La Santa Cecilia
La Santa Cecilia On Love, Loss & Using Music To Heal In New Album
One of the country's most recognized Latin musical groups, La Santa Cecilia have built their career on songs inspired by Latino life in the U.S. with a sound like no one else's.
They have tackled the harsh realities of being undocumented in "ICE (El Hielo)," have made people dance with the cumbia inspired "La Negra" and have reimagined iconic love songs like Julio Jaramillo's "Nuestro Juramento" through creativity and a passion of taking on any genre they wish since they formed in the late 2000s. But it is years later, during the making of, La Santa Cecilia, the follow-up to Amar Y Vivir out now, that the quartet, whose Latin anthems won them a GRAMMY in 2014, found themselves face-to-face with one of their toughest moments as a group yet: the loss of three of their fathers.
"That was a huge shock. That really shook us in our personal [lives] and as a band," lead singer La Marisoul told the Recording Academy. For her, sharing the realities of life, even the tough ones, has become a point of connection to others. "We can get in a room or a venue or at a theater and play music and cry and dance and share. That is always a continuous drive for me," she said.
But this album is about love, too. "Although life takes so much away from us, it also gives us so much," Oso, the band's percussionist, adds. "One of the biggest things it gives us is love, is romance, is all that, all those beautiful feelings that we have that inspires us to keep going."
Musically, the band known for their singular mix of music, including cumbia, Latin rock, soul, R&B, ska and several other genres, continue to push their sound into new places. "[We] took it to another level where it just matured in this really beautiful way," Oso said.
The Recording Academy chatted with Oso and La Marisoul about coping with their loss during the making of their album, the limitations of genre, the state of Latin music and more.
What is the inspiration behind this LP?
Marisoul: Well, I think the inspiration is, as it's been for the previous albums, is life. Life, love, lust. Keeping faith in our dreams and in our band. All of our albums are influenced by what we go through and this past year we've gone through a lot of changes. Three of us lost our fathers in 12 months, so that was a huge shock. That really shook us in our personal [lives] and as a band too because we're friends, we're like a family. If someone's down, we feel for one another.
Love is a big thing, too, in this album. I think it's very romantic. We have a song called "Always Together," and it's about a couple or any relationship [that is] trying to keep the fire going, keep having trust in one another [while] going through those ups and downs and finding those moments to celebrate our friendships, our relationships and to just have a good time, because sometimes you just need a dance and a drink.
Does music help you cope with your life changes?
Oso: It totally helps you cope with it. For us, as musicians, music is... a great outlet. It's a connection to everything in itself. It's an art form of communication where you try to transmit everything that you're thinking and feeling and stuff. [It's a way] for us to be able to express sentiments and feelings that we couldn't do so in regular conversation. We put it into music, and we put it into songs. It's weird because a lot of songs on the album were kind of like a foreshadowing of what was to come.
We had no idea that all that loss was going to happen all at once. So, definitely, I think it's very therapeutic for us to be able to get up on stage and sing songs and share the energy. It gives us so much hope. It gives us things to look forward to. It connects what we're doing to so many other people. I think that's what's so beautiful about it. We get to share what we feel with other people and connect, and they, in turn, share what they feel with us ... the album is filled with a lot of that energy.
I want to talk more about this aspect of romance because right now, the country is going through a lot in terms of politics and a lot of stuff going on with the environment. When you're creating something around a topic so humanistic as love, does it mean more to you to focus on that now?
Oso: I don't think so. We never set out to be like this is what kind of band [we are,] this is the kind of album we're going to make. I think our main objective is just to be honest with what we're living. Like Marisoul said, [we] like to be honest with our life. The greatest sound of inspiration that we have is life and being able to figure out how we can complement it with music, with lyrics, with melodies, with all this stuff because although life takes so much away from us, it also gives us so much. One of the biggest things it gives us is love, is romance, is all that, all those beautiful feelings that we have that inspires us to keep going.
When things get so hard, like the way life is right now, and it can very difficult for a lot of us, feeling depressed. I know I feel like that. I feel scared, I feel depressed about the future of the world we're living in, but the music, the romance, and all those things give us a reason to be in existence and to keep trying.
Marisoul: I think it's beyond romance. I think that love is always at the core of what anybody does, I hope. Anything positive. Whether it's pursuing a career or going to work every day to take care of your family or going to school. Just the everything that we're... [whether] it's politics or anything, I think it always comes down - or should always come down - to love. I [also] agree with this feeling weary and sad about all the things that we see, happening all over the world.
And it feels like dark, dark times, you know but, like, no se quisimos escribir una cancion que fuera inspiradora. That would inspire people and inspire us because ... the work that we do isn't all just fun and games and beautiful like that. Everything around you sometimes bums you out. And after losing, having so much loss, sometimes it's hard to keep going ... So we wrote this song called "Dream" to inspire ourselves and to inspire and to just keep echandole ganas a nuestros propositos and you know and fighting for change and no dejar de vencer because I know it now, it's fucked up times and it's as real as dreaming maybe sometimes or having hope, we should never lose hope.
What keeps you all going?
Marisoul: The love of my family and the love of my child. I have a kid. I have a partner, I have a band, I'm super emotional right now but like my family, my friends and music. That keeps me going, that inspires me every day. We get a chance to live our dream, be musicians, play music and spend our day with our family and with our friends and to be able to go out and connect with people, with all the friends we've made along the way with La Santa Cecilia and we can get in a room or a venue or at a theater and play music and cry and dance and share like that is always a continuous drive for me.
Oso: I still have the feeling that I had when I was 16 and I started playing music to [make the best] f***ing music I could possibly ever make. That keeps me going every day, still. I just turned 40 and I still feel like that. I feel like "Aw man I want to give music what music gave to me." I don't ever feel like I'm done giving to music.
Did you all have to pause on the album making when your losses happened?
Oso: We didn't pause. My father passed away and then I had to miss half of the tour and then Alex's dad passed away, he missed half of the tour while we were working on the music. Then Marisoul's father passed away a few months afterwards. I remember our producer Sebastian [Krys] was like 'Hey man, we should stop," because we were already in the studio doing pre-production when Marisoul's father passed away but we took a few days off and then we kept working because that's what they would have wanted us to do because music was so important to them and I knew that they were so proud of us for being able to play music and do this and to see the music was just as important to us as it was to them. So I think that what they would have wanted us to do was to finish and not give up, and not use that as a crutch to be like "Oh well I can't keep going because this is just too hard."
As hard as it is and was I think they would have wanted us to keep [working on] the music.
How did these moments strengthen you as a band?
Oso: We came together even more because it wasn't just us making music, it wasn't just us hanging out, it wasn't just us going to typical band stuff we had to go do some of the realest shit we've ever gone through in our lives. All four of us were just there for each other at every moment, checking up on each other, making sure we were okay, asking each other if we needed anything. As cliché as it sounds it feels like we became like adults.
We were just dealing with this in such an adult way and were just there for each other.
Going back onto the album, this one we hear a wider range of sounds. Tell me about the new sounds and why you decided to bring them onto the project?
Oso: We've always been about incorporating styles, different sounds and making genres and all this stuff. On this record especially, we took it to another level where it just matured in this really beautiful way where we're able to do a song like "Nobody Knows You When You're Down," which is this really gut-wrenching Betty Smith, blues, jazz song and then also do something like "Winning" where it's very like prog-rock, punk with bachata and all this stuff. For us it feels like the most natural thing, it never feels like we're forcing anything. It just feels like if this goes right, this fits good and...
Marisoul: We're not looking for like "It's because I want a new sound and stuff." It's more like I just want to experiment and what sounds good and we get to do that with Sebastian with the band and when we're working with the production of the album, we can't help but always want to mix things up and experiment. With the sounds and with our music and different styles ... I'm really proud of this album from "Winning" and "Dream" to "Always And Forever" and "Nobody Knows You When You're Down" and now it's like we're still touching on our influences, on the roots and stuff but we're also still venturing within La Santa Cecilia to find out who La Santa Cecilia is and all the kind of things that we do as a band, musically.
Speaking of the internet and all this technology I want to talk about "Winning" and that really has a strong message and it's done in such a fun way. What did you want to get across with that song specifically?
Marisoul: I think we just wanted to share our observation, share our personal addiction to social media because I think everybody's consumed by it and if you're not, lucky you. I mean at least I know that I get distracted by it but I love it, too. I love sharing, but then I don't. It's this really weird love/hate relationship that I feel I have with social media. It's such an important tool for me as an artist because it's the way that I can connect with an audience and that I can share with them what's going on with the band or with the things that I'm doing, but at the same time I feel like it feels sometimes like a chore, you know like, f*** I've got to post because then they won't know that we played on Saturday night at the Hollywood Bowl, and that was amazing.
I'm wondering like we, the industry is very much like into genres and this is R&B and this is pop and things are mixing a lot more, but do you ever feel limited by genres?
Oso: Yeah, all the time. Yeah because it's not like... the genres aren't us, you know what I mean? We're not like, "We have to be R&B or we have to be punk or we have to be bolero" or anything like that. It's just for us just music is music and it's how we feel and it's how we see things, but everybody else needs to identify it to be a certain thing, but for us it's just being able to play a song and a melody and a rhythm and stuff like that and that's what turns us on. It's how it makes us feel, not what it's called.
Marisoul: To me it doesn't matter, to me it's not a hang up or it's not a like "Oh, it's cause people don't know who we are." I feel like we have these different platforms now, you can listen... you can watch videos, all kinds of stuff on YouTube or you can listen to and make your own playlists on Spotify or Apple, it's like you can listen to anything and nowadays I feel like whereever I go or whoever I hang with they're phones are out [they] have just a mix of music so to me it doesn't matter. If I'm working for Spotify and I'm the one that has to categorize that s*** like f**** that, you know?
How was it working with Sebastian?
Marisoul: Sebastian is great. I mean, we've been working with Sebastian for years now like on all of our albums from Noche Y Citas to now. The only thing we did without him was maybe that one like demo that we did ourselves. Sebastian is very much a part of La Santa Cecilia and our family and our circle of friends so it feels like home and I'm glad that we got the chance to go down this musical adventure road together, to play music and to continue to find new things for us. It feels great to just be in the studio with that guy. And argue and then compromise and create and try new things.
In terms of musical landscape there's so much going on with music being made by Latinos in English and in Spanish. From the J Balvin's to Rosalia's and then down to the Omar Apollos, do you feel excited to be able to continue to add your voice and your touch into a greater landscape?
Oso: I think it's cool, man. People are like putting it down to the culture and all this stuff and it's great to see all these young Latino artists doing stuff. I don't know to what extent I feel like we're a part of that or not. I honestly can't say. I just know that it feels, like I said earlier, it feels good to be able to make music that someone can identify with.
Oso: There's J Balvin, there's Rosalia, all this like more modern, futuristic kind of culture of Latin music that's happening but there's also people that are so different from that, that are Latino and there's people that are so unique and different in every culture of the world so it's cool to see that there are so many different avenues of expression and for us to be able to be one of them is great. I think people want to homogenize the culture so much and it'll only be like urbano or this and that but the spectrum is huge for our culture. It's so big, that's why you get festivals where it's like you get Bronco, Los Tigres Del Norte, J Balvin, Carlos Vives, La Santa Cecilia, Cuco, all these people together in one festival because there's not one way to represent being Latino so it's cool to have so many. And I just would like all of it to get attention, not just one side of it.