Photo: Warner Music Latina
Exclusive: Ximena Sariñana On "Being As Direct As Possible" On Upcoming Album
Wearing a long denim jacket, popped collar and round, brown sunglasses hiding her bright blue eyes, Ximena Sariñana stood in the lobby of her classic Hollywood-inspired hotel nestled near a Los Angeles film studio, seemingly trying not to stand out. In Mexico, South America and many parts of Spanglish-speaking U.S., the Mexican singer is undeniably recognizable—if not for her music, for the acting she's done since she was a child in novelas and Mexican cinema.
Much has changed since Sariñana officially launched her music career with her debut album Mediocre, which earned her a GRAMMY nomination for Best Latin Rock Or Alternative Album at the 51st Annual GRAMMY Awards in 2008. Since then Sariñana has grown to become a strong risk-taker—she's experimented with several different genres, from alternative pop to cumbia and, more recently, reggaeton's dembow beat, R&B and electronic. Fans have already caught a glimpse of this side of Sariñana through her latest single releases: "¿Qué Tiene?" and most recently "Si Tú Te Vas," which make up two of the songs on her upcoming album, set to be released in 2019, her first release since 2014's No Todo Lo Puedes Dar.
In an exclusive interview, Sariñana spoke about working with the producers of "Despacito" on her latest album, the double standard for women in alternative pop en Español and a recent big change outside of her career: motherhood.
Your single, "¿Qué Tiene? " is a freeing anthem in which you tell the world, "I don't care." What inspired the song?
Sariñana: Well, exactly that... I think we artists sometimes need to be able to do that. Just do whatever the hell you want and not really care about what people think about what it is that you're doing. And I think it's an empowering message in general, especially nowadays with social media where you always are exposed to opinions and maybe negative comments. And that, not only me but everybody, that might sometimes limit you into really doing what it is that you feel like doing. I really wanted to make a song to remind myself and remind everybody that sometimes you just need to say, "Whatever. So what?"
You've always liked to explore new sounds in your music. Can you talk to me about the sounds you're exploring in "¿Qué Tiene? "?
Yeah, I think it definitely has a more chill out, dancey kind of vibe, and I definitely wanted to experiment with that kind of beat. I'm really happy with the results. I think that that's definitely the vibe that I was going for with that song.
Your latest single, "Si Tú Te Vas," experiments with reggaeton. Are we going to hear more of that in your next album?
I think ["¿Qué tiene?" and "Si Tú Te Vas,"] are probably the most dembow oriented, but there's a lot more stuff in the album. There's more R&B, there's some ballad, there's some '80s electronic. There's more electronic upbeat. There's a little bit of a lot of stuff in the album. I think this is just ... people sometimes get lost in this whole singles type of thing and here I like to remind people that these songs are part of a concept, and they're part of an album. They work out of context but they are definitely in a context.
Courtesy of Warner Latina
Your music is coming out during a time in which there's a lot of Latin artists getting really big in the U.S. What do you think is the state of Latin music here?
Well, I definitely think that a lot of artists are really opening doors for Latin music… In the reggaeton world, I think it's interesting that people are turning to Latin music and seeing that there's a whole diverse market. Even artists are just willing to just work with different Latin artists and sort of wanting to learn from our music instead of the other way around. That's really something interesting that's happening nowadays.
Your latest single, "Si Tú Te Vas" was co-written years ago with Andres Torres and Mauricio Rengifo who were co-writers on "Despacito." How was it working with them?
Hilarious. It was actually really interesting because I think when I first started working with them we had no idea what "Despacito" was going to be. First of all, I didn't even know who Luis Fonsi was when I started working with [them.] I remember the first day in the studio they were like, "Oh, we just released a song with Luis Fonsi, and something strange is happening with it. Something global is happening." I was like, "Oh cool. Interesting."... I've been around very, very successful people and that … and you just ... You're working with different people all the time. It's not like you're like, "Oh, let's pursue the 'Despacito' guys."
It was great working with them. I think they're really talented people and they've developed their sound really well. It's cool. I think it was a learning experience for both of us, for them as a team and for me as an artist.
Cumbia particularly has become popular among young Latinos in the U.S. You have a song "Mis Sentimientos" with cumbia icons Los Angeles Azules, who were at Coachella this year. Why do you think this genre has become popular in the U.S. and how did you get involved with the song?
Well, I think cumbia got really popular in Mexico also, and I think that Latinos in the U.S. sometimes look to what's really popular in their native countries, and they sort of want to listen to it in the States. I think it definitely permeated into Latin-U.S. culture. With Los Angeles Azules, they've been around for a long, long time, and when they invited me to participate in this album, I was like, "Of course," because I've always known about them, and [Elias Mejia] gave me options of songs.
The songs that I knew were taken already, which is" El Liston De Tu Pelo" and those hits that were really popular when I was young, but when I started to really delve into their catalog, I heard "Mis Sentimientos" and I was like, "Wow, this song is amazing." It reminds me a lot of like cumbia Colombiana from the '70s or '60s and … I was like, "This is the song that I want to do."
We obviously have no expectations as to what it was going to be. It was just like a fun project, which is, I think, what we all do all the time. I don't think anybody in the industry works on stuff that is not fun, you know what I mean? They released it and it was a huge success. It was like more than 600 million views on YouTube or something, and it's great. It's great to be part of that and to be part of that narrative of that cumbia comeback.
You've done stuff in both English and Spanish. What does that mean for you to be able to be in both markets and reach so many people?
I think it's just me experimenting as to how far I can go with my possibilities. I think some people forget that we're artists and as artists, that's what we do. We experiment, we sort of push boundaries…I want to do everything that I can with this talent or this knowledge that I have. If there's an opportunity for me to write music in different languages, I'm definitely going to go for that. It's all part of learning experience for me.
Your debut album, Mediocre, which is GRAMMY-nominated turned 10 this year. As an artist, how have you developed, how have you grown since then?
Well, I think I've grown so, so much because when I released Mediocre, that was my first album and I hadn't had enough time. Since I started writing and Mediocre came out, it was like nothing, like a year. I guess I was still very green in that sense. I didn't have that much experience writing music and now, well, I had way more experience.
I've been working with amazing producers and writing with all kinds of different artists and different songwriters, and written songs by myself, and produced songs of my own, and worked with other amazing producers, and made duets with I don't know how many different artists with different genres and different possibilities. I think all that just makes you a better artist. You're just learning all the time and working and growing with each experience.
You've collaborated with a lot of people, is there anybody else that you haven't gotten a chance to collaborate that you would love to work with?
There's just so many talented artists out there in all Latin America and I would love to work with. You're always meeting new people and you're always listening to new artists. Lately, I've been listening to this collective of artists in Mexico… they all belong to one same market label called Finesse and they're doing Mexican hip-hop trap, R&B artists… They're really talented and I would love to obviously work with them.
Is there a song on your next album that really, really means a lot to you?
I think a lot of the songs mean a lot to me. "¿Qué tiene?" was definitely one of those songs that I was like, "Wow." It has a very fun way of saying something that's really meaningful and very liberating for me to say. I think it gets really personal... There's a lot of songs like that in the album. I think I really worked on being as direct as possible and just embracing every aspect of myself, not only me as an alternative pop artist, but also embracing my mainstream self, embracing my directness, embracing my femininity as well, embracing my luminosity as well. I think it's a very luminous album, very bright. I think it was really like a great exercise for me to just enjoy all those aspects of me as well.
In the U.S., we see women artists have some challenges, for example, there's not a lot of female artists that are headlining the festivals here and in the country music, a lot of women feel like they're not played enough in the radio. As a female artist, do you feel like you face any challenges in the industry?
Well, I think, particularly with alternative pop female artists, people are very observant. They're just waiting to see what you do wrong or very critical. They're always second guessing everything you do, and that's sad because I think, especially in Latin America, a lot of the solo female pop artists, we're captains of our own boat and making our own decisions, and we're very prepared people and very informed. We don't let anything happen by chance.
It's just sad that there's all the scrutiny as to what it is that, I guess, the reasons why we do the things that we do. I think that's kind of sad. That's, I guess, the biggest challenge I think you face as a Latin female artist. Although, it's amazing to see that there's so many of us. I think there's, nowadays in the alternative pop field, there's more women solo artists than male solo artists.
You particularly grew up in the spotlight. You've been acting since you were young. You've been singing you were young. Do you feel like the scrutiny you talk about you felt more because you've grown up in the spotlight?
I don't think that that's something I feel more than others do. I feel like I read comments all the time from female artists like Carla Morrison or Mon Laferte, or Francisca, or even Natalia, they are just constantly saying, "Why are people questioning what it is that I'm doing?" It's like responding to criticisms all the time. It's just mind blowing to me that something that is so obvious to me, when I see them as artists and I know them personally also. They're women that are so in control of what they do and so talented and [are] just creative forces, [it's mind blowing] that they can be second guessed or criticized for the decisions that they make.
You're a mom now. How has that affected your career or has it affected your creativity? Do you see the world differently in terms of the way you make music because of it?
I think you become more sensitive to other people in terms of your ability to be empathetic. That makes you more sensitive to everything that goes around you, and I think that definitely is something that is going to affect my creative process for sure. It's life changing, and it's amazing.