Singer-songwriter Kany Garcia’s journey to the Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart was fraught with drama.
You could say it started when her father, who came from a family of flamenco guitarists, abandoned the priesthood to be with her mother, a music teacher.
Or when Garcia, who spent all her life studying at conservatories in Puerto Rico, made the cut for reality singing competition “Objetivo Fama” in 2003. After she taped her first episode, she fell asleep at the wheel on her way home and hit a lamppost, fracturing her pelvis, clavicle and requiring 40 stitches on her face. She spent two months recuperating; her reality TV break was done for.
But Garcia wasn’t about to give up. “Obviously something like that adds a lot to you as a human being in the sense that you value everything more,” says Garcia, 25. “You want to be totally sure you reach people. You’re much more determined. When it comes time to record, you expect a lot more of yourself.”
She had initially sent her demo to Sony BMG, home to famed Venezuelan singer-songwriter Franco de Vita, who at the same time went to his label looking for a local singer with whom to duet when he came to Puerto Rico to perform.
The label set up a rehearsal with de Vita and Garcia, and the audience reaction was so positive that de Vita invited her to perform on several dates of his U.S. tour. In time, Garcia also recorded her first album, “Cualquier Dia,” released on Sony BMG.
The first single from that effort, Garcia’s piano- and guitar-driven breakup song “Hoy Ya Me Voy,” debuted at No. 42 on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart. (The song, and Garcia herself, are also featured in a commercial for wireless company Centennial Puerto Rico).
What has set Garcia apart from other pop divas on the charts, other than writing her own songs and ability to play guitar, is her blend of commercial melodies with lyrics that are sometimes bracingly personal, even if the story isn’t always about her.
“I always write about things that happen to me, and also a lot of stories that people tell me,” says Garcia. She wrote her album track “Adonde Fue Cecilia?” about a missing girl, after meeting rape victims and parents whose daughters had been kidnapped during a volunteer trip to El Salvador.
Garcia’s material is serious but not always heavy; a crowd favorite at a recent L.A. showcase was “Amigo en el Baño,” an uptempo tune about a spurned woman who has just bought a vibrator.
“It’s been pretty cool because it’s a song that a lot of women identify with — and that a lot of people laugh at, and don’t say they identify with, but they do.”
The singer is set to open for Mexican pop blockbuster act Camila in Mexico City’s Auditorio Nacional Aug. 31, though Garcia hopes word-of-mouth will further propel her career ‘Stateside.
“People need something a little deeper than a chorus that everyone knows,” says Garcia. “It’s [about] trying to make space for things that are a little less superficial.”