Calibre 50‘s concert in Fort Worth, Texas, on Sunday seemed like any other show. The band ate breakfast together, joked on the bus, and went onstage to sing their norteño anthems, just like they had for the past 12 years.
Except it wasn’t like any other show: It would be the last time Edén Muñoz, the band’s frontman and accordionist, would perform with his longtime bandmates (Armando Ramos, Alejandro Gaxiola, and Erick García) before officially announcing and launching his solo career.
For many, the announcement seemed out of the blue — rash even. But this decision was something that the 31-year-old Mexican singer-songwriter and producer meditated on carefully and for quite some time, he explains. “The first time I noticed something was off was back in 2015,” Muñoz says during a phone call interview with Billboard, two days after announcing he was going solo and had signed a record and management deal with indie label Lizos Music (Banda MS, Natalia Jiménez).
“I realized that as a group, we were a concept, but we weren’t the type of artists who give concept to a song. Sometimes during production or post-production I would make suggestions that weren’t taken into consideration. For example, if it was a ballad, perhaps it could have been more minimal in terms of production, add a little guitar to make it pop or just have a simple piano tune power it. But that didn’t fit into Calibre 50’s style or concept, which was very much hard-core norteño and banda. And these were songs I had written. Maybe if they weren’t my songs, there wouldn’t be an issue. But I saw how some of my songs didn’t reach their potential simply because they had to fall under this structure,” he adds.
But he stayed, and with Calibre 50, he reached chart-topping success in the years to come. Calibre 50 placed seven No. 1 albums on the Regional Mexican Albums chart. Their most recent album, Vamos Bien, peaked at No. 8 on the tally (dated Sept. 11), and earlier this month, the group scored its 21st No. 1 on the Regional Mexican Airplay chart (dated Jan. 22) with their Marco Antonio Solís cover “Si Te Puediera Mentir.” With 21 chart-toppers, the band from Sinaloa extends its record for the most No. 1s since the Regional Mexican Airplay chart launched in 1994.
Muñoz, who was named songwriter of the year at the annual 2021 SESAC Latin Music Awards, penned most of Calibre 50’s repertoire — which will remain Calibre 50’s songs, he says categorically. After all, Muñoz has something different in mind for his solo project.
Sure, he’ll still sing breakup rancheras and party anthems, but his sonority will go from pure norteño to a fusion of sounds that range from big band to mariachi. Onstage, he’ll also be accompanied by nearly 30 musicians. “I feel alive again. I feel like I’ve escaped monotony. I’m motivated now that I have creative freedom.”
Since announcing he is no longer part of Calibre 50, Muñoz has been on an emotional roller coaster processing the good and the bad. “I’m excited but also nervous. I’ve relied on therapy and allowed myself to cry the tears I have to cry. Closing a chapter isn’t easy, especially when you leave behind friends that became family,” says Muñoz. “But, at the end of the day, I have to face reality again with my head held up high.”
Below, a Q&A with Muñoz on his decision, why he signed with Lizos Music, and his upcoming new single “Chale,” out Feb. 18.
How are you feeling? Does it feel like a big weight has been lifted off your shoulders now that you’ve shared the news with your fans?
I’m excited but nervous because I’m starting something totally different. I’m not starting from scratch, but there’s a lot of hope but also a lot of uncertainty. The transition has been hard. It’s something that I’ve looked for and don’t regret. I’ve relied on therapy and allowed myself to cry the tears I have to cry. But like any other chapter you’re closing, it isn’t easy and you need help to process, especially when you leave behind friends that became family.
I don’t think anyone was expecting this type of announcement, but I know there were a lot of factors that contributed to this decision. When did you realize it was time for a change?
I began this career at a very young age. I was 13 years old when I joined my first group but it wasn’t until 2012 that we truly became Calibre 50. We crafted a formula that’s really worked for us for many years now. But it was in 2015 that I noticed something was off. I realized that as a group were were a concept, but we weren’t the type of artists who give concept to a song. Sometimes during production or post-production I would make suggestions that weren’t taken into consideration. For example, if it was a ballad, perhaps it could have been more minimal in terms of production, add a little guitar to make it more pop or just have a simple piano tune power it. But that didn’t fit into Calibre 50’s style or concept, which was very much hardcore norteño and banda. And these were songs I had written. Maybe if they weren’t my songs, there wouldn’t be an issue. But I saw how some of my songs didn’t reach their potential simply because they had to fall under this structure.
But we kept growing as a group [so I stayed]. Then, three years ago, I became a father and having to work every weekend became really hard. I don’t want a tour to consume me and be the type of father that is always absent, like my father was. I love my dad so much but he wasn’t there for me. I want to break that cycle. So much that I’m willing to start again but under my own terms this time and with creative freedom.
I know you’ve already recorded most of the songs that will be part of your first album as a solo artist, so what type of impact has this “creative freedom” had on you as a musician?
The impact has been immensely positive in every sense of the word. I’m going to say something that maybe I shouldn’t say but it’s my reality: I feel alive again. I feel like I’ve escaped monotony. I feel motivated and that has also helped my personal life. I want to start going to the gym again, be a better husband, father and friend. That’s just how I work. It’s also been interesting recording alone because I can be really honest with myself. I pat myself on the back whenever something comes out great and I’m really hard on myself when something doesn’t. It’s been really healthy.
Why did you decide to sign a record and management deal with Sergio Lizárraga’s Lizos Music? What did they offer you that other labels didn’t?
First I’ll say that Sergio and I have been friends for 15 years now. Before Calibre 50, I used to play with this other group that performed in the same places Banda MS would. I’ve seen him grow as a person and as a professional who assembled great team and has done big things with his artists. Listen, I left a great family (Calibre 50) to join another great family. I based my decision on the fact that I know Sergio as not only a friend, but as a businessman who is passionate and wants to do things right. When we had to sign a paper it was weird because we’re friends so first we shook on it and promised to take care of each other. Then we awkwardly signed the deal because well, that’s how things work around here.
What can fans expect from you in terms of upcoming projects?
I’m constantly writing or coming up with beats or melodies and its something I can’t control. But that has also led me to this wide-ranging field of opportunities. I definitely want to dabble in new sounds and experiment with the different [Regional Mexican] subgenres that have become popular in the past few years. I’m actually not that old so I think this is the perfect time to start experimenting and see what works and what doesn’t work. I can’t wait for you all to listen to the music I’ve been working on because once you hear it, you’ll understand what I’ve been trying to say about fusing different sounds. My first single, “Chale,” will still be a party, drinking song but it will include jazz drums, mariachi, big band arrangements and a subtle tuba. You probably think I’m talking nonsense here but you’ll get it when you listen to it. Trust me.
Calibre 50 is now looking for a new singer to join the group in an open audition. Do you have any advice for the artist who joins the group that was your home for 12 years?
I’m no one to give advice but Calibre 50 is special because I can say we were sort of born together. This person will take the place I had for many years and he won’t only have to sing and play the accordion but also be a frontman. The only piece of advice I could offer to that person is for them to be authentic. Edén was always authentic and I think that really made me stand out. Many times they’ll try to replace someone who leaves a band with another artist who looks or sings like them but this person should bring their own style. What if they’re so unique that they can take Calibre 50 to a new level? This person could be a game-changer, who knows.
You played your last show with Calibre 50 over the weekend in Fort Worth. What went through your mind?
We had a few shows throughout Texas that had been rescheduled. It was like any other show but I was super anxious also knowing that it was the day of the last show. But I was at ease because my departure felt very mature, very genuine and feeling so much love and respect for my bandmates. They’ve been family. But we went onstage and gave it our 100%, like we always did. It was perfect.