Luck. Serendipity. Destiny.
Those are three words that could be used to describe the unlikely rise of Camila.
The band hit a note with listeners who were used to Rock en Espanol being hard, like Mana, or danceable, like Shakira. They responded to the harmonies and melancholy lyrics of the band and quickly became a national favorite upon the release of their first single, “Abrazame,” in 2006. It got major airtime in Mexico and later that year, the group was nominated for Best New Artist at the Premio Lo Nuestro 2007. Their follow-up single was used a them song for a Mexican telenovela. The third single, Todo Cambio, reached the U.S. Top 20 (18 on Billboard’s Top 50 Latin songs of the year) and got a Latin Grammy.
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But they have stayed true to their roots — soft, romantic rock with lyrics that people identify with throughout the world and sounds that comfort.
Mario Domm, Samo, Pablo Hurtado – who reached stardom status with their first CD and recently released a second — shared their emotional trajectory with a packed room at the Billboard Latin Music Conference & Awards in Miami Beach. During their tour, the three collaborated together writing new songs for the second CD and hadn’t been aware of how much they had done until the tour’s end.
“That’s when we realized we had 40 songs already written. The first thing was to select the 11 that were in the first grouping,” Samo said.
But that didn’t take too much time either, Hurtado said.
“The songs to choose were obvious ones. The three of us knew we needed good songs to have a good disc and that was the priority,” he said. Then they integrated a string quartet and went to Los Angeles to record an orchestra.
“We wanted the songs to have the same intensity in the music that it had in the words,” Hurtado said.
That’s why it took 11 months to record. Said Domm: “At the end when we heard the result we felt it was worth it.”
Cobo noted that the disc is melancholy. “It’s not sad, but it’s very heartfelt.”
“It’s strong subject matter,” Samo said. “We live moments of much solitude, of missing people, missing so many people.”
He recalled being inspired at Miami International Airport once before he boarded a plane for Puerto Rico. “At that moment I felt how time stood still and I was alone, writing in the airport. I wrote and cried and I got on the plane and I kept crying, like a little boy,” Samo said. “But it is part of life. It is part of the emotions of this career, which is so beautiful.”
“To be able to express with your own words what you feel is a privilege. The three of us have lived some very serious moments in the tour. It is a painful disc but also a therapeutic disc.”
The success of the first disc surprised the trio also. “When we went to the studio, we weren’t friends. We didn’t know each other. I said, ‘Shit. This guy sings really incredible… this guy plays really good,” Domm said, adding that he got goosebumps. “It was. My hair stood on end.”
Said Hurtado: “And it still is.”
Cobo asked why they chose to integrate Hurtado into the band: “Camila could have been just you two.”
“He went to casting and I remember saying, ‘Samo, it won’t be good to have students because I want people who know already, not who are learning.’ I just gave him a reference and he played it perfectly,” Domm said. “Destiny is kind of a jokester, eh? There were a loft of guitarists with a lot of experience that came to the audition, and I felt they were apprentices. But the ‘student’ arrives and he’s it. He has magic or something in his hands.”
“From the beginning Pablo was part of Camila,” Samo said. “The project was not to do it just us two, Mario and I. He was not an invited musician. He was a musician who was invited to be part of a project.”
And he took on more and more of the band, singing on Abrazame, and then producing.
There were days that he couldn’t rehearse because he had class or needed to study for a test. “The process was very enriching because there were difficult moments and decisive moments that were changing the direction of our lives.”
Cobo reminded them that it was not until their third single form the first album that they hit big. Domm recalled how label executives met after the first two did so-so to “decide if they close the door on Camila or give us another opportunity. Four of five wanted to invest in another single.”
And then listeners took notice and started buying the CD.
Domm also said it was very rewarding “to be a new group and have a label believing in you.” But they still feel like independents because they stay true to their music and themselves.
“We don’t want to do anything that is not compatible with Camila. We did a commercial and we were doing it for a month, so that when they saw Camila on TV, they saw it natural and not someone who had sold themselves to a label or brand,” Domm said, adding that the original script had them stopping a concert and blowing a kiss to a fan. “Very cheesy,” Domm said. “We would never do that. But instead of saying, ‘No!’ we rained them with ideas to try to change the commercial.”
At the end of the panel, when someone asked why they were named Camila, Domm winced.
“That is the most horrible question,” he laughed.
Hurtado said they had tossed around a bunch of names – “Bazooka and things like that” — but were busy rehearsing that first year. “We didn’t really give it importance. We said, ‘Let’s just rehearse.’ Then they came up with Altavoz and released their first single. When their managers came back and told them that name was registered, someone said, I always have thought of a band named Camila.
“It was ironic because we always said that were not a pre-fabricated band and they cannot name us. And they did end up picking the name.”
Still, nobody expected them to take off like they did — not even them. “I honestly thought we would maybe get to do 30 concerts in Mexico,” Domm said.
They went around the world and the U.S. and remember playing in a restaurant in South Beach on Lincoln Road and carrying the keyboard back to the hotel.
“When we sold out in New York, we said, ‘What is happening?’ Then Argentina, Spain. Everything went growing very fast and the thing that we had very clear in our minds is that we had to stay coherent. If we don’t dance, we didn’t have to dance. If we are not handsome, we don’t have to be handsome.”
“If people like us it is for the music.”