Latin Grammy Nominee Spotlight: Singer-Songwriter Kevin Johansen
Since the beginning of his career, Kevin Johansen's mission has been to celebrate diversity and Latin American culture through his music. With a clear message of building bridges and not walls, Mis Américas: Vol. 1/2 -- nominated for best singer-songwriter album at the Latin Grammys -- is no exception.
Working alongside music producer Matías Cella (Jorge Drexler), the Alaskan-born native took a nomadic approach to record his album -- going from country to country to collaborate with major Latin artists. "Matías suggested that we go to New York to work with my 'old buddies.' So we spent one week in New York. Then he'd say, 'Now let's go record in Brazil,' so we went to Rio for five days. Then we ended back in Argentina, where we gave it form and shape," Johansen tells Billboard.
Mis Américas: Vol. 1/2 includes collabs not only with superstars like Palito Ortega, Pity Álvarez, Miss Bolivia and Lito Vítale, but also with Johansen's kids, making the production and nominations a bit more special. "You could say it's a family album since I recorded with my band, The Nada, who I've been with for 15 years now, and my two daughters and my son are also on the album." His daughters Miranda and Kim are featured on the opening track "Es como el día," up for song of the year and best alternative song.
Born in Alaska to an Argentine mother, Johansen credits his "very intellectual mom" for nurturing him with music from the Américas, hence educating him about the diverse sounds and cultures of different Latin American countries.
"She loved Mexican and Brazilian music and Latin American music all over, so she really nurtured me with music from the Américas. My generation is a generation that is very permeable, because the previous generation was just so rich and it's kind of difficult to leave our trademark. That's what I've been looking for with The Nada and Mis Américas. In The Nada I said mixture is our future, but I also believe that mixture is our past. It's because of my mixture of cultures that explains what I do."
Like most of his music, Mis Américas does include a political agenda. In fact, the singer-songwriter thinks that, as an artist, it's his "responsibility" to make a political statement with his songs.
"It's our job. Mis Américas is saying that there are a lot of Mexicos in Mexico, a lot of Argentinas in Argentina and a lot of States in the States. In a way, it's that dream of no borders. Music doesn't ask for a visa or a passport to travel. It never did to travel from one culture to another, and I really think it's our artistic responsibility to offer bridges and celebrate differences and diversity. This is the message of this album. I always believed in that and I believe it now more than ever."