Luis Enrique & C4 Trio Say Latin Grammy-Nominated Album 'Tiempo Al Tiempo' Is 'About Connecting With People': Interview

Luis Enrique & C4 Trio
Courtesy of Luis Enrique & C4 Trio

Luis Enrique & C4 Trio

We're just a week away from the 20th annual Latin Grammys, and Luis Enrique expressed his excitement on social media. “I’m happy to be on my way to Las Vegas, where I am nominated, along with @ C4Trio and with @septetoacarey. Grateful for life, carrying Nicaragua in my heart.” 

The Nicaraguan salsa singer is nominated for three Latin Grammys, two of which are alongside Venezuelan music ensemble C4 Trio for best folk album for their collaborative album Tiempo al Tiempo and their single “Sirena,” nominated for best arrangement. 

Tiempo al Tiempo, released via Chazz Music/Empire Records, was born at a recording studio in Miami’s peermusic headquarters just four years after their first encounter and with the help of Venezuelan singer-songwriter, composer, producer, Jorge Luis Chacin, and Puerto Rican producer, arranger and music executive, Julio Bague. C4 Trio, who has a trajectory that spans nearly 15 years, is composed of Jorge Glem, Hector Molina, Edward Ramirez, and Rodner Padilla.

Billboard sat down with the nominees to talk about the album’s process, their joint production, and the importance of raising awareness through their music. 

Whose idea was it to collaborate together and release an album?  

Luis Enrique: It was initially my idea. We coincided in the same recording studio with Jorge Luis Chacin to work on a song together and I thought, why not make an entire album? We reached out to great friends like Julio Bague, who was the one who gave us the opportunity to record. The rest happened mutually. Nothing was possible without being working together.

When did C4 Trio get on your radar?

Luis Enrique: They invited me to sing at an event for Venezuela and they were performing there. I had already known about their music through music videos and mutual friends. It was such an honor coinciding with them at that event. 

The album came out in May of this year but how was the process in itself?

Rodner Padilla, C4 Trio: The first encounter was in 2015, that’s when we all agreed that it would be cool to do something together. Fast forward to December 2018 when Jorge Luis Chacin invited us to record a Luis Enrique song and the album idea was born in a break of our session. A week later, we were sitting with Luis at a café in Doral and began brainstorming. We began dreaming about the album. A week after that, we met up with Julio Bague and invited him to jump on the project. Everything just flowed very well.

Luis: Betting on making music of this caliber today, only a person who understands that there is a respect for music as Julio did. Not any entrepreneur or producer jumps on a project that, knowing that we are not trying to get on the radio or land on the Top 10 charts. This has to do precisely with a cultural issue and a desire, in my case, something that I have never done before: a folkloric music album for a culture that I respect and love. Taking into account that the instrument that was going to shine throughout the entire production was going to be cuatro—a 4-string Venezuelan instrument—and honoring the work that C4 Trio has been doing as cuatristas. We wanted people to understand that this is an instrument that has all the possibilities, not just for folk music.

What would you say is the main purpose of this collaborative album?

Luis: Our purpose was to connect with people, at least in this project. You don't necessarily have to sound on the radio to have an audience or succeed. But if the project resonates and it echoes in people's hearts it’s because they like the songs. After 34 years of career, my purpose will and has always been music first. If music comes first and you honor that, everything else works well, especially in a project like this one. As Rodner says, we were all very happy contributing to this project and that’s why, collectively, it got the results it has.

In Tiempo al Tiempo, your single “Añoranza” really resonates with those who had to migrate from their country for better opportunities. You also make a call for Venezuela and Nicaragua to be free. Why is it important to send this type of social messages through your song?

Jorge Glem, C4 Trio: We are three Venezuelans and one Nicaraguan who are going through the same thing and share the same feelings. Everyone who was recording this song in the studio felt that. That yearning to be in the backyard of your house with your family but you can't. This song is mainly composed, played, performed with respect to all those people who have had to leave their countries. Yes, we long for that freedom, but we are going to achieve it by having hope and letting our people know that we are connected with them because we are suffering the same. That’s why I feel that it connects a lot with people. We are telling a story that somehow we are part of and it is real.

Hector Molina, C4 Trio: It is a reality that many countries live, we sing about it from our hearts as Venezuelans and Nicaraguans, but this happens in Africa, in Europe, all over Latin America. And it is a shout that goes beyond the reality of our countries. It is a call to tell the story of people who have to leave their countries against their will.

Luis: The base, beyond being a protest song, it’s a song that is made from love to our countries, to the people who go through this. We are not seeing it from any political angle. It comes from love.

Luis, being a renowned salsa artist, was it challenging for you to dip your toes in another genre? 

Luis: The music has always been intuitive. You listen and try to connect. In my case, I had to connect with their style and learn how to sing joropo, something I have never done. It seems easy but the reality of things is that it is not.

Rodner: He’s very modest in saying that but honestly, this wasn’t a challenge for him. He’s a musical monster, a natural talent! 

In addition to their nominations, Luis Enrique and C4 Trio have been confirmed to perform at the Latin Grammy Premiere ceremony taking place Nov. 14 at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas, during which 39 out of 50 categories will be awarded.