When Lili Zetina was a toddler, she used to pretend that the sheep she was feeding in her family’s humble ranch were an audience, and she’d put on a show for them. Her earliest memories of feeling that desire to sing was when she was 3 growing up in the state of Michoacán in Mexico.
“My childhood was difficult because we were very poor,” shares Zetina. “But living in poverty marked my life and it now makes me value what God gives me every single day.” Music became an escapism out of that world. And it was also what really fed her soul. “For me music was and will always be my comfort and a sort of release of joy or grief.”
Although music was part of her daily life, with Chalino Sánchez and other corrido artists soundtracking her life, pursuing a career in music seemed unimaginable. So she set aside those dreams. She married young and emigrated to the U.S. seeking the so-called Sueño Americano, or American Dream. Since, she’s been hustling, going from waitress to singing at restaurants (the same she was waitressing in) and now a promising corridos career, making a name for herself in a male-dominated space. Her songs such as “Te Cobraron Caro Los Años” and “El Grande De U,” like all corridos at their core, tell stories of hardships.
“My style of writing songs I don’t think I ever learned how to write a song, actually, I didn’t even know I could write,” she says. “But from the bad, something good always comes out. So, my first song was born out of a betrayal. From then on, I just wrote about stuff that happened to me because other people are going through this stuff too.”
Zetina, who launched her own recording label, Zetina Records, to release her own music, says that while there’s still inequality in the genre, sharing success stories like hers will inspire a new generation of regional Mexican artists. “I think it will always be hard,” she begins. “But I’ve always said, people will start believing in you when you prove to them that you mean business.”
For now, Zetina wants to continue being an independent artist and keep growing her brand on her own. “I have my own label and I don’t say this to brag. As a woman, no one will really support you. And we have to show men to value and respect us in this genre.”
Zetina is set to be part of the Women on the Rise panel at this year’s Billboard Latin Music Week, which will be moderated by singer/songwriter Elena Rose. She’ll be joined by fellow emerging acts such as Tini, Emilia Mernes, Tokischa and Mariah Angeliq. The conversation will take place Tuesday, Sept. 27, at the Faena in Miami.
The 32nd edition of Latin Music Week, the longest-running Latin music industry gathering in the world, will be packed with back-to-back appearances by artists such as Chiquis, Ivy Queen, Camilo, Romeo Santos, Maluma, Grupo Firme and Chayanne, to name a few, throughout the week in Miami.
Below, get to know this month’s Latin Artist on the Rise:
Name: Lilia Zetina Marin
Recommended Song: It’s tough to pick but “Hola Papá” is probably the song that defines me. I never thought I’d be a songwriter; I just write what I feel. But this one particularly, every time I feel sadness in my heart, I remember about it. I wrote it for my father.
Major Accomplishment (to date): I’d say to be able to feed my children working in the career of my dreams. Today, I can give my kids a better life and that is above everything I’ve been able to achieve as a songwriter. And also, that I’m one of the women in regional Mexican that is working really hard among a pack of only men.
What’s Next: I’m enjoying every month of this year so there are a bunch of corrido duets that I’ll be releasing. I have a duet with El Mimoso, Banda Los Costeños, Erika Vidrio, Diana Reyes, and many other ones. I’ll also have a role in an upcoming Mexican film, and I’m planning many projects for 2023.