While hunkered down in Puerto Rico, Residente is finding solace in writing music during these trying times.
His new song, “Antes Que El Mundo Se Acabe,” suggests that before the world ends, “we gotta kiss now.” “I was feeling anxious because of all the uncertainty when I was writing it and writing for me is like therapy,” Residente tells Billboard.
Featuring an array of couples around the globe, including Bad Bunny and girlfriend Gabriela, Lionel Messi and his wife Antonela and Ricky Martin and his husband Jwan Yosef, the idea of a chain of kisses is what started this three-week project that seemed simple at first, but turned a lot more complicated than he expected.
“The difficult thing is to find all of these people wanting to kiss during a pandemic and a kiss maybe looks easy but it was very complicated and not everyone kisses,” explains Residente.
Aside from making music, Residente has kept busy during the quarantine chatting with presidents in Latin America about how they’re dealing with the pandemic in their countries. “I wanted for the people of Puerto Rico to see what other presidents are doing, to see other people with other ideas,” he says.
Below, Billboard caught up with Resident to talk about his new song, recording music while in confinement and who is next on his list to interview.
At what point in the pandemic did you start writing “Antes Que El Mundo Se Acabe”?
You know, I was supposed to release my album today but I postponed it because of what’s happening. I was going to release a different single but I decided to change the song to something that goes more with the situation. I had a party song but I don’t even feel like partying right now. The whole concept of this song was born three weeks ago when I started to write ideas of how to direct a video from my house while working with other artists in other parts of the world. I got this idea of having a chain of kisses around the world. I thought, this is probably simple but I’d have to write a whole new song for this video. The was to have a chain of kisses around the world from all social classes.
I was feeling anxious because of all the uncertainty when I was writing it and writing for me is like therapy. Once I started writing the song and creating the video at the same time, I thought was going to be easy because it was just a kiss. But the difficult thing is to find all of these people wanting to kiss during a pandemic and a kiss maybe looks easy but it was very complicated and not everyone kisses. I spoke with friends that were willing to kiss for the video and also started talking to people directly on Instagram. I spoke with more than 100 people for this and explained to them that it has to be recorded with a camera and if they didn’t have a camera it could be with a phone but it has to be horizontal. It was very complicated. There were times when I was convincing someone and they were super interested and then at the end they’d say “But, I don’t have a partner…”
What’s it been like for you to write and record music while in confinement?
For this song, I recorded myself with a microphone I have here. It was the first time I did it myself because usually I have my engineer. Then, I composed the harmony of the music with an app that I have. I spoke with my Leo Genovese who is a genius, a piano player, and he helped me out with other of the chords that I wanted to play. I was listening while he was playing the piano and I would say, ‘Yes, I want that,’ or, ‘No I don’t like that.’ Once I finished the song, I realized that I needed for it to be longer because I have a lot of kisses. So, I did a longer version of the song which is why I decided to include different voices around the world. I have people from Morocco, India, Senegal and from Pakistan singing my lyrics in their language. I edited the video by myself using Premiere. It took me a while. And then I called a friend from Argentina who did all the typography by hand. It was a very nice project that kept me occupied and thinking less about bad things.
Besides making music, you’ve been interviewing presidents from Latin America on Instagram live. Why did you want to do this and what did you want to achieve?
The thing is that here in Puerto Rico, we have a government that is not doing well, they’re doing everything wrong. Then, we have Trump that is the president we have connection with because we are a colony of the U.S. so we have this government and then we have Trump. I wanted to show how other presidents are dealing with this pandemic. And, I started with the president from El Salvador because he has this idea of letting people stay in their houses while he helps them financially. He was approaching the pandemic in a nice way, for me. I didn’t know anything about him and I also wanted to interview him to understand him more, understand his ideas and allow people to ask questions. And, I wanted for the people of Puerto Rico to see what other presidents are doing, to see other people with other ideas.
Then, I did the interview with the president from Argentina. He’s doing a good job also with the pandemic. And with President José Mujica from Uruguay because he is a philosopher and I wanted to know what he had to say about the situation. I stopped with the interviews because I was working on this and this consumed a lot of my time. I was writing, making music, producing the video, editing the video, but I want to interview a few more presidents and leaders.
Trump. That would be super interesting. I would do it, of course, but I don’t think he would because he’s going to search for me and realize I wouldn’t ask him questions that he’d like to answer.
What’s the status on the album?
The album is postponed. Everything has a timing. For me, it needs to be a good moment and I don’t think it’s a good moment for my album. I don’t feel that people will enjoy the album the same way with this quarantine and this pandemic. I will wait until everything gets better to release the album. In the meantime, I can release songs that I’m feeling at the moment. They don’t have to be songs like these all the time. It could be happy songs but more connected with what’s happening now. Although I won’t talk about the pandemic and reminding people of what’s happening. We don’t need that right now.
What type of impact do you think the pandemic will have on the music industry and musicians?
It’s a great moment to do things you’ve never done. Like, I really don’t know why people keep trying to make the same type of hits instead of using this moment to put out things that they’re feeling. You don’t have the need of putting out a hit because you’re not going to perform. If there’s a moment to put out different things, it’s now. Things you’ve never done. Concerts will eventually start but later. This is a chance for artists to reboot and think differently.