into the coziness of Boulder’s active community of singer-songwriters, Machala isn’t originally from Colorado. She moved here from the Champaign-Urbana area of Illinois in 2015, and she got two degrees while living in the Midwest: an undergrad in philosophy at Oberlin College in Ohio, and a masters in piano from Eastern Illinois University. She released her debut album Golden Delicious in 2012 while still in the Midwest, but her 2015 LP When I Get Home feels like her official debut. The creative environment in Boulder has done wonders for her music, and she now fits right in.

“The thing I love the most about the Boulder scene is the community aspect, and how welcoming and supportive people are,” she said. “I always wanted to have a community of people I could talk about songwriting with and nerd out about that because it’s my favorite thing to do, and that’s what I feel like I’ve found here. People come out and support each other’s shows, and most of the people who appear as extras in the [Barista] music video are singer-songwriters around town. Its a very cozy scene. There’re a lot of community events and workshops, and it feels like a family.”

Later this year, she plans to record a third album with more R&B and soul leanings than her first two records. If those songs can capture the relatable and cozy charm of “Barista” along with the rest of When I Get Home—which was laced with a pleasurable array of jazz and classical influences which sets her music high above the pop standard—Machala will be a household name in no time. “Do you need me like you need your coffee”—the hook from “Barista”—could be the new way of asking “Do you love me?”, and Machala’s music could be playing through the speakers of crowded coffee shops all over the map.

“I had a really sweet conversation with a couple after a show recently. They told me that they always ask each other ‘Do you love me?’, and now they have a new way to say that.”

Pamela Machala is premiering the "Barista" video on August 8 at The Walnut Room. You can get tickets here.
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Brody Coronelli discovered his love for writing and journalism as a teenager, and thousands of words later, that passion has come to frame his life. He writes about music and art for Westword, and enjoys obsessing about music and film, food and wine, creative writing, and making his own music when he's not too busy writing about it.
Contact: Brody Coronelli