Barrera, who has won a total of 14 Latin Grammys and one Grammy, has produced and written songs for the likes of Ariana Grande, Maluma, Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, Banda El Recodo and Marc Anthony, to name a few.
After being awarded by BMI, Billboard caught up with Barrera who is spending quarantine with his family in Roma, Texas. In the exclusive Q&A, the Mexican-American producer/songwriter shares the story behind "No Te Contaron Mal," how growing up in a border town influenced his career and the impact a pandemic can have on music.
BMI Latin Awards announced “No Te Contaron Mal” as winner of regional Mexican song of the year — when and how was the song born?
This song is super special to me because it's the first song I wrote with Christian Nodal and it's the song that started our friendship.
When Christian Nodal was just starting his career and released "Adiós Amor," I wrote to him on social media telling him that I wanted to work with him one day. Luckily, a mutual friend introduced us and I flew to Guadalajara [Jalisco, Mexico] in summer of 2018 to meet Christian and we drove to this remote city called Jalpa where there's no internet, no cell phone connection and that same day, we wrote the song. I grabbed the guitar that night and he started telling me a personal story and in 30 minutes we wrote "No te Contaron Mal."
I knew the song would become something special because it was born in such an organic way.
You're currently in the top 10 on Billboard's Latin Producers chart along with a diverse group of producers like Súbelo Neo, Gaby Music, Lenin Ramírez. What is that a reflection of?
I feel like that's a reflection of what a young person includes in their playlist. I always ask friends to let me look at their playlists and lately, I see that young people are listening to every type of genre. A kid who lives in Mexico is including regional Mexican and urban music in the playlist. That wouldn't happen before. We're now in the same level as urbano artists, there are no boundaries. Actually, we shouldn't even call it regional Mexican anymore because it's not just regional anymore, it's reached a global audience.
You've written songs for regional Mexican artists, urbano hitmakers and pop stars. When you're writing a song, do you writing with a specific genre in mind?
Not at all. A well-written song fits in all genres. Actually, I've always thought that "No te Contaron Mal" would have probably worked too for an urban artist. I never have an artist in mind when I write my songs. What I do a lot too is write a song with an artist because that way, I can get out of them whatever it is they want to say and what they want to transmit with the song. As producer and songwriter, I take that and give the song shape.
I think my cultural background has helped me transition more easily into different genres. I grew up in a border town where Mexico is 15 minutes away and where only Spanish music was heard. There was this code-switching I had to do on a daily basis and so it's shaped who I am.
Have you been creating music while in confinement?
Actually, I've taken this opportunity to disconnect and spend time with my family. I left my home in Texas behind 10 years ago when I moved to Miami. I'd visit my family like 30 days a year and I missed so many important dates because I've been away. So, this time has helped me to reconnect with them and I'm not working as much. I have the occasional Zoom meeting but spending time with my family is what's most important to me right now.
How do you think this pandemic will have a lasting impact on music?
I think so. We're in a time when I don't think people have time to really pay attention to music. They have other things to worry about because of what we're all going through. It's a moment for artists and fans to breathe because there was tons of music coming out at the same time. Now, I think artists should focus on quality over quantity. Instead of releasing three songs a month, just one that is great quality.
Lastly, what's your advice to up-an-coming songwriters who are trying to standout in a crowded field of songwriters?
Take risks and work very hard. I left everything I know behind, my comfort zone to make my dream come true. I rented a little room in a house in Miami and I started working at a studio where I would serve coffee or do whatever they needed me to do. And, there's where I met so many artists and producers and learned how music is made. If I hadn't made those sacrifices, I wouldn't be where I am now.