Leonel Garcia on Leading Latin Grammy Nominations & Sin Bandera's Reunion

Leonel Garcia
Edgar Negrete/Clasos/LatinContent/Getty Images

Leonel Garcia performs during the third aniversary of Centro Cultural Roberto Cantoral on June 27, 2015 in Mexico City, Mexico. 

At the Latin Grammy Awards later this week (Nov. 19), there’s a good chance Leonel García will walk away with more trophies than his hands can hold. He leads the nominations this year, with six total nods, including best singer-songwriter album (Amor Futuro), song of the year (“¿Recuerdas?”), and record of the year (“Ella Es”), plus the three nominations he shares with Natalia Lafourcade for her album Hasta La Raíz, on which he was a co-writer and producer.

“It’s a very peculiar feeling,” García tells Billboard of the recognition. “You’re so excited and happy but it’s also very surprising and you feel a certain sense of responsibility, too. There are so many emotions.”

It’s not that García is new to the Latin Grammys. In 2002 and 2004, his Spanish-language R&B duo, Sin Bandera, took home best pop album by a duo or group for their self-titled debut and De Viaje, respectively. But this is the Mexican singer-songwriter’s time to shine as a solo artist. Amor Futuro in particular, with guest appearances by Jorge Drexler, Jesus Navarro of Reik, Reily, among others, is only García’s second album of original material as a solo artist (the first one being in 2011). And in between, he’s churned out a couple of concept albums and has kept writing hit songs for others, including icons such as Alejandro Fernandez and Pepe Aguilar.

Leonel Garcia & Natalia Lafourcade Lead Latin Grammy Nominations

“It was a bit risky in a sense,” García says of his latest project. “I had most recently done a concept album [Todas Mías in 2013], where I revisited my own songs with friends [all female artists] and together we came up with new versions of them, and it was very successful. So coming out with an album of entirely new songs in an era where covers and that retro vibe is so big, it wasn’t so simple. We didn’t know how it would go for us, but we [myself and producer Aureo Baquiero] risked it. The challenge was making a modern album that we’d enjoy listening to as much as we enjoy other artists’ albums and not limit ourselves to a radio-friendly sound or to what the label expects from you. Instead, we focused on making music we’d enjoy and took certain creative liberties.”

García says that looking back on his entire career, from the year 2000 when he first met his Sin Bandera partner Noel Schajris and signed to Sony, he’s most proud of staying true to his own sense of artistry. “I’ve always defended my beliefs from day one. We have never made music to please anybody, not radio, not the label. It’s always been an honest and sincere process, artistic above anything else,” he tells Billboard. “It’s not easy, don’t get me wrong – the temptation is always there to venture into genres that you’re not suited for, to sound a certain way to see if you can get more radio play, or to sell more. That temptation is big. But we’ve stood firm, and when you get this type of recognition, it brings you so much fulfillment. That’s when it feels the best.”

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And while García’s solo career has never been hotter, die-hard Sin Bandera fans are ecstatic about the just-announced reunion of the duo, after almost eight years on hiatus. On Nov. 13, both García and Schajris took to Facebook to make the announcement, teasing that a tour and new music are on the horizon. The first few dates of "Sin Bandera: Una Última Vez" [One Last Time] are scheduled for February 2016 in Mexico, with additional dates to be announced soon for Puerto Rico, the U.S. and Latin America.

“I have so many beautiful memories of my time with Sin Bandera,” García says. “It was a long journey and very fulfilling. It’s an experience that taught us so much and we owe a lot to it. Our reach was huge and people still remember the songs and love singing them. Fans are always sending me tweets about us getting back together and so I love the idea of doing one last tour to relive that nostalgia and share that with everyone. It was a beautiful time.”

At the time when García spoke with Billboard the announcement of the Sin Bandera reunion had not yet been made, but on Nov. 14 he shared on Facebook, “There’s so much great energy surrounding all of this. We’ve been working on this for a year and a half and we wanted to let you know that we’ve been reading all of your comments and so we wanted to deliver the news as a surprise in the right moment.”

Schajris echoed his enthusiasm, saying, “We’ve lied to the press [about a potential reunion], we’ve lied on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. We’ve lied for a year and half because we wanted to work on what you deserve, what you’ve been expecting all these years and what we’ve been expecting, too.”



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