Emilia wrote her first song when she was just 10 years old, and she made it her mission to earn some cash performing it for friends and family.
“It was a silly song, as you can imagine,” the 24-year-old rising Argentine artist remembers. “But every time there was a dinner or a gathering in our house, I would bring out my guitar and perform it. Then I’d pass around my little hat so people could pay up.”
Growing up in a small city in the province of Entre Ríos in Argentina, Emilia never imagined she would ever perform outside of her house — much less make a living off a career in music. “Back then, it was a hobby,” she says during a phone interview with Billboard. “But I loved it regardless. It filled me.”
She credits her grandfather — who taught her how to play guitar at a young age — and growing up in a household that listened to a wide range of music genres (from tango to pop) with fueling her passion for music. But even then, she took a different route. After high school, she pursued a career in literature, although she quickly realized that it wasn’t for her so she started thinking seriously about going into music. “I wanted a job in music, whatever that looked like. I just knew I wanted to be surrounded by it.”
Her first big break came when a producer discovered her cover songs on Instagram. “He invited me to join this band called Rombai and so I did, and that was my first industry job. Everything was new, going on tours, people asking for photos on the street. It was a new world for me.”
A world she’d stay in, next branching out as a solo artist after a two-year stint with cumbia-pop group Rombai form 2016 to 2018. Soon after, she went to Miami with the money she had saved from her time with the band to record some music that reached her now-manager, Walter Kolm, and Sony Music Latin — with whom she signed management and recording deals, respectively, in 2019.
“It was an incredible and beautiful moment in my career, because these two powerhouses were betting on me and my project,” she says. “I mean, Walter is a renowned manager and a great businessman, so for him to want to be my manager and to be the only woman on his roster was really special.”
While she has yet to drop her debut album, Emilia has released a handful of urban-leaning singles in collaboration with artists such as Panamanian reggaetonero Boza (“Perreito Salvaje”), Puerto Rican rapper Darell (“No Soy Yo”), R&B singer Alex Rose (“Bendición”) and Argentine rapper Duki (“Como Si No Importara”). In August, the Duki-assisted track scored Emilia her first entry on the Billboard Global Excl. U.S. chart. She’s already placed five songs on the Billboard Argentina Hot 100.
“I love how we’ve embraced collaborations because they truly are magical when it comes to giving you exposure in places you thought you could never reach. For example, when I collaborated with Boza, many people didn’t know me in Panama, but they did after we sang together. And same thing happened with him getting new recognition in Argentina.”
For now, Emilia promises to release more singles in anticipation of her first album, which could drop before the year ends, according to the artist. She will also be part of Billboard‘s Latin Music Week lineup, joining our traditional “On the Rise” panel, which gets a revamp this year with a new crop of rising female talent representing different genres from all corners of the globe. Presented by Amazon Music Latin, “Women on the Rise” will feature up-and-coming artists such as Emilia, Elena Rose, Las Villa and Mariah Angeliq.
Meet this month’s Billboard Latin Artist on the Rise below:
Name: Emilia Mernes Rueda
Recommended Song: “Como Si No Importara” – Emilia & Duki
Major Accomplishment: I would have to say my collaboration with Duki. It’s different than what I’ve done before, it’s a beautiful story with lyrics that can make people identify with the story. This song has brought me much happiness. We went platinum with this song in Argentina, which for me was a dream come true. And it’s great to see so many people around the world embrace “Como Si No Importara.”
What’s Next: My fans will soon be able to see me as an actor since I have a new project I’m working on for Disney+. Plus, I plan on releasing new music and hopefully my debut album before the year ends.