Photo: Cristian Saumeth
Meet the First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Camilo Talks Road To Latin Pop Stardom, Career Highlights & Working With Wife Evaluna
Camilo had the breakthrough new acts dream of when he made the move from songwriter to artist last year. After flirting briefly with fame in Colombia as a young teen singer, Camilo was dropped from his label with only two albums under his belt. Years later, he gave full-time songwriting a shot when he joined his future brothers-in-law’s, Venezuelan duo Mau y Ricky’s, music sessions. Together, they had a hand in writing hits like Becky G and Natti Natasha's 13-times Platinum "Sin Pijama." Later, Camilo even broke out on his own to co-write smashes for Bad Bunny, Anitta, Karol G, and Lali.
In late 2018, it was Mau y Ricky who were a catalyst for Camilo’s career as an artist when they thrust him (and his signature handlebar mustache) into the spotlight with a vocal feature on their global hit "Desconocidos." Fresh off that success, Camilo signed a new record contract with Sony Music Latin in early 2019. His breakthrough single "Tutu" with Pedro Capó received a co-sign from Colombian superstar Shakira when she jumped on the remix. The song only further propelled Camilo into popstar status; His music became like a breath of fresh air in the Latin music industry dominated by flashy reggaeton with his fusion of romantic, bubbly pop songs and reggaeton influences.
In 2020, he continued to work on his artistry and his quirky niche between Latin pop and reggaeton. His efforts resulted in his third album, Por Primera Vez, which feels to him like his debut. The title track is a duet with his wife Evaluna Montaner, who he married right before the COVID-19 pandemic. (While in quarantine with Evaluna, the videos they posted dancing to his songs went viral on TikTok. He's the most followed Latin music artist on the platform with over 22.1 million followers.)
Just two years after “Desconocidos,” Camilo, now an artist who boasts millions of views on YouTube, earned his first Latin GRAMMY nomination and win as an artist: Best Pop Song for "Tutu." The Colombian musician was still taking in the win when he found out Por Primera Vez is a nominee in the Best Latin Pop or Urban Album for the 2021GRAMMY Awards show.
"It was a mind-blowing moment," Camilo tells GRAMMY.com about hearing his album called out as a nominee. "As a team, we were still processing the blessing of winning my first Latin Grammy. I didn't have time to process that and then boom! The nomination. It's a great honor."
In an interview over Zoom, Camilo chatted with GRAMMY.com about his nomination, working with Bad Bunny, and his new album, Mis Manos.
What's the difference between writing for yourself and writing for another artist?
It's completely different. It's about the spirit that you put into the song. Songs are like pictures of the soul. When I'm writing with another artist for their project, I want to be a channel for them to take out from inside of them those things that they needed new eyes to see. When I'm writing for myself, I'm diving into my own essence and identity.
You wrote with Bad Bunny on "Si Estuviésemos Juntos." What was that experience like?
I really admire Bad Bunny. I love his music. I think he's one of the greatest. I'm there as a songwriter because of Tainy's generosity. I've been working with Tainy for a long time. Tainy took from one of the musical ideas and textures that we were recorded before in another session. He decided to use that as part of the creation of the vibe of "Si Estuviésemos Juntos." I would really love to say that I wrote the lyrics and the melody with Bad Bunny in-person, but I didn't. I would love to do that sometime. I'm very grateful to Bad Bunny and Tainy for letting me be a part of that.
How did your life change after releasing "Desconocidos" with Mau y Ricky?
That was the first music video that came out with me as an artist after like four or five years of being in the studio and writing and producing anonymously. It's one of their biggest songs and one of my biggest songs. It opened up my thirst of pursuing a career in the music again, not only in the studio but to be out there.
Por Primera Vez was your reintroduction to the music industry. How do you feel about the album being nominated for a GRAMMY?
This nomination is something that's really important to me. Por Primera Vez is a body of work that represents me. For it to be nominated as one of the favorite Latin albums during a difficult season for humanity with 2020 and the crazy s*it, it's an honor. It's a confirmation that I was doing the right thing. [This album] was honest. It was full of passion and love.
What did you learn from Shakira when you worked on the "Tutu" remix with her?
I learned a lot of things. She's all the time focused on the little details. She pays attention to the details as if her whole career depends on those little details. Not only working on the song, but also when we performed it live at the closing of the David Cup Finals. I was watching her pay a lot of attention to the lights, to the cameras, and to the volume. I was taking notes in my head. I was like, "Oh my God, I can see why she's so big."
What were you thinking when you won the Latin GRAMMY for Best Pop Song for "Tutu"?
That was a beautiful night. It was a great surprise because that was the first Latin Grammys where I was nominated as an artist. The year before I was nominated as a songwriter with a song ["Querer Mejor"] I wrote with Juanes and Alessia Cara. The first time you're there and you're introducing yourself as an artist and you receive this award that you've been dreaming about since you were a child, it was very inspiring. For the industry and your colleagues to let you know that you're one of their favorites and to recognize the effort and the pursuit of excellence that you're doing with your music, that was a great compliment for me and my career.
Ricky Montaner [from Mau y Ricky] told us that he busted his lip while celebrating your Latin GRAMMY win.
[Laughs.] There's a video of that moment too! I saw it. My family was screaming and jumping around. During the hugs, he was biting his lip and then that happened. He was like, "Bro, I broke my mouth because of your Grammy, but I'm so happy that you won."
How different was it to make Mis Manos versus making Por Primera Vez?
Por Primera was like a first seed. With [Mis Manos], I'm looking into the deepest roots of who I am, who I have been, and who I want to be. This album is all written, produced, organized, played, recorded, and delivered with my hands mostly. It's a collaboration of a couple of friends that have been there for me. It's all about trusting what God had put into my hands.
"Machu Picchu" is your second song with Evaluna. What's the experience like to make music with your wife?
It's awesome. It's beautiful because she's not only my wife, but she's my favorite artist. As her husband, I really enjoy watching her be excellent. But as her No. 1 fan in the world, I really wanted to see Evaluna in a sexier song. She's so sexy and she's proud of it. She wanted to show that and share that. It's an honor and I really feel glad that I'm the one who can be present next to her showing that side. The people received that video with a lot of love.
Tell us about the ranchera song "Tuyo y Mío" that you made with Los Dos Carnales.
Regional Mexican music is Mexican, but in Colombia, we all feel that it is our own too. Mariachi music, Norteño music, boleros, and ranchera, we feel that it's part of our identity too. I grew up listening to that. My parents celebrated with that kind of music all the time like during Christmas. I really needed to explore that sound because I was curious. I love it. I enjoy it. I consume regional Mexican music all the time. In a way, I wanted to honor the way Mexico has warmly received and welcomed my music in their houses and their lives. This is like an homage to them.
Me babeo con mi esposa. Delicia! Guapa! Churro! ROPA CARA!
Your songs have gone viral on TikTok. What do you think about your music connecting on there with millions of people?
TikTok is a huge social media platform. In this pandemic, people needed something like TikTok to celebrate or not take life so seriously. My music was part of those excuses that people had to laugh and dance and celebrate life. Part of the success of my last album Por Primera Vez was because of TikTok. People were in their houses facing a lot of challenges and intense moments. Maybe their favorite moment of the day was opening TikTok to dance to my songs from this album. My songs through TikTok were like a refuge for a lot of people who were facing dark times, including myself. This pandemic was a huge challenge for me, my marriage, and my family. My songs were my refuge.