For Rosalía, Producing Is a Path To Creative Control
Following in the footsteps of artist-producers like Björk and Missy Elliott, Billboard's first-ever Women in Music Producer of the Year hopes to motivate a new generation of innovators.
When asked if she remembers her first forays into producing, Rosalía giggles. “Oh, my God. I always felt that I wasn’t good enough, so I would treat it more like a game,” she says, before quickly adding, “Still, I wanted to learn how to make a beat because when the time came that I needed to do it, I would be able to do it.”
What started as a “game” inevitably became a way for the 30-year-old Spanish star to gain creative control — something she doesn’t take for granted considering the lack of women in the field. “There’s [still] skepticism about a woman being able to be an artist, singer, producer and songwriter at the same time. To me, these disciplines are not mutually exclusive.”
Like her previous albums (Los Ángeles and El Mal Querer), Rosalía’s Grammy-winning Motomami, released in 2022, thrives on the intersection of those skills. The sonically groundbreaking set — which finds her boldly fusing jazz and reggaetón (“Saoko”), as well as sampling Soulja Boy in an otherwise traditional bolero (“Delirio de Grandeza”) — is an honest expression of the creative freedom she felt as she drew inspiration from the sounds and artists that have shaped her. During the sessions, she would sit in the studio for 15 hours or more, searching for the right sounds, arrangements and structures for each song. “My homework as a producer is to follow my intuition,” she says firmly. “It’s to make decisions and take risks.”
Following in the footsteps of the artist-producers she read about when she was younger, like Björk and Missy Elliott, Billboard’s first-ever Women in Music Producer of the Year hopes to motivate a new generation of innovators.
What led you to first take on this role in the studio?
My first desire was to be onstage and share something. Then I realized that I wanted to decide what I was going to sing. I also wanted to decide what I was going to say and how it would sound. I didn’t just want to be an interpreter. I wanted to write, and then I wanted to produce. The desire to create became bigger than the desire to just interpret.
Is Motomami the freest you’ve ever felt as a producer?
One hundred percent yes. I was always thinking: “How can I be freer?” Fear, or whatever the opposite of freedom is, is the biggest enemy for a creative. There was an urge to find the reason why I’m doing this. “What is the world all about? What is life about?” All those things matter, and it’s why I make music.
What’s Rosalía the producer like in the studio?
I try to not have a specific idea of how a song must sound. Instead, I go in with concepts, or ilusiones, of how I would like it to sound. But never a rigid idea. That’s not organic, nor is it productive. Producing also requires humility because you’re constantly testing out ideas. I remember Pharrell [Williams] once told me that we’re just testing ideas from the universe because no one really owns an idea. I love that concept.
You’ve been very vocal about the lack of representation of women producers. Why is that important to you?
If you don’t see yourself represented in a role like this, how can you picture yourself working in that position? I became a songwriter and producer because I cared way too much. I did research when I was younger of women who were producing, and it was hard to find them, but they taught me that this was possible. Björk, Delia Derbyshire, Kate Bush — they’ve done this, and we don’t talk about it enough. I know I’m not the only one because there’s a new generation of women producing like Caroline Polachek, PinkPantheress — there are literally so many. It would be great if more people knew about them outside of the industry.
This story originally appeared in the Feb. 25, 2023, issue of Billboard.