Manuel Medrano and Nile Rodgers on How a Spiritual Connection Sparked ‘Cielo’

Manuel Medrano
Courtesy of Warner Music

Manuel Medrano

Throughout his prolific career, working with artists such as Cher, Mick Jagger, Lady Gaga, and Daft Punk, Nile Rodgers teamed up with Manuel Medrano for their first-ever collaborative effort. It’s also one of the few times Rodgers has worked with a Latin artist, calling it a “stroke of luck.”

“What happened with Manuel was a stroke of luck,” he tells Billboard. “They called me and I was at home because of the lockdown. It was perfect timing.”

On Friday (June 26), Medrano dropped “Cielo” featuring Rodgers, a captivating song that fuses Medrano’s soothing Latin pop with Rodgers emblematic funk riffs. The lyrics tell the story of a man who's in love with a woman’s enchanting ways.

“I wrote the song at the beginning of this year, a couple of weeks before the coronavirus,” Medrano tells Billboard, recalling that he told his team about wanting to work with Nile for this track during a Miami trip in February.

“He’s one of the biggest exponents of this genre. When we finally contacted him, I wanted him to produce it. I translated the lyrics for him and from the start, he was very excited, very professional, and connected with what I wanted with the song. It’s incredible how with over five decades creating music, he still has all that flavor, all that feeling, and he's very well connected with music today.”

For Rodgers, the last thing he wanted to do as a producer was to take away from Medrano’s melodic voice and style. “All I want to do is add to that. He had a very specific idea of what he wanted me to do but I wanted to make my style fit Manuel’s style so that it feels like we were in the studio together.”

Though the song was born before the current health crisis, Rodgers jumped on the track during quarantine while hunkered down in Connecticut. The collaboration, for the most part, was born in an exchange of emails.

“Imagine having this kind of incredibly respectful dialogue going back and forth between two artists and meeting in the middle,” Rodgers notes. “It was so cool, in the end, he wrote me an email saying it was so much fun to make music this way. In the emails, I told him that I had a few musical concepts that might make ‘Cielo’ resonate to people around the world a little better and the fact that he was open to my ideas, really touched my heart. It was born out of a spiritual, respectful, and loving way.”

“I feel the same,” Medrano adds. “At the root of everything that’s happening we were obligated to work distantly via email but it felt as if we were next to each other. There was so much chemistry. We both felt this and talked about this. I play the guitar because I grew up admiring many musicians but I feel that nowadays in Latin America, especially in Colombia, kids don’t want to play the guitar. So it’s important for me for ‘Cielo’ to have instruments and that the guitar is distinguished. Nile connected a lot with the song, the feeling, the style, and the lyrics.”

With “Cielo,” Medrano is paving the way for more funk and disco fusions in the Latin music industry. “For me, it’s a dream come true getting to know Nile and working on a song together. This song makes you go back in time but still has a very contemporary sound.”

Rodgers, on the other hand, is grateful for the opportunity and excited about his new, beautiful friendship with Medrano, whom he easily calls his penpal.

“This collaboration makes me very happy,” Medrano concludes, “but what makes me more excited is being able to bring Nile closer to my country, Colombia, and make him a part of Colombian music. Everything that’s happening is crazy.”

Watch the animated music video for "Cielo" below.

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