Camilo
Latin

Camilo's 'Mis Manos' Album Is 'An Exploration of All Sides of My Identity'

How falling in love helped Camilo score his career-changing record deal with a Latin music titan.

Hunkered down in Bogotá, Colombia, Latin pop star Camilo is in crunch mode for the release of his second album, Mis Manos, out March 5 on Hecho a Mano Music (HAMM) and Sony Music Latin.

Mis Manos comes only 11 months after his debut, Por Primera Vez, helped him land seven Latin Grammy nominations, including album of the year. It also debuted and peaked at No. 5 on Billboard’s Top Latin Albums chart and at No. 1 on Latin Pop Albums. Come March, he’ll compete at the Grammy Awards for best Latin pop or urban album alongside Ricky Martin’s Pausa and Bad Bunny’s YHLQMDLG, among others. Yet the most surprising part of these rapid accomplishments is that Camilo hasn’t strayed from his specific strain of humble, often spiritual pop while achieving them, breaking from the reggaetón sound currently dominating the all-genre and Latin charts.

“He is completely different from anyone else,” says Alex Gallardo, president of Sony Music U.S. “While his colleagues are talking about Ferraris, he says, ‘If we don’t have air conditioning, I’ll use a fan.’ There’s a purity to his proposal that filled a void.” Adds his manager, Jorge “Pepo” Ferradas: “Camilo uses the oldest strategy in the book: to be as real as possible and make the best songs possible.”

That devotion to authenticity is exactly what led Camilo, 26, to begin working on his next album so soon, and during a global pandemic, while in lockdown with his wife, actress-singer Evaluna Montaner. “The most beautiful things come out of the most complex moments,” he says. “Frustration invokes a lot more creativity.”A modern-day troubadour whose rhythmic pop fusions are the canvas for his sincere lyrics, Camilo says Mis Manos is “an exploration of all sides of my identity.” Of his second album’s 11 tracks, many dip into different rhythms, from cumbia (“Vida de Rico”) to bachata (“Bebé”) to sultry reggaetón (“Ropa Cara”).

Daniella Benedetti
Camilo photographed on February 1, 2021 in Bogotá, Columbia.

But for as confident as Camilo’s sound has become, it was only discovered a few years ago. As a rising artist in Colombia, he was paired with Montaner at a 2015 event as a co-presenter. He fell for her fast, and while fostering a long-distance friendship while she lived in Miami, he composed and shared a whistling love song for her titled “Medialuna” (which later became the opening track on Por Primera Vez). She showed it to her father, veteran Argentine-Venezuelan artist Ricardo Montaner, who believed Camilo had a bright career ahead of him. “He started seeing things in my music that I didn’t see before,” says Camilo of his now father-in-law.

Camilo moved to Miami in 2018 at age 24, and Ricardo swiftly signed him to his HAMM label. Soon after, Camilo scored an invite to record guitar during a session for Ricardo’s sons, acclaimed duo Mau y Ricky. “Just being there made it possible for a lot of singer-songwriters to know me,” says Camilo.

He continued to build his network, composing on Becky G and Natti Natasha’s track “Sin Pijama” and co-writing Bad Bunny’s “Si Estuviésemos Juntos.” By 2019, Ricardo helped Camilo secure a recording contract with Sony Music Latin (in partnership with HAMM), and that spring, he released his tropipop debut single, “No Te Vayas.” Ferradas (who formerly managed Shakira for Latin markets) later signed on to manage Camilo. “I describe Camilo’s team as a train where the engine is his songs,” says Ferradas. “Without a good song, we can’t do anything.”

Social media also plays an important role in Camilo’s skyrocketing career, especially TikTok, where he has amassed over 21 million followers — surpassing J Balvin last fall to become the most-followed Latin artist on the app. Going all-in on dance challenges and collaborating with other popular TikTok stars, such as actress Fefi Oliveira and artist Rauw Alejandro, has enabled Camilo to rake in his followers so quickly. Even more crucial to his career, though, is his wife. “Her smile is the thermometer that tells me if the song I’m writing is good or not,” says Camilo. More broadly, he says being part of the talented Montaner family has inspired him to challenge himself to never get too comfortable heading in any one sonic direction.

“My creative ambitions are born from my thirst to share what I have within,” he says. “We’re talking about Mis Manos right now, but I’m already writing my next album — and I have the following one in my head.”