Rosalia Talks ‘Motomami,’ Love and the Perfect Spanish Tortilla
Watch the exclusive Women In Music Interview
Rosalía waited nearly three years since her ground-breaking El Mal Querer breakthrough set to release Motomami, her new studio album.
In between, she released a plethora of collaborations — of which only one, “La Fama,” featuring The Weeknd, made it onto Motomami. She also immersed herself in reggaetón and Latin culture, she started to date Puerto Rican reggaetón star Rauw Alejandro, she learned to cook, and she found her creative process robbed by a pandemic that left her stranded in Los Angeles, far from her home in Spain.
It’s no wonder that Motomami is an album full of unexpected sounds and sensations; an urban album infused with reggaetón, but also encompassing touches of flamenco, boleros, irony and erotica.
We caught up with Rosalía in celebration of Billboard’s Women In Music Summit, several weeks before Motomami’s March 18 release. She spoke candidly about her creative process, women in Latin music, her love for reggaetón, the meaning of the word Motomami and what she likes to cook for boyfriend Rauw Alejandro. (This interview has been condensed and abbreviated for clarity.)
Motomami is an album that goes in many directions. Did you feel you were actually constructing Rosalía in the process?
I feel I was really more Motomami. I was really focused on figuring out all the pieces. It’s kind of blurry sometimes to create an album, because it’s something that while you work, you find the pieces. I was building what Motomami is, what Motomami means. I wanted this roller coaster energy that is high and low, high and low.
Motomami is the name of my company. Back when I was a teenager, I had a friend whose email account was “Motomami.”
I loved the name and it stayed with me. I associate it with my friend and with motorcycles. My mom has always had motorcycles, I’ve ridden since I was eight years old with my dad. And a Motomami, well, my mom is the OG Motomami. There’s so many Motomamis in the world who have inspired me. My mom, my sister, my friend Hunter Schafer. Motomami is an energy. Anyone can be a Motomami, Motopapi. It’s the way you feel. And also, it’s doing as much as you can with what you have.
As a matter of fact, in 2019, during Billboard’s Women In Music event, we gave you the Rising Star Award. I remember you came from Spain, and your guitarist refused to get on the plane. And you arrived in Los Aneles and performed a cappella with just your palmista (hand clapper).
Oh my God, Leila. That is very Motomami. You forge ahead, no matter what the situation is. That performance was supposed to be flamenco, with a guitar, and there was no guitarist. I didn’t say, “I can’t do it.” I just did it a different way. Y creo que salió bonito.
Si, salió bonito. And when you picked up your award, you spoke about the importance of building a team of women. Are you still doing that?
One hundred percent. My mom inspired me since I was a little kid. My sister inspires me. And they are a big part of what I’m doing. All the women who are around me: [manager] Rebeca León, [personal manager] Cayetana Smith. So many women who are working and producing with me and moving forward with me.
There are only two collabs in this album. One is with The Weeknd, and the other is with Tokischa, a woman. Why her?
I celebrate her art. I think she’s amazing. It’s an honor for me that she’s part of this. She’s amazing with her delivery, she’s a great writer and I love her and I admire her and I admire the way she makes music. I think she’s a Motomami. She’s very unapologetic.
In fact, she’s had a couple of controversies over her content. Is this the kind of thing women have to contend with?
It’s crazy how hard society is sometimes [on women]. It’s crazy how many times we have to say what we do in order for people to understand what we do. How crazy is that? Society takes for granted what men do. But as women, we have to talk about it so much. Why do I have to say so much what I do so people get it? Why don’t people talk about so many [female] friends of mine who are great writers and producers? I still don’t understand why people don’t put enough light on that. In my case, I have a lot of collaborators in this album, like Rita Indiana, Tokischa, Caroline Shaw.
I feel Motomami is a series of uptempo tracks bound by songs that are very deep and intimate and that represent your essence. Did you realize you were putting so much of yourself into the album?
I wanted it to be honest. Almost like when you take a picture in the moment and you want it to show how I feel, who I am in this moment, right now. Also, I was listening to a lot of reggaetón. When I was 15 or 14 even, I used to hear a lot of reggaetón. And it’s just part of my life. It’s music that’s always been there and I’ve always loved. So I felt I should be transparent and that in this moment it’s something I’ve been listening to a lot and I’ve been listening to for years. That’s why there’s a song like “Saoko.”
Do you see it as a reggaetón album? I don’t…
I think that reggaetón is very present, and that it’s a huge, huge inspiration during the whole project. And that Latin America is a huge inspiration and this album wouldn’t exist without those songs and those deliveries I’ve learned by listening to reggaetón. Theres a lot of inspiration in Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. There’s something very special about the music done there. There’s a bolero, like you said. I love boleros. I can listen to boleros for hours. I like to listen to boleros when I’m cooking. I’ve been listening to Plan B for a long time. Don Omar, Hecor. Ivy. Ivy is a huge inspiration for me. Daddy Yankee. Lorna. They are part of my references and I was really excited to put that on the table. And also, in order to create I need to feel free.
I’m very proud to be from Barcelona. But, I love that my music is affected by the fact that I travel, the fact that I’m new spaces and new places and surrounded by new people constantly. And that affects the way I sound and the way I write. That pen changes.
There is no correct or incorrect in making music; if I thought like that I wouldn’t do anything. I always feel music is about an urge. And Motomami, there are so many different influences — there’s a flamenco influence, a bolero influence, a dembow. And I need to feel free to create and I need to create in order to feel free. I make music because that’s my truth.
Meaning, you make music because you have to and not because you want to be famous?
Fame at the end is a consequence. At the end of the day it would be much harder to make music that no one hears. In fact, this project is not designed to make numbers. If it does, it won’t be thanks to me, but to people. I like for people to enjoy it. I’ll be very happy and very grateful. But you don’t do a project like this to make numbers. You don’t do a song with asymmetric structure to make numbers.
I was surprised. I thought you’d come out with one super-obvious, radio-friendly track…
What is it? I would love it this happens. I tried! But it’s not me. Anything that is not honest, it’s not in the album. I love music challenging myself and challenging the person that listens. I can’t change that. I just try to realize who I am and share that. In the end, the music I make is an extension of who I feel and what I am and what I think. My biggest concern while I was doing the album was, I just want to be honest.
You did most of the album during the pandemic. What did you do when you had creative block?
I felt I was very isolated, like everyone else. I was working a lot writing at home, recording things at home. And that was a tough moment. I started training [working out] every day. And I haven’t stopped since then. It’s something that really grounds me. Also cooking. I realized cooking for others makes me really happy.
Really? What am I going to eat when I go to your house?
You tell me what you want and I try to learn how to do it. The other day I made cheesecake for Rauw, because he likes cheesecake. Cooking is almost like saying I love you because it’s nurturing someone and it’s beautiful.
You say the album has blood, sweat and tears. It also has love. Does being in love affect the music?
Yes. Of course. I think love affects everything. I feel like my partner is very supportive. I’m so lucky that he’s always extremely supportive. He wants to see me shine.
So important, right?
Yes. And I feel so lucky my partner is like that. I love him. I love Rauw.
Going back to Women in Music, you said, “This is such a great honor because I’m from Barcelona and I’m recording in Spanish.” How important is it to keep your language?
Honestly what is more important to me is to stay true and honest to who I am. And if one day I’ve done so many talks in English with Leila that I can write in English, I’ll do it. I have to think before I speak in English now.
What’s on your bucket list for the remainder of the year?
To tour again, and to figure out how to make tortilla de papatas (Spanish potato tortilla) without it falling apart on me.