Juan Campodónico is a member of the electro-tango collective Bajofondo, whose music has brought the essence of South American romance to a new generation of international club goers. The Uruguayan musician and producer of artists including Latin Grammy winners Cuarteto de Nos, Campodónico calls the sound of his own band “subtropical.” Campo puts out a cosmopolitan mix of indie rock melodies, electronic rhythms and urban dance sounds from Argentina and Uruguay.
At home in Montevideo between an Uruguayan summer beach vacation and his upcoming trip to Los Angeles for the Grammys, Campodónico spoke to Billboard about his surprise at the nomination of Campo’s “ultra independent” self-titled debut in the Grammys’ latin rock, urban or alternative album category.
What were you doing when you found out that you were nominated for a Grammy?
I knew that the album had been submitted, but I thought it had been counted out of the running. One day I got up without expecting anything at all and I saw a tweet about the nomination, and then songwriter Martin Rivero from the band called me. I spent the day unable to believe it was true. It’s still hard for me to believe it.
What is the most surprising thing that happened to you this past year?
So many things happened with my music. “Campo” is an ultra independent album. It has no label, only distribution. It’s a project that came out of nowhere in a short amount of time, and we were nominated for a Latin Grammy and now a Grammy. The album has also gotten a lot of props here in Uruguay. We won a Graffiti Award, those are the Uruguayan music awards. The speed at which this album attracted attention is incredible, it’s the digital age we’re living in. We are very surprised and happy that music can have this power and an independent project can have so much repercussion.
What is your most important goal for 2013?
It’s a big year. The Bajofondo album is coming out [in March on Sony Masterworks] and Campo will be recording a new album. Personally, above all, I want to study things I’ve never learned, like piano and dancing.
Are you going to the Grammys? Who would you like to meet on the night of the awards?
Maybe The Black Keys, they’re super favorites of mine.
What’s the biggest advice you can give aspiring artists trying to make it in the business?
Always put the music first. The more beautiful, deeper and dedicated your music is, the better the odds it will go well. Music is the base, it’s what makes everything else about the industry make sense. Really focus on the music and be creative.
At what point in your career did you know you had made it?
I did a lot of different things, and I had a lot of bands before I met Gustavo Santaolalla (the Oscar-winning composer and co-member of Bajofondo) and really started to dedicate myself professionally to music. I was working as a producer with Jorge Drexler, and Bajofondo took off. Around 2001 I was living from my music. That’s when I realized how lucky I was that I decided to concentrate on music as a career.
What one thing would your fans be surprised to find out about you?
Jazz and classical music is what I most like listening to now. Chopin and Debussy really inspire me. It has nothing to do with the music that I make.
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