It’s been a huge week for Natalia Lafourcade — and one in which she hasn’t slept much. But that’s quite all right, because the Mexican indie pop darling has been celebrating her five Latin Grammy nominations, including album of the year for Hasta La Raíz and song and record of the year for its title song.
It was a rather unexpected triumph, since Lafourcade hasn’t had a presence on the Billboard charts in years, but it’s also a reaffirmation that great music from quieter artists is still being recognized in a major way.
The magic is in Lafourcade’s collaboration with fellow Mexican singer-songwriter (and former Sin Bandera member) Leonel García, who scored the most nominations (six) this year — three of them for Lafourcade’s “Hasta La Raíz,” which they co-wrote. The two had worked together on several past projects, including García’s Todas Mías album in 2013 and her own tribute album to the late Mexican icon Agustín Lara Mujer Divina in 2012.
Already certified platinum in Mexico, Hasta La Raíz is physically out today (Sept. 25) in the U.S., where many are bound to discover it for the first time. The Latin Grammy nominations will likely boost interest, as well as a string of stateside concerts starting this month. As part of her U.S. trek this fall, Lafourcade will play in venues she’s never played before, such as Lincoln Theater in Washington D.C. and Irving Plaza in New York City.
We caught up with the gifted 31-year-old backstage at The Fonda Theatre in Hollywood the same day in which the nominations were announced, right before she hit the stage as part of the Latin Grammy Acoustic Sessions. Fellow nominee Julieta Venegas also performed.
Congratulations, first and foremost, on all the Latin Grammy nods! Now that Hasta La Raíz is being released here in the U.S., what do you hope will happen?
I hope they’ll connect to it. When I released the album in Mexico I was hoping people would like it and enjoy it, but beyond that, I was hoping they would connect to the things that I’m saying. It’s been amazing to see how people were drawn to it there immediately after it came out. It all happened really fast.
Why do you think that was?
Well, when you release an album, you never know what’s going to happen; you don’t know if they’re going to like it or not. I was just hoping that my music would keep them company — in their homes or in their cars or while they’re running or going to school or whatever. So now I feel very fortunate and also very thankful. Their support makes it worth it – all the work that we do.
Your previous album was a tribute to Agustín Lara. What was the process of writing and recording original material again after that?
At first it was challenging and intimidating. I was going through this phase three years ago when I was just starting the Agustín Lara project and I was trying to write [original] songs but I had this block; the inspiration wasn’t there. I was hoping that that would go away one day and thankfully, it did.
At what point did you decide you wanted to work with Leonel García again for this album?
I was torn – on the one hand, I wanted to work by myself so I could find that connection, and on the other hand, I wanted to share the process for the first time because it would be different, since I’m used to just working alone. Leonel and I became really good friends when we first worked together a few years ago. So by the time I knew I wanted to share the process, I also knew I wanted Leonel to be a songwriter as well as a producer. And I’m so glad I did, because I’ve learned so many new things. Normally you do things your way, but once you learn someone else’s process you can pick certain things and use them.
The U.S. tour is coming up. What can people expect?
Now it’s wonderful because we can finally bring the band with me for shows in the U.S. and give people the same experience that we offer in Mexico. It used to be smaller shows, just me and my guitar. So we’re sharing my music in a bigger way. I’m excited.
Do you remember your first Latin Grammy awards in 2003, when you were up for best new artist?
That time I didn’t know what all this means. Everything was new. I didn’t know anything about the music industry. What I wanted to do was sing and share my music but beyond that, I didn’t know what I wanted. I remember being at the awards show with Juanes, Beto Cuevas, Shakira, Maná, Gustavo Cerati. They were the artists that I looked up to so it was an overwhelming, weird feeling, like ‘What am I doing here?’
How does being recognized with these kinds of nominations and awards feel different now?
Now, it means a lot and it feels different because I did go through a phase when I didn’t know what to do with my career seven, eight years ago. I moved to Canada and I was going through this period where I was trying to reach and explore, and figure out who I am. After that, when I went back to Mexico, my career was gone. I had to start all over again and that was actually nice — I don’t regret anything. I’m happy that I could rebuild what I wanted to do and be real, not the thing that others tell you to be. Now it feels great because I get to share what I do with my amazing band and my team, who has supported me so much. It took me a while to find this comfortable place and this is it.