meta-scriptPrimavera Sound Barcelona 2021: Bad Bunny, Charli XCX, Tyler, The Creator, The Strokes, FKA twigs And More Confirmed | GRAMMY.com
Primavera Sound Barcelona 2021: Bad Bunny, Charli XCX, Tyler, The Creator, The Strokes, FKA twigs And More Confirmed

Crowd shot at Primavera Sound Barcelona 2019

Photo: Xavi Torrent/WireImage

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Primavera Sound Barcelona 2021: Bad Bunny, Charli XCX, Tyler, The Creator, The Strokes, FKA twigs And More Confirmed

Following a recent postponement, the celebrated Spanish festival has announced the first 100 artists for its 20th anniversary next June

GRAMMYs/May 28, 2020 - 12:24 am

After its 2020 edition was postponed to next year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Primavera Sound Barcelona has today (May 27) announced the first 100 artists confirmed for its 2021 installment. The initial lineup features "a majority of artists who reconfirm their presence at the festival," according to a blog post shared on the event's official website announcing the 2021 artist roster, including Bad Bunny, Tyler, The Creator, The Strokes, Pavement, Bikini Kill and several other previously announced artists. Newly added artists include Charli XCX, Tame Impala, Gorillaz, FKA twigs, Jamie xx and Jorja Smith, among many others.

The five-day festival, now taking place June 2-6, 2021, in Barcelona, Spain, was originally scheduled to celebrate its 20-year anniversary next month (June 3-7). In late March, the festival was postponed to August due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this month (May 11), Primavera Sound Barcelona 2020 was ultimately postponed to next year, with the festival citing force majeure. The festival will now celebrate its 20th anniversary during the newly rescheduled dates in June 2021. 

More artists, including acts confirmed for the original 2020 lineup and new additions, will be announced over the next few months, according to the Primavera Sound Barcelona website. 

In the blog post, festival organizers addressed the impact the coronavirus pandemic has made on Primavera Sound Barcelona and the "hard times" it has caused for everyone involved.

"The entire Primavera Sound Barcelona team would like to acknowledge that we really appreciate all the messages of support, for the understanding and encouragement that we have received over the past few weeks," the post reads. "These are hard times for everyone and to feel that so many people are looking forward to collective events like our festival pushes us to work with more passion than ever …

"Whoever said that the second chances are never good did not imagine that we would experience something like what is happening this 2020. With the whole world on pause due to the evolution of the global pandemic and with the live music sector holding its breath facing a summer without festivals, we can only look forward: towards 2021, specifically, the year in which we are going to recover everything that will be pending from 2020."

Read: Recording Academy And MusiCares Establish COVID-19 Relief Fund

The 2021 installment of Primavera Sound Barcelona will debut Brunch -On The Beach, a brand-new closing party on the beach. The inaugural event, which was originally announced for the 2020 iteration of the festival this past February, will now take place Sunday, June 6, 2021, and will feature DJ sets from Disclosure, Nina Kraviz, Amelie Lens and Black Coffee. 

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Tickets for Primavera Sound Barcelona 2021 will go on sale June 3 at 6 a.m. EST/noon CEST. All tickets purchased for the 2020 festival are valid for the 2021 edition. That same day, the festival will begin to offer exchanges and refunds for those who purchased tickets for the 2020 festival. 

To view the full lineup and to purchase tickets for Primavera Sound Barcelona 2021, visit the festival's official website

All Points East Festival Launches "Ten Days Of All Points East" Content Hub

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

Photo: Patricia J. Garcinuno / WireImage / Getty Images

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

'Mañana Será Bonito' may have been the vehicle for Karol G's massive year, but the 2024 GRAMMY nominee for Best Música Urbana Album has been making strides in reggaeton, urbano and the music industry at large for a long time.

GRAMMYs/Feb 1, 2024 - 04:16 pm

For Karol G, 2023 was a watershed year. Her fourth album, Mañana Será Bonito, peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 200 and took home the golden gramophone for Album Of The Year at the Latin GRAMMYs. Her many milestones also included a Rolling Stone cover, and signing with Interscope. At the 2024 GRAMMYs, Mañana Será Bonito is nominated for Best Música Urbana Album. 

The Colombian singer and songwriter was suddenly everywhere in 2023, but this moment is the culmination of a long, steady rise. Karol G has been on the scene for some time, and changing it for the better just by being who she is: an extremely talented woman making waves in a genre still dominated by men.  

Karol G has been a pivotal figure in the world of urbano since 2017, when she collaborated with Bad Bunny on the Latin trap single "Ahora Me Llama." It was a transformative moment for both artists, whose careers took off precipitously after its release. The track led Ms. G’s aptly titled debut album, Unstoppable, which went multi-platinum and peaked at No. 2 on both the U.S. Top Latin Albums and U.S. Latin Rhythm Albums charts. At the 2018 Latin GRAMMYs, Karol was awarded Best New Artist

2024 GRAMMYs: Explore More & Meet The Nominees

Although she came out of the gate in an unstoppable fashion, Karol G's chart-topping debut was the result of years of touring and recording. The artist born Carolina Giraldo Navarro was no overnight success.

She started singing as a teenager growing up in Medellín and, after signing to Colombia's Flamingo Records, chose the name Karol G and began releasing music. Early on, she flew to Miami for a meeting with Universal Records, but they chose not to sign her on the basis that a woman would not be successful making reggaeton — a severe miscalculation, that belies female pioneers and a blossoming roster of contemporary acts

Thankfully, she ignored them. A year after "Ahora Me Llama" and Unstoppable, Karol G won her first Latin GRAMMY. 

The star’s determination makes her a role model, but Karol G's career has also been defined by an inspiring integrity around her principles and artistic vision. By now, it is a well-known anecdote that she turned down the song "Sin Pijama" because it references marijuana use. Karol does not smoke, so the lyrics would not have been authentic to her as a person, or as an artist. 

This authenticity has doubtless been key to Karol G's success. Rather than try to fit an established mold, she brings a uniquely sunny swagger and sporty style to reggaeton. She projects a powerful and feminine energy, and her music often expresses a healthy sense of sexual independence and self-empowerment. This is an intentional part of her message, especially to her female fans.

"They teach us it’s wrong to celebrate ourselves for something we have," she told Rolling Stone of her musical messaging. "And it’s not. We have to be the first ones to give ourselves credit."

Like early collaborator Bad Bunny, Karol G is able to reach a global audience without having to change the language she sings in, her genre of choice, or her messages. Case in point: One of her 2023 accomplishments was becoming the first Latina to headline a global stadium tour, and the highest-grossing Latin touring artist of the year.

She also became the first Latina to headline Lollapalooza and, in between record-breaking tour dates, saw her song "WATATI" featured on Barbie The Album. (The soundtrack is nominated for Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media at the 66th GRAMMY Awards.)

In November, she closed out her big year with a sweep of the Latin GRAMMYs: Mañana Será Bonito received the award for Best Música Urbana Album and Album Of The Year; her Shakira collab "TQG" took home the golden gramophone for Best Urban Fusion/Performance. When she accepted her award for Best Música Urbana Album, Karol exclaimed, "How cool is it for a woman to win this?" 

Karol G’s wins made up a large part of an awards ceremony where women won big:  Shakira won Song Of The Year for her collaboration with Bizzarap, while Natalia Lafourcade won Record Of The Year and Joaquina took home Best New Artist. This was the first year that women won in all the general categories — something that suggests progress for the Latin music industry. The last time a woman won the Latin GRAMMY for Best Música Urbana Album was in 2013, when Spanish rapper Mala Rodríguez took home the award for Bruja. 

Watching the Latin GRAMMYs this year, it was easy to forget that women still have a long way to go to achieve parity with their male counterparts in the music industry. If you lost sight of that, the year-end Latin charts would bring you back to reality: Of the top 50 tracks on the Hot Latin Songs chart, 11 primarily featured women, but six of those tracks belonged to Karol G. Karol’s presence matters and she knows it. 

Karol G brings a powerful feminine energy to reggaeton and Latin trap, but also an unapologetic feminism. While this is explicit in her music, it's also clear in the creative partnerships she makes. She’s had many high profile collaborations with male artists, but just as many with a diverse roster of female artists from reggaeton OG Ivy Queen ("Leyendas") to Latin fusion pop singer Kali Uchis ("Me Tengo Que Ir," "Labios Mordidos"). In an arena so dominated by male artists, each collaboration with another woman is meaningful, but her collaborations with rising artists, such as Young Miko — who appears on the song "Dispo" from Karol’s Bichota Season — truly make a difference. 

Artists like Karol G increase the range of possibilities for artists in their wake, and for anyone in the music industry who flouts narrow expectations. Karol G knows that her victories have larger implications, and this eye toward the future has helped her reach unprecedented heights. "I understand how hard it is [for women to break through] because of how hard it was for me,"she recently told Billboard.

It wasn't easy for Karol G to get where she is today, but she has been opening doors for others — women, artists in reggaeton, artists in urbano and others —  every step of the way. From here on, the title of her album is ringing more and more prescient, and that’s mas bonito.  

2024 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Full Nominees List

Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Romy On Venturing Out Solo and Collaborating with Fred Again..
Romy

Photo: Vic Lentaigne

interview

Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Romy On Venturing Out Solo and Collaborating with Fred Again..

2024 GRAMMY nominee Romy talks processing grief on "Strong," finding a trusted collaborator in Fred again.., celebrating queer love and '90s dance pop on 'Mid Air' and much more.

GRAMMYs/Jan 18, 2024 - 02:16 pm

Romy has a simple yet impactful offering for combatting the inner-critic: "You’ve been strong for so long / You learned to carry this on your own / Let me be someone / You can lean on," she sings on "Strong."

Atop
Fred again.. and Stuart Price's hypnotic, pulsing bassline, Romy's airy vocals reach deep into your heart when you least expect it — on the dancefloor, where this track is perfectly suited, or in the shower hyping yourself up through exhaustion.

"Something happens when she sings. Sentences other people might make sound sort of mundane or simple — through the context of her lens — sound unbelievably profound," Fred again.. aptly told the New York Times.

For its '90s dance pop-infused profundity, "Strong" earned Romy her first GRAMMY nomination, for Best Dance/Electronic Recording. "The fact that this song could reach more people [being nominated at the 2024 GRAMMYs.)] and hopefully encourage more people to open up about their feelings is really special to me," Romy tells GRAMMY.com. "I get anxious and feel a bit afraid when I'm about to do something new, but it's actually felt really great to be this out of my comfort zone," she adds, speaking of the growth she’s experienced with her solo project.

The nominated track is the lead single on her debut solo album, Mid Air, itself born from 2018 songwriting sessions with Fred again.. who is up for four GRAMMYs this year, including Best New Artist.  At the time, Romy (born Romy Madley Croft) was not interested in singing on any of the records they wrote, let alone making a solo album. She was coming off of tour with her band The xx and wanted to explore songwriting for other artists.

Yet the friendship and studio rapport she built with Fred again.. brought her out of her naturally quiet shell and into the spotlight. When she began to write songs about queer love, Romy realized she had something to say as a solo artist, and set out to make the euphoric dance pop album filled with the lesbian love songs her teenage self needed to hear. Romy was the final The xx member to release a solo album, and tells GRAMMY.com the band has been working on their follow up to 2017’s I See You. As The xx, Romy and Oliver Sim sing sultry ballads alongside melancholic guitar and bass and minimalist synths and MPC beats. In her solo project, Romy has taken center stage as she sings about queer love, amplified by exuberant dance productions.

She's been busy the last two years with DJ gigs at big festivals across the globe. At Coachella in 2022, she debuted new music live during a hybrid DJ set, and in 2023, translated the exuberance of her album to a full live show with her Club Mid Air tour (which continues in 2024).

GRAMMY.com sat down with Romy at the Ace Hotel in Brooklyn during a tour stop, where she went deep into "Stronger," working with Fred again.. and connecting with the queer community.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Congrats on your first nomination. What was your reaction when you first found out?

Thank you. I was soundchecking in Amsterdam and one of my managers ran onstage. He's normally a pretty low-key person and he was really animated. He was like, "I'm really sorry, I wouldn't normally interrupt your soundcheck, but I've got some exciting news." I was pretty shocked, to be honest, and just trying to process it all. Then we FaceTimed people from the U.S. team and everyone was super excited, so that made me excited. My family and friends were all really blown away. It's really lovely and very unexpected.

I've worked in music for a long time and I'm grateful to be acknowledged in this way. It's very special to have other musicians root for you. Let's see what happens, but even to be nominated is a massive boost and really exciting. 

Where did "Strong," your GRAMMY-nominated track with Fred again.., begin?

Fred and I had recently met and we were hanging out and really enjoying making music together. We initially got matchmade, really, as songwriters when we both were working for other people. We didn't come together thinking that we were going to work with each other for our own music, which now seems kind of weird. At that time, neither of us had solo projects. Both of us were happy writing songs together thinking someone else will take the song and run with it. It's a coincidence and lovely that we really connected and became friends very naturally.

Eventually, we wrote a song called "Loveher," which is the first track on [Mid Air]. I realized I felt very comfortable and safe with Fred, like I could open up a bit more. "Strong" came out of one of those early sessions, when I had been having a bit of a hard time. We were talking about it and started writing the song — it happened very naturally. I played Fred a lot of references of Euro dance, trance — emotional music to dance to — and we were connecting on that. It took a while for us to finish it and went through lots of different versions. I met Stuart Price, a producer that I'm a huge fan of, and he really helped Fred and I kind of craft the song and finish it, so he's a big part of the track as well. 

What do you think Fred helps bring out of you in the studio?

When I went into trying to write songs with other people — pop writing — I just really wanted to learn. Fred is a very generous, energetic presence in the studio. He really lets me in on the creative process. We talk a lot, and I learned a lot from the way he works. 

Through our friendship, I've felt comfortable to just sing melodies into the air and try a different version of songwriting than I had before. Singing with a stranger can be quite daunting. He's incredibly quick and talented, but he's also warm and makes you feel at ease to try things. Sometimes the studio can be a nerve-racking experience, so that's a great quality.

What shifted for you when you were working with Fred that made you feel ready to start your solo project?

It was a gradual building of confidence. I went into those sessions not in the most confident place. I had recently come off touring with The xx and I was really wanting to be creative, but I wasn't in the place that I wanted it to be for me. It took me a little bit of time to realize that I did have something that was important for me to share as a solo artist. I think writing "Loveher" and songs embracing and opening up more about my sexuality and queer love had me feeling like, Actually, I do have something I really want to share

That kind of took me back to when I first came out and first went to clubs; it gave me a bit more confidence. It made me realize this is something unique outside of The xx that I want to explore. But it took me some time to get there. When I started to feel that feeling, it kind of lit a fire and the momentum carried on.

I love the exuberance of "Enjoy Your Life," which you also worked on with Fred again.. and Stuart Price, along with Jamie xx, and features Beverly Glenn-Copeland's voice. What inspired that track and how did it all come together?

That's a really special song to me. "Strong" and "Enjoy Your Life" are the two songs on the album that are me expressing and processing grief. The song came about because I heard the Beverly Glenn-Copeland song, "La Vita." I was in Stockholm with Robyn and she took me to a gig. I didn't know who it was going to be — obviously, I trust Robyn. I spoke to her recently and said, "Thank you so much for taking me to that show, it inspired this song." She said, "Thank you for being up for it." I was like, "Are you serious? Of course I was." [Chuckles.]  

When I was at that show, I heard Glenn sing the lyric, "My mother says to me, enjoy your life." I was so blown away and moved by it — about how simple the line was, but how much emotion it contained. As a songwriter, that's my favorite thing; when you can find lyrics that have huge emotional depth in a few words. It made me think a lot about my experience of grief, and the way that loss made me think about how life is short and I wanted to make the best of things if I could.  

When I heard Glenn's lyric, it reconnected me with that intention of trying to see the positives. I was like, If I could have that reminder in my own song, it would be helpful. I was grateful that Glenn was happy for us to sample his voice and for me to sing the lyrics too. His voice is clear on "Mid Air," the interlude. I really wanted to make sure he was a featured artist.

"Enjoy Your Life" is a huge collage of different collaborators, different samples, different versions. It was the most challenging song to finish — to try and contain all of those different emotions and samples and collaborators. I spent a lot of time with the parts and now to look out and see people connecting with it in the audience, I'm grateful we stuck with it. It's one of the highlights now for me to see them singing along.

Can you speak to the specific '90s rave and dance pop inspirations on "Strong" and the rest of Mid Air?

Big emotional trance riffs; big, anthemic club classics, especially from the UK. I'm obsessed with songs that people sing along to on the dance floor: What makes that a thing? Is it simplicity? 

"The Rhythm of the Night" by Corona is obviously a massive song. If you take away the club element, it's still a beautiful song. The lyrics are amazing, the melody's really strong. I thought a lot about that when I was making the album, as well as sonically embracing the sounds on the 

radio when I was growing up. I tried to reference the nostalgia but also make something fresh.

When did you fall in love with dance music — was it from the radio? What are some of those early songs that still really move you?

Yeah, definitely through the radio. Everything but the Girl's "Missing" [the Todd Terry remix] is a big one. I have a memory of being in the car with my parents, listening to the radio and being, "I want to hear that 'Missing' song." Tracey Thorn's voice has been part of my subconscious forever. I love her. The emotion that's carried in that song, as well as it being a great club track, is something that is clearly a big inspiration for this [album].

I started going clubbing a lot when I was about 17 in London. I would go to a few queer clubs and feel the freedom and the appreciation of pop music in such a joyful and non-ironic way. It's something that has stayed with me. I started DJing at [one of those] clubs and definitely relied on the songs that you press play and everyone's hands are in the air. That's still what I like to DJ now; songs that unite a room. Back then I couldn't mix so I had to just press play on big songs.

What do you think makes a great dance track? 

Emotion. I can appreciate techno but I realized when I was on a night out once, I just didn't feel anything. I just need a little melody or a vocal hook to draw me in emotionally. If I can connect to my emotions, as well as an upward feeling of euphoria, somewhere between happy and sad, that's my dream place to be.

Beyond being a celebration of big '90s joyful rave sounds, Mid Air is also a celebration of love, and queer love. What has it felt like for you to come out publicly with this music and to also be in that space of "I love love"?

It feels really beautiful. I really love the connection I've felt with it. I've always been quite a shy person. Even in a club, when I first started going out, I wasn't going up to everyone saying hi. But being the DJ and playing songs helped me connect with people. Writing this music and celebrating queer love and wanting to actively connect more with the queer community has been beautiful. People come up to me and tell me about their experiences, or what the songs mean to them. That's the best feeling for me. On a lot of the songs I was thinking about what I would have wanted to hear when I was a teenager. There weren't a ton of lesbian love songs when I was growing up, especially not in the genre I was into.

Is there going to be more The xx music in the future?

Yeah. We have been in the studio and we've got lots more studio time coming up in 2024. It's been good for us to do these different projects. I learned so much from doing this [solo work] that I'm excited to bring it back and see what we make now with the band. I've been so proud of Jamie. When he did his solo project, he brought back a lot of experiences and fresh energy to the band. Now that we've all done solo projects, hopefully there's a bit of a three-way shared feeling of re-inspiration and acknowledgement of what the other people can do.

If you could go back to your younger self when you were first starting to make music, what would you tell her?

Wow. I was so shy when I started, I didn't want my family to hear me sing. I used to sing in private in my bedroom. I think if my teenage self saw the show that we're doing now, which is basically me jumping up and down, she'd be quite shocked. [Chuckles.] I'd say, "It's gonna be alright and don't worry so much about what other people think." I was very self-conscious, which is a classic teenage thing.

What are your biggest hopes and goals for 2024?

I'm excited to keep sharing this project and to travel to different parts of the world and play it live. I'm really excited to get back in the studio with Oliver and Jamie. Now that I've made this music, I'm excited to make more music. It doesn't feel like it's just this album. It's cool to think about still releasing songs and working with different people. It's quite open-ended now. I'm excited to see what happens next. 

2024 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Full Nominees List

How Rising Dance Star Dom Dolla Remixed The Gorillaz & Brought Nelly Furtado Back To The Dance Floor
Dom Dolla performs at Lollapalooza in 2023

Photo: Barry Brecheisen / WireImage / GettyImages

interview

How Rising Dance Star Dom Dolla Remixed The Gorillaz & Brought Nelly Furtado Back To The Dance Floor

Dom Dolla had a massive 2023, culminating in his first GRAMMY nomination. The first-time GRAMMY nominee discusses his nominated remix of the Gorillaz’s "New Gold," finding pop-spiration from Nelly Furtado and performing his dream B2B set.

GRAMMYs/Jan 17, 2024 - 02:07 pm

Dom Dolla rang in 2024 on a creative high. 

Last year, the 32-year-old Australian DJ and producer worked with his long-time idol Nelly Furtado, collaborating on her first new music in six years, including multiple unreleased tracks. Their bossy dance floor banger "Eat Your Man" lit up clubs and festival stages in summer 2023 — including several where the artists performed the track together live. But this wasn't the only mountain Dom Dolla climbed in 2023. His latest tune as a solo artist, a euphoric, Euro disco-inspired bop called "Saving Up," was released in October.

To top off a productive year, the artist born Dominic Matheson earned his first GRAMMY nomination, for Best Remixed Recording for his stellar remix of Gorillaz's "New Gold" featuring Tame Impala and Bootie Brown. It was the only remix that Gorillaz commissioned for Cracker Island, which is nominated for Best Alternative Music Album,  and the Aussie DJ felt a lot of pressure to make it a great one. The Dom Dolla remix brings a sense of urgency and electricity to the star-studded tune, picking  up the tempo to 127 BPM, then speeding up and looping Brown's raps.

After years of DJing and rising in his hometown Melbourne's vibrant club scene, Dom Dolla broke onto the U.S. dance scene with two tech house heaters, "Take It" and "San Frandisco," in 2018 and 2019, respectively. He was supposed to play Coachella 2020, which due to the pandemic, didn't take place until 2022. There, he debuted the big tunes he'd release later that year: the deep and moody "Strangers," with Mansionair, and the '90s house-infused "Miracle Maker," with Clementine Douglas. Since then, he's been on an ever-evolving upward trajectory. 

GRAMMY.com caught up with the "Miracle Maker" producer to learn more about working with Nelly Furtado and the Gorillaz, how a bad bout of tinnitus taught him a helpful studio trick, and where spaceship Dom is headed next. 

This interview has been edited for clarity.

What was your initial response when you found out you were nominated for a GRAMMY?

A lot of yelling. My manager is a very funny guy. He called me up [after the nominations were announced] and immediately started talking about something else. I challenged myself to write a song a day for a week. So he's all, "Day three, how's it going? You need to punch out a really good one today." I was like, What? And he's like, "A f—ing GRAMMY!" and started laughing. He really bait-and-switched me. I was on a high all morning. Then I flew from L.A. to Miami to play at [Club] Space and later that day I had EDC Orlando. I kept running into members of my team and just heard yelling.

Everyone brought signs to Space. Someone held up this enormous sign, "Congratulations on your GRAMMY" and people [held up messages] on their phones. It was quite a lovely, emotional moment, at such a debaucherous place.

What does it mean to you to be acknowledged in this way by your music industry peers?

It's really special. I started touring America in 2016. When you start touring in a new country, particularly when you're quite green, which I was back then, it's quite lonely. You don't really know anyone. But over the years, as I released more music and was running into people, I really felt like I was kind of gaining people's respect the more music that I put out.

The best thing about the music industry in America, at least in dance music, is if other DJs are playing your records, you're adding value to their DJ set and they respect you for it. That was happening more and more [for me over the years]. So [the nomination] feels like the antithesis of when I first started touring in the U.S.; it's being acknowledged by my peers and being respected and knowing that they genuinely like my music.

Did you ever imagine you'd be where you are today as a DJ/producer?

No way. My goal when I first started uploading music was to hit 10,000 plays on a song on SoundCloud. I think on the third track I'd released, I ended up hitting like 30,000 streams. I screenshotted it and printed it out. And I was like, I've made it. That's it.

It was the same with touring. My goal when I first started producing was to headline the venue called Prince Bandroom in St. Kilda in Melbourne, my hometown. Now we're doing the stupidest venues. [Laughs.] Each year, my manager asks me to write down what my new goals and aspirations are. A GRAMMY nomination wasn't even on the list because I didn't think it would ever be achievable. So now that that's happened, I have to write a new list.

How did you get connected with the Gorillaz for the remix?

It was pretty cool. Jahan [Karimaghayi] is on my marketing team and he's also on the Gorillaz's marketing team. He's a big fan of my remixes and he's always like, "I feel like you'd smash a Gorillaz remix." Apparently, he brought it up and they were like, "Hell yeah, let's do it." He thought he was introducing them to my music but I think someone already knew my stuff. I got sent the parts and it was ultimately up to me not to f— it up, really. [Chuckles.] That's why I put so much pressure on myself to nail it, knowing that it would be the only remix [from their album].

When did you know that the remix was ready?

It was actually a sort of visceral, emotional reaction in the studio. Every producer or songwriter will know there's two modes. One is, I'm terrible. How did I ever succeed in this as a career? I'm probably going to quit after I walk out of the studio. That was the first three days of me working on it. On the fourth day, the mood was, I'm a fing genius. I can't believe I doubted myself before. This s is fire

When you hit that feeling in the studio, it actually doesn't matter if the song comes out or the remix gets approved or if your team likes it. If I have that feeling, I've done it for myself, and I'm happy. The best thing was, I sent it to my team who said, "This is really great." And then I sent it to the Gorillaz and they loved it, so that was some nice external validation.

How did you bring the Dom Dolla touch to that track, which already had three different iconic, quite eclectic artists on it?

For me, it was picking the stems or the vocal sections or the synth elements of that record that I felt I related to the most. That's the way that I always do it: Which parts of this vocal would sound best on a Dom Dolla record?

The reason I don't do more remixes is because it's hard to come across those moments. I suppose the headline would be "finding moments in an existing record that you wish you'd written." If I'm being pitched a remix, are there enough bits in this that I can then rearrange or twist into something that I wish I'd done myself?

How was working with Nelly Furtado on "Eat Your Man," and what was your initial response when you found out she wanted to work with you? 

We were both going to play [Beyond the Valley] festival in Australia and she listened to my music. [Nelly's management] reached out and said she'd been listening to a bunch of my records on repeat. She wanted me to produce some stuff for her comeback, basically.

I'm sure she had a buttload of potential producers sending her demos. So I recorded this little selfie video that was like, "Hey, Nelly, what's happening?" just to prove I wasn't a psychopath. She said I didn't need the video but I was very memorable from that point on. We started messaging back and forth on WhatsApp and writing a bunch of stuff before we even met in person. 

She sent me her ad-libbing over one of my demos, and I quickly changed the subject because I wasn't actually a fan of what she'd sent me initially. I [was worried] I ruined the relationship. She said that was the reason she wanted to work with me, because I'm not a "yes man." I loved the second one she sent me. From then on, we hit it off and she trusted my taste.

We met in person three months later when we performed at Beyond the Valley. After that, I flew to Philadelphia and we got in the studio and started writing a bunch of stuff for her upcoming releases — none of that music has been released yet. That's more like her pop stuff. Halfway through the sessions, she turned to me, she's like, "I'd love to feature on a Dom Dolla record." "Eat Your Man" was written in the space of a few hours; it all came together quite naturally, which was fun.

What was it like for you working in the studio with Nelly, versus what I'm assuming is usually you and your computer? What did you take away from working in this way?

A lot of the time for the Dom Dolla project, I tried to do everything myself. I'd write all the top lines and basically bring in a session singer. I have a very specific vision. [With Nelly,] it was really a collaboration. For me, it was really learning how a lot of these pop sessions happen.  

[Nelly] had one of her best friends, Anjulie [Persaud], who's a brilliant pop singer and writer. The three of us were handing a microphone around that we had plugged into my Ableton. Each of us sang adlibs over this looped beat. I then went through the session and picked all of the little melodic adlib moments that I thought were really catchy. 

It taught me a lot about communicating tastes and being patient. It was exciting for me because I feel like that's the way the pop world works. It's great because it's more creative and more collaborative. "Eat Your Man" we did more my way. It was like, "This is what I can hear. What do you think?" That's why it happened quite quickly. But with her pop stuff, we did it more the traditional way.

Has that inspired you to do more in-studio collabs with vocalists?

Yeah, I've been doing a lot of writing with other people since then. Now I really can see myself doing a lot more production for other people and pop artists or even for bands. I'm confident in my executive production, production and engineering abilities. It's a new muscle that I'd like to develop. It's just hard for me because I'm touring so much and you've got to be in the room. Touring [non-stop] doesn't really leave much in the way for collaborative pop production. I think that time will come but it's not right now.

You brought out Nelly Furtado during your set at Portola Fest and performed with her a few times this year. What has it felt like getting to perform with her on stage?

She's so experienced and has been doing this for so long. I've learned a lot. In pop music performances, there's timecoding and synchronized dancing. DJ culture is like, I'm feeling like this needs to go here now, so I'm gonna full 180 and just throw this on the audience. You don't have to check in with anyone or plan anything. [Nelly] needs to know exactly when this is going to happen because she needs to know when she has to start singing and how much time she's got to dance before she has to start singing again. It's given me a real appreciation for pop live performance and how the pop world does it.

Planning for those sets [with Nelly] has been awesome; she asked me to send her the files from the mashups I did of her records and my records. I went to watch her [Portola] set, which is just her, I had nothing to do with it, and she performed the mashups. I was like, This is so sick. Her manager turned to me, "She's actually been doing this in every one of her shows." I'm over the moon. The dance music influence is kind of rubbing off on her hip-hop, R&B world, which is really cool.

In your DJ Mag cover article, you shared how an experience with hearing loss and tinnitus led you to produce music quieter. How did that change the way you think about production and dance music?

I really had to retrain my ears in how to produce music, but it added a bunch of longevity to my career. Now I can write and perform for years, because I'm always wearing earplugs or writing music quietly. It taught me that if the song's got to be really loud to be exciting, it sucks. People always crank stuff up in the studio. If it's exciting when it's quiet, you want to turn it up because you want to hear it. I think that's a testament to the kind of record that's being written. I always challenge myself to write the most exciting record humanly possible at the quietest level possible, [where you're] itching to turn it up.

It's also a mixing thing as well, because you've got to be able to hear all the key elements of the record quietly too. No matter where it's translating, whether it's on someone's laptop, their phone, their headphones, or cranked up to 120 on their home speaker system, that mix is right. 

How would you describe the evolution or your sound, production-wise and in your DJ sets?

I get so bored so easily. I just want to keep moving [on to new sounds]. The best thing about that is it keeps your audience excited. My last record, "Saving Up," is a completely original record that I want to sound like a throwback sampled disco tune. I've never released anything that's disco before, but I love disco. It's almost like Euro disco, a really fast offbeat baseline. It's jacked up, it's not a traditional disco record, but the elements are still there. Even the stuff I've been writing for Nelly, her pop stuff, I think people will be able to tell that I wrote it and produced it because it sounds like me somehow.

On "Saving Up," did you use any samples or did you just make it sound like it was sampled?

Everything in that record is completely original. I wanted it to sound like a sampled record, so the vocals are pitched up. It's a friend of mine, Clementine Douglas [who is featured on Dom's "Miracle Maker"]. I wrote it with her and some other friends, Toby Scott and Caitlin Stubbs, down in Brighton Beach in the UK. I've always been really obsessed with writing music on my own, doing everything myself from start to finish, and I feel like I've proven that to myself. After working with Nelly Furtado, I was really open to the idea of sitting in a room with a bunch of talented people and writing songs as a group 

As soon as I got to Brighton Beach, I remembered that Big Beach Boutique massive rave that Fatboy Slim hosted there 20 years ago. I wanted to write something that sounded super U.K., something that sounds sampled. We actually wrote the song really, really slow, at like 95 BPM or something. It was just chords and hooky vocals and we wrote the lyrics after. To make it sound sampled, we sped it up to 130 BPM and pitched the vocal up six semitones and made it bouncy as f—. 

What's next for you?

I actually have no idea what I'm doing. I'm just kind of hanging on for dear life. I know what I'm doing in the studio and I know what a great DJ set is made of. For me, it's about building upon that each and every time — giving a better DJ performance, creating a better set and writing better music.

I think that's the only thing that's really changing, the shows are getting bigger and more people are discovering the music. Honestly, it's quite shocking. The audience is literally compounding but I'm not really changing anything that I'm doing. I'm sort of doing more of it and trying to up the frequency and learning from the mistakes I've made before. 

Any big goals you're trying to hit, or anything where you're like, Okay, that would fing blow my mind if that happened?

Honestly, I recently did a dream B2B with Solomun in Ibiza. That was really cool. He reached out and I was like, No fng way. I have a good feeling about the next few years, so it's gonna be exciting. 

2024 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Full Nominees List

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