The Colombian singer-songwriter discusses his latest album, ‘Mis Manos,’ his love of music-making and future plans
There are many factors that are necessary for an artist to be known in the demanding music industry, let alone be deemed popular with the public. Camilo possesses several of these attributes; but the most important of all is his ability to write and perform great songs. The Colombian artist has not stopped composing since he began at an early age, perfecting his creative journey all in the company of his guitar.
He’s currently on a long stretch of global recognition. Camilo started 2021 in the best possible way as he released his latest record entitled ‘Mis Manos’ and received recognition for his continued work. After winning his first Latin GRAMMY in November 2020, the Medellín native swept the 2021 Premio Lo Nuestro taking home five awards. As if that weren’t enough, his album ’Por Primera Vez’ is nominated for Best Latin or Urban Pop Album at the Grammy Awards.
The young singer – about to turn 27 on March 16 – still has a lot to say and as is obvious on his latest album, which utilizes a broader musical formula by embracing different genres including cumbia, ranchera and more.
In an exclusive interview with HOLA! USA, Camilo shared his thoughts about how his latest work is a representation of what he calls the best album of his career. Additionally, he told us about his journey from Colombia to Miami, how he keeps his feet on the ground, his unique and personal style and the revelation of his musical idols.
Camilo, you have had a spectacular start to the year. You took home five Lo Nuestro awards and you won a Latin Grammy. Besides that, you are nominated for a Grammy. How does this make you feel?
Thank you very much. I feel very fortunate for what we are experiencing. We are living a giant dream, bigger than I had ever imagined. That is why I take it with such joy and blessing. Being able to receive all those awards and having the opportunity to call so many people that I love to tell them and that they called me to congratulate me, it was a privilege. I feel very lucky. It has been a time of confirmation of what we are doing and how we are doing it, with love and that God is in control.
Your single, ‘Ropa Cara’ is breaking YouTube records in playlists. Is it true that you had doubts about releasing it?
Yes, I was a little doubtful. Above all, because it is a risky song, a different song from what I had been sharing in my previous releases. But then, reading my diary, I realized that it was very similar to the fear I had before releasing ‘Baby,’ and the fear I had before releasing ‘Vida de Rico,’and the fear I had before releasing my song with ‘Ozuna.’ The fear was repeated, you know? And I noticed the pattern and I said, wow! I think it is very likely that when you are about to take important steps in your life, you are almost always scared, right? My fears are not what define me, but what I do with my fears.
How do you feel about the success you are having in your career?
I am very proud of the team behind all these songs. Very proud to be able to represent, to be able to be used by God to touch people‘s hearts with my songs. They are all songs that have served as a bridge to moments of joy in people’s lives and that your songs are the soundtrack of happy moments in people’s lives is a gigantic privilege.
How do you feel about contributing a little bit of your talent to the whole world?
I feel very lucky. You know that social networks allow me to be day by day monitoring the situations where my songs are taking place in people‘s lives. That is amazing. But when you see a three-year-old in the arms of his mother celebrating at a time when it is so difficult to celebrate, a time when we are all so confined and facing such complex things, these are moments where one does not want so much or doesn’t. have so many excuses to celebrate. May my songs be a flag of joy and hope in moments like this, it inspires me to continue creating.
You are about to release your new album ‘Mis Manos’… How did you get inspired and what does this headline mean to you?
Well, this album is called ‘Mis Manos’ because it is an album made with my hands, an album written with my hands, produced with my hands, touched with my hands, recorded with my hands, armed with my hands, edited by my hand, and delivered with my hands. So that‘s why it’s so important to me. It is the memory that it was my tools, that it was the things that God put in my hands when he created me with his that are making everything beautiful that is happening in my life happen. It is a tribute to that: to my hands as a representation of his, of God’s in my life. The pandemic was a very complex time because we thought we were going to go on tour in early 2020 after our album; but it was not possible, everything was canceled. For me the most important thing in my career is the connection with people. What I did have was time to be with my guitar and with my notebook, I decided to write the songs that could make me be as close as possible with people. This album is testimony to my need to stay close to the tribe.
How does it emerge from these ideas and these new rhythms?
They are all rhythms that have been part of me, of my life, forever. This album is an exploration of all those Camilos that I am. When they ask you to define yourself, they always want you to hug yourself, at least to one edge of your identity. But we are multiple. I am many things. I am not just one, I am strong, but I am also delicate. But I‘m also from the Atlantic Coast, but I’m also from the interior. But my country is also Andean and Mexico is one of the countries that has most opened the doors with the heart to my career. And in my house my parents listened, drinking brandy with my uncles, to corridos and regional Mexican music.
What other things can you tell us about what we are going to see in ‘Mis Manos’?
Well, I can tell you that it is a multiple album. It is a diverse album. It is an album full of love, of intention, of reasons to continue being close. It is an album that points out things that have been there all the time in everyone‘s life and that only one song was missing to name it. The best songs I’ve written in my entire life are on this album. I am certain of that. I’m not afraid to say it. So I am very proud and excited that people can have ‘Mis Manos’ in their hands very soon.
How did you make the decision to leave your native Colombia to come to the United States?
I never decided and my route was Evaluna, it is my home and it has become my home since I met her. Nor did I plan to go to Miami, it was not in my plans in any way. I was very happy in Colombia with my parents, but I fell in love with Evaluna and in the need to visit her I came to Miami many times. During one of those visits they invited me to do a session in a studio, again they invited me to another, then to another … then I signed a contract and all this happened. Now I am living in Colombia again, for 6 months, because we are planning a beautiful season while Evaluna records a series. Having moved to another country made me value much more what makes us Colombians special. It is not for nothing, because I love the United States but there is nothing like my own. I miss my country a lot when I‘m not there. Thank goodness I am now closer than ever.
How has this return to your country been?
It has been beautiful, because they have been the first months alone with Evaluna. After a few months where we were all together as a family, now this season of being together has served us a lot to assemble much more in a relationship with Bogotá, now very different from the one I had before. I returned to Bogotá with many more things to do with my wife, with a purpose.
What was it like transitioning from composer to performer?
It happened to me that I started writing because I needed it. My heart needed and wanted it. I had many ideas in my head and the doors for me as a singer, as an artist, were not open yet. So my biggest passion is creating new universes with the guitar. And when other artists gave me the opportunity to create new universes for them, my guitar with my cuatro and my notebook, it was my dream come true. I was head over heels. I think that‘s why writing was so good for me, because I wasn’t doing it as a stepping stone. If I now think about who would be the artist that I would dream of recording me and singing a song that I would write? The answer is myself.
Who is your idol right now?
Ooh, I have many. I look at myself and try to look more and more like myself; But, I have loads of idols … more than idols, role models. As mental places where I arrive and say wow, what would such a person do at this moment? Montaner, my father-in-law, is one of the greatest examples of my career. So many years of career, forty-odd years of career, and that inspires me a lot. My wife is an artist that I learn from every day. Mau and Ricky, my brothers-in-law. Jorge Drexler, for example, who is an artist that I have admired for many years and a little while ago that I met Los Dos Carnales. They have also become an example for me of how proud one can be of their roots, of their race, their history and what it carries.
What are some key things that have helped you become the artist that you are today?
Well, there are millions of things that I could share … but one of them is that you have to do what you want to do and that you have to be focused on being clear about what you want to do . One must ask: what is my heart telling me to do? Not what should I do or what is going to take me further. As impossible as the steps that are going to lead you to do what you have to do may seem, you have to follow that answer to whatever the answer to the first question is. To be a footballer who does not know how to play football, you are going to take the first step, to find a way to start playing. I knew that I wanted to live with my guitar forever writing songs, and what was the first step? I do not know. It took many years to take the first step.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned from watching your father-in-law work?
Perhaps it could be not missing one of the most important moments in life by waiting for others that are not happening at that moment. He has always told me: ‘Cami, you cannot be here living this, receiving all the awards and thinking about wanting to leave because now, I want to be living what follows. Live 100 percent every moment, stop, and live now, see what is happening.‘ So, that has been a call to have a state of consciousness more and more centered in the here, in the now.
How have you managed to keep your feet on the ground and wake up well centered every day?
I have a family that accompanies me on the road and I think that always keeps me focused. It is a very complex career and a very difficult industry. More and more I realize that it is so and I only hope that God allows me to continue representing Him in places that are increasingly strange and more distant than I think is comfortable for me. I hope that as long as you stick to that truth, you can continue on this path in a healthy way.
Tell us about your style of dressing, your look and where did the concept of the tribe come from?
Well, aesthetically I pursue my style from the comfort of identity of who I am. How do I want to see myself? I look at myself in the mirror and say well, if an earring could describe who I am, what would that earring look like? If the scarf I‘m going to wear would describe me, what would it be like? And I usually carry things that have meaning to me. Each of my rings, each of my necklaces, of my tattoos. I think that one has to resemble oneself. Going to the mirror and instead of thinking about what should be, I put on what I want to wear. And people are going to reject you until they reject you and then defend you, you know? The tribe has defended me a lot and the tribe is my life project, it is the confirmation that I am not alone, that I am nothing more than a prompter of things that have been present there all along. My songs are always showing little things that have been there all the time. It’s like when you’re in a hotel room and someone says: “they saw that the corner is like crooked” and one responds: “let’s see… ah, yes “And now you can never enter the room again without seeing the crooked corners because they have already been shown to you. Well, my songs and the tribe are that, being together showing us things and pointing out love. I think it’s a way to change the world. The truth is that yes, the tribe has given me a lot of purpose, they make me feel that I am not alone. They accompany me through thick and thin; and they are with me enjoying this process. They accept me honestly and they know that everything I share with them is honest so that gives me a lot of peace of mind.
What would you say to Camilo as a child who dreamed of living off his guitar, his notebook?
I think I wouldn‘t say anything to him for fear of changing something. That moment when I was a child was so special. I played guitar because I liked it because I wanted to play guitar, which, although I still do now, there are a thousand new factors in my relationship with the guitar. At that time it was just pure enjoyment, because I am afraid to tell the child “hey, look what you are playing with the guitar, keep going because one day you are going to live from this.” I think that I could never play the guitar again for enjoyment, no I would touch anything …