meta-scriptEdgar Barrera, The Songwriter Behind 2023's Top Latin Hits, Shares How He Remains Grounded Amidst Success | GRAMMY.com
Edgar Barrera
Edgar Barrera

Photo: Courtesy Edgar Barrera

interview

Edgar Barrera, The Songwriter Behind 2023's Top Latin Hits, Shares How He Remains Grounded Amidst Success

Edgar Barrera is known for building musical bridges, blending unexpected genres and enabling fruitful collaborations. At the 2024 GRAMMYs, the prolific songwriter and producer is the only Latino nominated for Songwriter Of The Year, Non-Classical.

GRAMMYs/Jan 16, 2024 - 02:56 pm

The life of producer and songwriter Edgar Barrera was shaped by cultural dichotomy. Born in McAllen, Texas, and raised between the Lone Star state and the Mexican border town of Miguel Alemán, Barrera spent his days connecting cultures and languages, making a space for himself.

"I was born on the border. I'm always trying to adapt to Mexican or American culture, growing up in the middle of those two worlds," Barrera tells GRAMMY.com. "This is what I always end up doing in the songs and with the artists I work with, I adapt to them, I adapt to their world, I learn [from them]."

This duality and his innate code-switching ability defined his essence as a musician. In the music industry, Barrera is known among artists as a great bridge-builder between stars. He forges unexpected collaborations and blends genres in effortless ways.

For example, "Un x100to", the smasher collaboration between Grupo Frontera and Bad Bunny, became one of the biggest Latin songs of 2023. It won the Latin GRAMMY Award for Best Regional Mexican Song, climbed to the top of Spotify's global chart, and made its way to Billboard’s Hot 100’s Top 10.

The single is one of nine songs that has earned Barrera a nomination for Songwriter Of The Year, Non-Classical at the 2024 GRAMMYs. He is the only Latino in this group and has been nominated for all Spanish-language songs. "It means that Latinos are breaking those barriers and that Latin music is important to the industry," Barrera says of the nomination. "To be considered in that category is already a victory. I feel I am paving the way for a Latin songwriter to be in future nominations."

The nod came days before he received the inaugural Latin GRAMMY for Songwriter Of The Year. At the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs, Barrera received 13 nominations and won three awards, including Producer Of The Year, and was featured in a collaborative performance with Camilo, Manuel Carrasco, and IZA.

Ahead of the 66th GRAMMY Awards, Barrera discusses how his upbringing shaped his career and creative process, as well as the importance of recognition for Latinos in the music industry. 

 This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

2023 has been an excellent year for you. What are you the most grateful for?

It has been a great year in my career. I have to be thankful for life and to God. I’m grateful to say that I make a living from this.

 This is the only thing I know how to do; I am not good at anything other than making music. It is a blessing that people connect with the songs you create. What gives me the most satisfaction is knowing that people are enjoying, connecting, and experiencing the songs [I've worked on].

What did it mean to win the inaugural Songwriter Of The Year award at the Latin GRAMMYs?

I didn't think much about whether I was going to win or not. I was feeling happier and more excited because the Latin GRAMMYs were creating a category for those behind [the songs].

I said it that day they gave me the award; sometimes, the songwriter is the one who suffers the most in the entire music pyramid of how the industry is structured. The songwriter is the last one who gets paid and often doesn't get as much credit. For me, everything starts with a song. Without a good song, the artist is unknown; without a good song, the producer is unknown.

Music starts with a good song you can sing with just a guitar. That's what I like to do. I write the song, have it on guitar and vocals, and see what genre fits the best. That's why I always switch genres; I don't like to limit myself by saying that I only make urban, pop, or Mexican music. I'm not following trends but doing what feels right for the song.

What was your reaction upon discovering that you are the only nominee for Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical one competing with Spanish songs at the 2024 GRAMMYs?

I was in Madrid, and even though I knew the GRAMMY nominations were coming up, I wasn’t on top of it because it is usually tough to be nominated for those categories. I didn't expect it.

We had a Zoom with all the composers nominated in that category to get to know each other, and I kept thinking, what am I doing in this Zoom with all these people who write songs in English, country songs, rap songs, or pop songs? Here I am with my songs in Spanish.

I am happy with [the nomination] because it means that Latinos are breaking those barriers and that Latin music is important to the industry. It has become the elephant in the room that you can no longer ignore.

To be considered in that category is already a victory. I feel I am paving the way for a Latin songwriter to be in future nominations. I feel I have some responsibility; I am representing Latinos at an important moment in the industry.

Coming from Miguel Alemán, Tamaulipas, a town with 20,000 residents with no songwriters or producers, the fact that I can make music and dedicate myself to it is already a victory. Everything is a blessing and feels surreal.

You have been nominated for your work in nine songs. Is there a specific song that has brought you the most satisfaction?

They have all fulfilled something specific. For example, Karol G is a Selena [Quintanilla] fan, and she wanted to make a song in cumbia ["Mi Ex Tenía Razón"], a genre I grew up with. [The song] is like that tribute to my roots. Having an artist as big as Karol G on that song is very special.

In songs like "Un x100to," [a collaboration between] Bad Bunny, and a band like Grupo Frontera from my hometown, [it feels special because] we have many friends and grew up with the same cultural background. Returning to McAllen, Tamaulipas, to support a local group and having one of the biggest songs of the year with one of the biggest artists of the moment is also very special to me. It shows the newcomers that it is possible to reach those places — even coming from the same place we did. I would never have thought that the song would be No. 1 worldwide.

When did you first realize that you had a talent for songwriting?

It has always been my plan. I didn't go to school; I've never had a plan B. I've always been very stubborn in what I do. 

I discovered I could write songs and liked writing songs when I was 15. I moved to Miami and started working from the bottom, lifting cables in a studio. I had to serve coffee. I went through the entire process to enjoy what is happening now. It didn't happen overnight. 

I've never let it get to my head. I have no recognition, paintings, or awards if you go to my studio. I mean nothing; there is none of that. I don't like to think about that. I'm in my house right now, and you don't see anything on the walls; they're blank. I want to work as I have since day 1.

You have won 21 Latin GRAMMYs. Where do you keep the awards?

Those awards are at my parents' house. I send everything there. I don't have any awards at my house. My wife also tells me that our home is a place to disconnect, not to continue thinking about work. That helps me to stay rooted.

To know that the day before, I could have been with the biggest artist in the world, I could be with Shakira, Karol G or Benito, whoever I am currently working with, but when I come home, I feel that I am an ordinary person who has the blessing of working with the greatest artists of the moment. Realizing that also resets you, it keeps me grounded.

Did maintaining a lower profile help you in your career as a songwriter?

I am very quiet and shy. I express myself better by writing than by speaking. I like that people gradually discover who is behind the songs. I like that some people find that I wrote a song, and they make the connection, like the movie's endings, when you start connecting all the dots. I don't like telling people I did this or that.

When working with an artist, I am very clear that I am an instrument; I work for them. I don't have any ego. When working with artists, I listen to them and help them translate what they want to say in the songs. That is my job, and I try to be a tool for them; I don't want to be the protagonist.

You are known for your ability to make unexpected connections between artists and topliners; where did this talent come from?

It comes very naturally to me; I do it unconsciously. For example, in the collaboration between Carin León and Maluma, ["Según Quién"], I ended up being the person who connected them. In their case, I sent the song to Carin's team and introduced them about a week later. We organized a meal, and I made them get to know each other before recording the song.

In ["De Vuelta Pa' La Vuelta"] by Daddy Yankee with Marc Anthony, I was with Yankee in the studio. Yankee told me he wanted to do something different, and I showed him this salsa song. He likes it and tells me he wants to record it and do it in salsa. I connected Yankee with Marc — two legends who know each other, but I will gladly make that [musical] connection if I can.

That is part of why I created my record label, Border Kid Records, which is like a border that connects [two places], like the bridge between the United States and Mexico; I am a bridge between the artists.

You are a big fan of the Swedish producer and songwriter Max Martin. What have you learned from his career?

I am Max Martin's No. 1 fan. To me, he is the greatest of all time, and what I like about him is that he is not bragging about his achievements.

It felt like such a great discovery when I found out how he was. I told my friends you like this song because this songwriter made it, so you are not a fan of the artist; you are a fan of the songwriter.

I dreamed that one day, my songs would have a similar effect in Latin music and the way people would discover me. He has always kept a shallow profile. I'm not comparing myself to him at all, but something that he has and that I also do unconsciously is constantly collaborating with people; we are always nourishing ourselves with new songwriters and producers.

I always check Max Martin's credits and see him working with new people. And that's all about not believing that you know everything but learning and always listening to new people that has something new to say.

What advice can you give to songwriters or singers starting their careers?

Always be authentic and do not follow trends. I differentiated myself from the songwriters and producers when I started because I didn't use many bad words [in my songs]. I always wanted to avoid jumping on that bandwagon, following a trend.

It is about doing things differently and creating your own trends. I am one of those who make a bachata or a merengue; when a merengue is not even trending, you make it a trend by [picking] the right artist and song.

What is Edgar Barrera's mark in music?

My lyrics are simple, honest, straightforward, and up-to-date; that's my trademark. Production-wise, if you hear a real instrument or a musician playing live, guitars, or things like that, that's always my mark.

 2024 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Full Nominees List

Grupo Frontera Press Photo 2024
Grupo Frontera

Photo: Eric Rojas

interview

Grupo Frontera On 'Jugando A Que No Pasa Nada' & Fully Expressing Themselves: "This Album Was Made From The Heart"

With their second album, regional Mexican music stars Grupo Frontera aim to honor their roots while showing their wide-spanning musical interests. Hear from some of the group on the creation of the album and why it's so special to them.

GRAMMYs/May 16, 2024 - 08:12 pm

In just two years, Grupo Frontera have gone from playing weddings in their native Texas to joining Bad Bunny on stage at Coachella and performing on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon." No matter how rapid their rise to fame has become, the Texas sextet has held the same ethos: celebrating their Mexican heritage while embracing the American culture they were born into.

Embracing that balance has helped them transcend cultural barriers with their modern take on regional Mexican music, which incorporates a wide range of musical styles. That holds true on Grupo Frontera's second album, Jugando A Que No Pasa Nada, out now. 

With bright accordion lines and a high-energy blend of urbano party anthems, cumbia-inspired ballads, and forays into pop, the album is a masterful display of the group's mixed cultural background. It retains the same Latin cowboy spirit of their first LP, 2023's El Comienzo — which had roots in the norteño genre, a traditional style originated in Northern Mexico — while tapping into the music they grew up listening to in the States, like hip-hop, corridos tumbados, and country music. 

While El Comienzo introduced Grupo Frontera as loyal traditionalists, Jugando A Que No Pasa Nada aims at speaking to younger generations. It's a fitting approach for the group, whose ages range from early twenties to early thirties across its six members — Alberto "Beto" Acosta, Juan Javier Cantú, Carlos Guerrero, Julian Peña Jr., Adelaido "Payo" Solis III, and Carlos Zamora — that also speaks to their evolution amid their whirlwind success. It's proof that they aren't afraid to create music that is completely true to them — and that's exactly what makes Jugando A Que No Pasa Nada special.

Below, Cantu, Guerrero, Peña, and Solis speak with GRAMMY.com about their cultural roots in South Texas and the making of Jugando A Que No Pasa Nada.

The last two years were a very prolific time for Grupo Frontera. What was it like to create Jugando A Que No Pasa Nada after everything that's happened to the group?

Adelaido "Payo" Solis: Last year we were working a lot, playing four or five concerts a week, and that didn't give us time to structure El Comienzo as well as we wanted to. Now we made time to record all these different types of songs. It was amazing to have time to work on the album cover and all the songs the way we wanted to, and have everything set in a certain way to represent the new album to its highest potential.

Between 2023 and this year, were you able to take any time off to work on this new record, or was it done in between touring?

Juan Javier Cantú: There were times when we were touring El Comienzo that we would record before the people got inside the theater. We would record onstage. We'd be like "Wait, don't let the people in — 20 more minutes, we have to finish this session!" That happened with our new songs "Quédate Bebé" and "Nunca La Olvidé."

Solis: It's a little bit of both because those were recorded live, but then two months ago, we locked ourselves in the house for a good four or five days, and out of that came, like, 15 more songs.

You mentioned that, for this new record, you had more time to work on the order of the songs. What's the general feeling behind this track list? Starting with "F—ing Amor."

Solis: The general feel of this album is literally the album's name, Jugando A Que No Pasa Nada [which loosely translates to "pretending everything is OK"]. Since we had more time to think about it, we tied many things to that name, to that phrase.

Everyone, at some point, has pretended everything is OK when in reality, it's not. You can see it in the album cover — the truck is on fire, but our character, who represents Grupo Frontera, is sitting in the car as if nothing is wrong. So the idea — and I know everyone experienced this — is that when you get in your truck, you can play our record and you can drop the act. You can stop pretending everything is alright. You can get in your feelings.

So the way it's structured, starting with "F—king Amor," is that you don't want to know anything about love, then in the middle, you have "Ya Pedo Quién Sabe," which says "maybe I miss you," and then by the end, "Quédate Bebe" [which translates to "Stay Baby"]. So it is a ride, an experience, which starts with you being hurt, or left behind by someone, and you being sad about it, then slowly wondering how is she doing, then saying "I miss you," and finally "stay with me."

Cantú: More than anything, we are playing with genres. In this record, you have our traditional cumbias, country music, and then songs like "Desquite." So that was also the goal, for people to know more about our music and the music we like.

Solis: Each member of Grupo Frontera listens and plays different styles, so starting from that, we each had a big say in the genres we wanted to play and styles we wanted to record on this album. 

More than anything, we were thinking of new generations. The Latinos of newer generations that don't speak Spanish, or don't get to come back often to Mexico or the countries where their parents are from. They don't want to hear just cumbia, so in our album, we want to make all these styles for them to find, in our songs, the genres that they like.

You mentioned that each of you has different styles and genres you brought to the new record. How did you work in the studio to generate these new sounds?

Solis: Grupo Frontera doesn't really use a lot of computer sounds, most of the music we play is through our instruments. We used to work on our songs starting from guitar and voice only, but now because we had more time to work on things, we each took a song and would listen to it for days. Then we'd meet again as a group and work on it in the studio: everyone's opinion counts, and no one's opinion takes precedence over the other. That's how, slowly, each new song took shape.

When you talked about the moment in which you get in your car or truck, and finally get to stop pretending everything is alright — does that car culture come from your upbringing in Texas?

Julián Peña: That culture is definitely from where we are from, from the Valley [the Lower Rio Grande Valley, which spans the border of Texas and Mexico], where there are a lot of troquitas tumbadas [lowered or customized pickup trucks]. You'd hear la Raza zooming by, blasting our songs, with the bass booming, from their trucks. So it's kind of like a relief, your safe space.

Like the album's title says, "pretending everything is fine"... you're pretending to be fine and then once you get in your car and you pass yourself the aux, you turn that up and you start bawling, or feeling whatever you're feeling. Then the album's over, gotta get back to work, clock back in, and go back to pretending everything's fine. It's like an escape that we know many people have, it has happened to all of us; you go on a drive to decompress, turn the music up, let it all out, and feel better. That's what we wanted to capture with that image.

What songs did you each play when you needed that kind of moment?

Cantú: When I broke up with a girlfriend, around 2012, my go-to was Drake.

Peña: Mine was "Then," by Brad Paisley. I was just sad and going through a country phase. [Laughs.]

Solis: I would listen a lot to a song by Eslabón Armado called "Atrapado."

Cantú: When I feel a little trapped by this street lifestyle I go, "I Should've Been A Cowboy"! [All laugh.]

I read some of you grew up raising cattle, or come from families of farmers and ranchers. What aspects of that lifestyle do you miss, in contrast with being in a city like LA, and actively involved in the music industry?

Solis: Juan had his ranch around General Bravo [a municipality in Mexico], and I was born in the States, but I would go every weekend to Mexico, to my parent's ranch, where they had cattle. I know Juan can relate to this — when you are at the ranch and play a song, and can sing out loud without anyone around listening or judging you, that's a really nice feeling. When you are on stage, in the industry, you're not singing only to yourself, but to make the audience's day better. So no matter what you're going through, when you're on stage, your job is to make people happy.

Cantú: Going to a place — like a ranch, an open space — to disconnect, it's like a reset. I feel a lot of people have not experienced that, they don't know the power that has.

Through your lyrics, you adapted old love songs and romance to modern times. Some songs even mention emojis, DMs and texting. Do you have any favorite emojis?

Solis: Oh man, I love the black heart emoji because it can mean many things. A dead heart, or that you're not feeling anything. It can mean your heart is broken and needs mending to go back to being red. I think it's super cool.

Carlos Guerrero: I like the thinking face emoji.

Cantú: Sometimes he uses it out of context and we don't know if he's thinking, or he's mad. [Laughs.] For me, the one I use the most is the "thanks" [praying hands emoji].

Peña: I like the heart hands emoji. Like "Hey what's up," and throw a heart hands emoji.

Going back to your music, what's your favorite part of making songs?

Solis: I'm not sure if we all have the same answer, but for me, my favorite part about being able to sing, record and write these songs is to sing them with all the feeling in the world. And that is amazing, to be able to let that out.

Cantú: The simple fact of creating something and getting to test it out, seeing people sing it, it's like, Wow, we made that.

Peña: Yeah, that you do something and then put that out there right and you're like, I wonder if this feeling is gonna get translated the way we want it to. And then, like Juan said, when people go to concerts, and sing it back to us, or we see people post stories of them singing it and going through it. It's like, we made that! We got that point across, and it feels good for all of us.

How do you navigate being an American band with a cross-cultural upbringing?

Cantú: It's really cool. We were lucky to go to Puerto Rico, Colombia and Argentina, to collaborate with artists like Arcángel, Maluma, Shakira, and Nicki Nicole. That helped us understand their culture and meditate on what it means to be Latino, not just Mexican. Latino identity entails so many cultures in one, and even Mexican identity is vast. Latinos are from everywhere.

How was it to collaborate with all these other artists, and open your group to collaborate with them in Jugando A Que No Pasa Nada?

Solis: Basically, we are like a group of brothers. We sometimes spend 24/7 together. We see each other every day, and we spend all our time together on the tour bus and at home, even when we don't need to see each other. So when we collaborate with other artists, like Morat, Maluma, or Nicky Nicole, they sense that vibe — we carry that with us. I feel that carries through, to the point where we can all have that vibe together.

When we are collaborating with other artists, it feels as if it was a friendship that has been around for a while. Like, have you ever felt or had that friendship where you can go like a month without seeing each other and when you see each other is like you had seen each other? That's basically how it is when we collab with other artists.

I know it's hard to pick a favorite song from the new album—

Solis: It's not that hard! My favorite is "F—ing Amor."

Why?

Solis: Because before Grupo Frontera started, that was more the style that I listened to. I got into the music of Natanael Cano, Iván Cornejo, and others. I grew up listening to old cumbia songs that my parents played for me, but in high school, I started listening to new stuff and new genres, so I think that's why my musical style is more versatile. So "F—ing Amor" is more Sierreño, has more bass, and the congas and percussion; the vibe of that song reminds me of how, in high school, I would drive my truck listening to Natanael Cano. 

Peña: Mine is "Echándote De Menos." Ever since we recorded it, it has that rhythm in the middle where we all drop, on that note… I like all of them, but that one, in particular. 

Cantú: I have to go with two. When I first listened to them, "Los Dos," our collaboration with Morat, and "Por Qué Será" with Maluma. That song, when they first showed it to me, I felt chills down my back.

Guerrero: Mine is "Los Dos," with Morat, because we liked Morat before being with Frontera.

Cantú: To make a song with them is an achievement for us because our big song ["No Se Va"] was a cover of theirs. So making a song together is pretty cool — not many people get to do that.

Solis: We had people tell us that we were stealing their song! We get that Morat is some people's favorite group but we were like, bro, it is our favorite too, that's why we did that song!

What is your dream for this new record?

Solis: We were talking about this yesterday in the van. We don't want to expect anything out of it — success, or big numbers — because this album was made from the heart. We are just so happy and proud to be releasing it into the world.

Guerrero: I just hope that people like it, because, as Payo says, we explored a lot of different genres, so we hope people dig that. We put our best into it.

Cantú: I want what Payo and Carlos said, but also, to go to Japan to play our songs.

Peña: I want what the three of them want, but for people to really connect and identify with the songs. Even if they connect with one or three, what I want for the album is that — to connect with people.

Meet The Gen Z Women Claiming Space In The Regional Mexican Music Movement

Jennifer Lopez and Zendaya pose for a photo together at the 2024 Met Gala
Jennifer Lopez and Zendaya attend The 2024 Met Gala

Photo: Kevin Mazur/MG24/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

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2024 Met Gala Red Carpet: Music Icons & Celebrities Charm In The "Garden of Time" Including Bad Bunny, Zendaya, Doja Cat & More

From groundbreaking florals to silhouettes in black and piles of tulle, discover all of the spell-binding looks worn by music icons on the Met Gala red carpet in celebration of "Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion."

GRAMMYs/May 6, 2024 - 10:52 pm

This year's Met Gala invited guests to step into the enchanting "Garden of Time" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, where fashion meets fantasy. Celebrating the Met's exhibit "Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion," the first Monday in May saw stars transform the red carpet into a vibrant display of sartorial storytelling. The theme showcased a collection too delicate to wear but alive with the stories of fashion's past.

From co-chairs Zendaya and Bad Bunny to Tyla and Jennifer Lopez, see how music icons and film stars embodied this year's theme with spectacular flair. The gala not only highlighted the sensory and emotional richness of fashion but also set the stage for a night of memorable styles — groundbreaking florals, tiered tulle and all. 

Explore the full spectrum of this year's enchanting looks from fashion's grandest night in the showcase below.

Bad Bunny

Bad Bunny at the 2024 Met Gala

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lopez at the 2024 Met Gala

Photo: Kevin Mazur/MG24/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

Zendaya

Zendaya at the 2024 Met Gala

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

Tyla

Tyla at the 2024 Met Gala

Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

Donald Glover

Donald Glover at the 2024 Met Gala

Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

Stray Kids

K-pop group Stray Kids at the 2024 Met Gala

Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

Jon Batiste

Jon Batiste at the 2024 Met Gala

Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

Queen Latifah

Queen Latifah at the 2024 Met Gala

John Shearer/WireImage/Getty Images

Kylie Minogue

Kylie Minogue

Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Christian Cowan and Sam Smith

Christian Cowan and Sam Smith at the 2024 Met Gala

Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Jack Harlow

Jack Harlow at the 2024 Met Gala

Marleen Moise/Getty Images

Teyana Taylor

Teyana Taylor at the 2024 Met Gala

Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande at the 2024 Met Gala

Kevin Mazur/MG24/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

Rosalía

Rosalia attends the 2024 Met Gala

Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Laufey

Laufey at the 2024 Met Gala

Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Shakira

Shakira at the 2024 Met Gala

John Shearer/WireImage

Doja Cat

Doja Cat attends the 2024 Met Gala

Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

FKA Twigs, Stella McCartney, Ed Sheeran & Cara Delevingne

FKA Twigs and Ed Sheeran on the 2024 Met Gala red carpet

John Shearer/WireImage

Lana Del Ray

Lana Del Ray at the 2024 Met Gala

Kevin Mazur/MG24/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

Karol G

Karol G at the 2024 Met Gala

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

Lil Nas X

Lil Nas X at the 2024 Met Gala

John Shearer/WireImage

Charli XCX

Charli XCX at the 2024 Met Gala

Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

Cardi B

Cardi B at the 2024 Met Gala

Gotham/Getty Images

Dua Lipa

Dua Lipa at the 2024 Met Gala

Gotham/Getty Images

Lizzo

Lizzo at the 2024 Met Gala

Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Eryka Badu

Eryka Badu at the 2024 Met Gala
Photo of a gold GRAMMY trophy against a black background with white lights.
GRAMMY Award statue

Photo: Jathan Campbell

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How Much Is A GRAMMY Worth? 7 Facts To Know About The GRAMMY Award Trophy

Here are seven facts to know about the actual cost and worth of a GRAMMY trophy, presented once a year by the Recording Academy at the GRAMMY Awards.

GRAMMYs/May 1, 2024 - 04:23 pm

Since 1959, the GRAMMY Award has been music’s most coveted honor. Each year at the annual GRAMMY Awards, GRAMMY-winning and -nominated artists are recognized for their musical excellence by their peers. Their lives are forever changed — so are their career trajectories. And when you have questions about the GRAMMYs, we have answers.

Here are seven facts to know about the value of the GRAMMY trophy.

How Much Does A GRAMMY Trophy Cost To Make?

The cost to produce a GRAMMY Award trophy, including labor and materials, is nearly $800. Bob Graves, who cast the original GRAMMY mold inside his garage in 1958, passed on his legacy to John Billings, his neighbor, in 1983. Billings, also known as "The GRAMMY Man," designed the current model in use, which debuted in 1991.

How Long Does It Take To Make A GRAMMY Trophy?

Billings and his crew work on making GRAMMY trophies throughout the year. Each GRAMMY is handmade, and each GRAMMY Award trophy takes 15 hours to produce. 

Where Are The GRAMMY Trophies Made?

While Los Angeles is the headquarters of the Recording Academy and the GRAMMYs, and regularly the home of the annual GRAMMY Awards, GRAMMY trophies are produced at Billings Artworks in Ridgway, Colorado, about 800 miles away from L.A.

Is The GRAMMY Award Made Of Real Gold?

GRAMMY Awards are made of a trademarked alloy called "Grammium" — a secret zinc alloy — and are plated with 24-karat gold.

How Many GRAMMY Trophies Are Made Per Year?

Approximately 600-800 GRAMMY Award trophies are produced per year. This includes both GRAMMY Awards and Latin GRAMMY Awards for the two Academies; the number of GRAMMYs manufactured each year always depends on the number of winners and Categories we award across both award shows.

Fun fact: The two GRAMMY trophies have different-colored bases. The GRAMMY Award has a black base, while the Latin GRAMMY Award has a burgundy base.

Photos: Gabriel Bouys/AFP via Getty Images; Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

How Much Does A GRAMMY Weigh?

The GRAMMY trophy weighs approximately 5 pounds. The trophy's height is 9-and-a-half inches. The trophy's width is nearly 6 inches by 6 inches.

What Is The True Value Of A GRAMMY?

Winning a GRAMMY, and even just being nominated for a GRAMMY, has an immeasurable positive impact on the nominated and winning artists. It opens up new career avenues, builds global awareness of artists, and ultimately solidifies a creator’s place in history. Since the GRAMMY Award is the only peer-voted award in music, this means artists are recognized, awarded and celebrated by those in their fields and industries, ultimately making the value of a GRAMMY truly priceless and immeasurable.

In an interview featured in the 2024 GRAMMYs program book, two-time GRAMMY winner Lauren Daigle spoke of the value and impact of a GRAMMY Award. "Time has passed since I got my [first] GRAMMYs, but the rooms that I am now able to sit in, with some of the most incredible writers, producers and performers on the planet, is truly the greatest gift of all." 

"Once you have that credential, it's a different certification. It definitely holds weight," two-time GRAMMY winner Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter of the Roots added. "It's a huge stamp as far as branding, businesswise, achievement-wise and in every regard. What the GRAMMY means to people, fans and artists is ever-evolving." 

As Billboard explains, artists will often see significant boosts in album sales and streaming numbers after winning a GRAMMY or performing on the GRAMMY stage. This is known as the "GRAMMY Effect," an industry phenomenon in which a GRAMMY accolade directly influences the music biz and the wider popular culture. 

For new artists in particular, the "GRAMMY Effect" has immensely helped rising creators reach new professional heights. Samara Joy, who won the GRAMMY for Best New Artist at the 2023 GRAMMYs, saw a 989% boost in sales and a 670% increase in on-demand streams for her album Linger Awhile, which won the GRAMMY for Best Jazz Vocal Album that same night. H.E.R., a former Best New Artist nominee, saw a massive 6,771% increase in song sales for her hit “I Can’t Breathe” on the day it won the GRAMMY for Song Of The Year at the 2021 GRAMMYs, compared to the day before, Rolling Stone reports

Throughout the decades, past Best New Artist winners have continued to dominate the music industry and charts since taking home the GRAMMY gold — and continue to do so to this day. Recently, Best New Artist winners dominated the music industry and charts in 2023: Billie Eilish (2020 winner) sold 2 million equivalent album units, Olivia Rodrigo (2022 winner) sold 2.1 million equivalent album units, and Adele (2009 winner) sold 1.3 million equivalent album units. Elsewhere, past Best New Artist winners have gone on to star in major Hollywood blockbusters (Dua Lipa); headline arena tours and sign major brand deals (Megan Thee Stallion); become LGBTIA+ icons (Sam Smith); and reach multiplatinum status (John Legend).

Most recently, several winners, nominees and performers at the 2024 GRAMMYs saw significant bumps in U.S. streams and sales: Tracy Chapman's classic, GRAMMY-winning single "Fast Car," which she performed alongside Luke Combs, returned to the Billboard Hot 100 chart for the first time since 1988, when the song was originally released, according to Billboard. Fellow icon Joni Mitchell saw her ‘60s classic “Both Sides, Now,” hit the top 10 on the Digital Song Sales chart, Billboard reports.

In addition to financial gains, artists also experience significant professional wins as a result of their GRAMMY accolades. For instance, after she won the GRAMMY for Best Reggae Album for Rapture at the 2020 GRAMMYs, Koffee signed a U.S. record deal; after his first GRAMMYs in 2014, Kendrick Lamar saw a 349% increase in his Instagram following, Billboard reports. 

Visit our interactive GRAMMY Awards Journey page to learn more about the GRAMMY Awards and the voting process behind the annual ceremony.

2024 GRAMMYs: See The Full Winners & Nominees List

Ovy on the Drums poses at the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs
Ovy on the Drums poses at the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs

Photo: Patricia J. Garcinuno/WireImage/GettyImages

interview

Producer Ovy On The Drums Talks New EP With Myke Towers & The Indescribable Chemistry Of Working With Karol G

"I just wanted to make some good music with a well chosen set of guest artists, and let the beats speak for themselves," Ovy on the Drums says of his new EP with Myke Towers.

GRAMMYs/Mar 15, 2024 - 05:23 pm

When Mañana Será Bonito, the fourth studio album by Karol G, came out in February 2023, its release had been preceded by two momentous hit singles that changed the face of Latin music. 

Panoramic in scope, slick and airy, but also imbued with an intense and lyrical emotional depth, the songs "Provenza" and "Cairo" combined pop, reggaetón and an alternative edge with panache, and confirmed the Colombian singer/songwriter as one of the biggest pop stars in the planet. Mañana Será Bonito would go on to win Latin GRAMMYs for Album Of The Year and Best Urban Music Album, as well as her first-ever GRAMMY for Best Música Urbana Album in 2024.

Karol G wasn’t alone in these accomplishments. Most of the songs on the album were helmed by her longtime producer, Ovy on the Drums. Like Karol herself, 33 year-old Daniel Echavarría Oviedo hails from Medellín. The pair started working together at the very beginning of their careers, and Ovy was behind the haute couture sonics of "Tusa," the 2019 collaboration with Nicki Minaj that first established Karol as a major contender in Latin pop.

"There is a chemistry when we work together that I cannot quite describe with words,"  Ovy says over Zoom from his home in Florida. It’s a weekday morning, and he sits by his keyboard producing station; from time to time, he will play imaginary chords as he searches for the right words for an answer. His attitude remains humble throughout the conversation — even after significant success and a triumphant world tour, where he accompanied Karol on most concert dates.

"I still remember the specific moment when I asked her if she would let me do production work with her," he tells GRAMMY.com. "We keep talking whenever we’re in the studio. She is very clear in her direction; ‘I want this song to sound like that,’ or, ‘Give it another spin and see if we can make it better.’"

Ovy has since been inspired to branch out into different challenges. The latest one is Cassette 01,  a six-song EP with Puerto Rican A-list rapper Myke Towers. The EP is the first in a series of cassette-themed mixtapes that will include a different collaborator on each new installment. "The concept of releasing cassette-themed EPs in the year 2024 is really exciting to me," Ovy says. "It’s linked to the history of pop music, and the way we consume songs."

Known for high-voltage, sexed-up urbano anthems like "La Playa" (2020) and "LALA" (2023), Towers adds his imprint to the songs, but Ovy’s futuristic aesthetic is all over the EP. "It’s true that the loop in the beginning has my personal touch," Ovy says with a laugh when I point out that the intro to "AMOR NARCÓTICO" is trademark Ovy. "Sometimes people tell me that a song has that unique touch of mine, and it really seems unbelievable to me when I hear it."

On "BELLAQUERÍA," he mixes synth patches with real riffs performed by his longtime guitar player; the contrast between organic and digitized is prevalent in his stylistic panoply. And his trademark battle call — the almost dub-like cry of "O-O-O-vy on the Drumsss" is the seal of distinction that pops up in every single production.

Ovy On The Drums

Ovy on the Drums and Myke Towers┃SEBA

Musically speaking, Colombia sits on a highly strategic place: next door to the fertile Caribbean islands where reggae, salsa, merengue and calypso originated — but also close enough to the airwaves of mainstream American pop. Growing up, Ovy listened to a bit of everything, and gravitated naturally to lush records with majestic grooves.

"I loved Bob Marley as a kid," he says. "At home, of course, they would play a lot of salsa at parties, and hits of the time like 'Mayonesa' [a tropi-pop smash by Uruguayan band Chocolate.] I was also crazy about Modern Talking’s ‘Brother Louie’ and the Pet Shop Boys’ ‘Go West.’ Those are the songs that defined my childhood."

In the meantime, he continues employing FL Studio — the same producing software that he used at the very beginning of his journey.

"I’ll never stop using it," he promises. "I just can’t see myself on another platform. I used to dream about meeting the software creators, and now they follow me on Instagram and gave me every available plug-in. I’ve been producing music for the past 11 years, and I think I only know a good half of everything there is to learn on FL."

Collaborating with other high-profile artists and finishing up a promised solo album are high on Ovy's priority list.

"At the beginning, I was trying to turn my solo project into a conceptual work — but that’s easier said than done," he admits. "In the end, I realized that I just wanted to make some good music with a well chosen set of guest artists, and let the beats speak for themselves. I’d say my solo album is about 50 percent done at this point."

Karol G recently released "CONTIGO," a Euro-leaning, pop-EDM single with Tiësto. It remains to be seen if the diva will rely as tightly on her usual partner in crime as she begins work on her upcoming fifth album.

"When she had some free time off touring, I happened to be busy with the CASSETTE project," Ovy says. "Since then, we connected again and have been recording a bunch of songs. But I can’t really tell what will happen on the next album. And I think it’s good that Karol is collaborating with other producers and composers, searching for different avenues and sounds. We’re definitely on the same page in allowing things to happen the way they are supposed to."

He pauses for a moment, then adds with an extra wave of enthusiasm:

"I will always be there for her. Our common objective hasn’t really changed. We must always work hard, and come up with cool new songs." 

Mañana Y Siempre: How Karol G Has Made The World Mas Bonito