Natalia Jimenez Talks 'Old-School' Approach to 'Creo en Mi' Album
In an era where artists are pressured to drop a hot single every three months in an effort to remain relevant, Natalia Jimenez is marching to the beat of her own drum, choosing to make music that's timeless rather than trendy. That's why she took almost four years to deliver a follow-up to her solo debut album. The result is Creo en Mí (I Believe in Myself), a collection of 11 songs that is as cohesive as it is uplifting.
Out Tuesday (March 17) via Sony Music Latin, the album is named after her inspirational ballad (written with Claudia Brant) about the triumph of the human spirit. Besides showcasing her signature powerhouse vocals, it carries a positive message: Believe in yourself even when the odds are against you and you're hoping against hope.
The 33-year-old Spanish singer-songwriter, who got her start as the lead singer of Grammy-winning Spanish pop group La Quinta Estación, is also celebrating her finalist slot for next month's Billboard Latin Music Awards in the hot Latin songs - female artist category for "Creo en Mí." And on Monday, TV viewers got to see her return as a coach on season 3 of Telemundo's La Voz Kids with Daddy Yankee and Pedro Fernandez.
While she was in Los Angeles promoting the album, Billboard sat down with Jimenez, known for interacting with fans on social media with fun hashtags like #CaféPorDios.
In many ways, the making of this album went against what most artists do these days. What was that process like?
Nowadays, people do music so fast. I'm a little old-school. I wrote like 25 to 30 songs, and out of those, I chose the ones that I thought gave the album a certain shape and edge. I wanted it to be fun, I wanted it to be emotional, and I needed those songs to make sense together -- it's a lot to ask, so it took me a long time. Listening to "Creo en Mi," which I wrote in 2012, helped a lot while I was doing it.
You must have gotten so many reactions to that song -- what's one that stuck with you?
I had the pleasure of meeting this man named Hector from New York. He wrote to me one day to tell me that he was diagnosed with cancer and that he was undergoing chemo. I followed him on Twitter and we started talking on social media. Every week he would send me updates on how he was doing. I finally got the chance to meet him in person and give him a hug in December when we went to New York. He was very weak from the chemo but he came to my concert. He wrote to me the other day and told me that he's cancer-free. He was telling me that thanks to my music he made it through. It's just so beautiful because I write these songs in my house with a friend and you never think that it's going to have such an impact in someone's life.
The album's second single, "Quédate con Ella," is a fun ranchera/pop hybrid, a sound you've become associated with. How did your love for Mexican music start?
I think that it was after my first album with La Quinta. We got to Mexico in 2002 or 2003. Our first album played in novelas but it didn't do much. We were doing regular Spanish pop/rock. And then we met Armando Avila who was known for this banda sound and was producing pop by then. He came up with this idea of blending it a bit and by the end of my career with La Quinta Estación, I just found this attachment to it and I found it easy to sing. It's very empowering to sing rancheras and come out there and just belt it out.
Who's an example of an unexpected collaborator on the album?
Producer-wise, for example, "Escapar" and "Angeles Caidos," are two songs that I did here in LA with Ambience [Scott Effman and Lukas Nathanson]. They're a team of songwriters and producers, one is American and the other one is from Sweden. I love the Swedish because they make crazy music! They just do electronic music very well. And Motiff, who is Venezuelan and Dominican, also worked on the production of those songs. That was the most fun I had doing songs for this album. It was just a weird, cool pairing of people.
What did your time with La Quinta Estación teach you about life and music that you still use to this day?
It taught me everything. Before I was with La Quinta I was an amateur. The fact that I went into this band and we toured and we had the success that we did, it turned me into an artist. It gave me the strength to know that I can write songs and perform them. When you're starting out and you're singing in a subway, there are days when you say, 'I'm never gonna make it.' But being a part of that made me believe in myself. "Creo en Mi" -- it's funny because now I keep saying it.
Just curious: What book are you reading right now?
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Everyone was always telling me about it, so I finally bought it and I read it. It's a good book.