Camilo Says 'Mis Manos' Album Explores His Identity, Diversity and Thirst for Connection (Exclusive)
By Liz Calvario
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Camilo has become a worldwide sensation due to the risks he takes as an ever-evolving singer-songwriter and producer. Crafting his career since he won El Factor XS in Colombia at the age of 13, the Medellín native is delivering his most diverse body of work with his sophomore album, Mis Manos (My Hands), out March 5.
"I am very proud to say that this album was entirely written, produced, played, delivered, recorded with my hands. From mis manos," Camilo, 26, tells ET ahead of the LP's release. "There is nothing on this album that is a coincidence. No hay nada por casualidad, ni por relleno. Everything on this album was made with a purpose. Every little detail, every ingredient in the sound, in the lyric, in the inspiration, everything está justo ahí con mis manos, con una intención. And mis manos are the vehicle that take everything that is inside of me [and make it real]."
It was just 11 months ago that Camilo dropped his debut album, Por Primera Vez, which landed at No. 1 on the Billboard Latin Pop Albums chart and No. 5 on the Top Latin Albums list. It included his breakout hit song, "Tutu," with Pedro Capó. The song's infectious beat, romantic lyrics and Camilo's unique voice catapulted him to success, earning him a Latin GRAMMY for Best Pop Song at the 2020 ceremony.
One listen to Camilo's discography -- and his latest singles off Mis Manos, "Vida de Rico," "Bebé" and "Ropa Cara" -- and it's clear that he can take on any genre from pop, urban, bachata to cumbia and beyond. It's also his authenticity and from-the-heart songwriting skills that fans connect with most. Lest we forget his greatest inspiration and biggest champion, his wife, actress-singer Evaluna Montaner.
After meeting at a 2015 event in Colombia, sparks flew and he wrote his long-distance ladylove the song "Medialuna," featured as the opening track on Por Primera Vez. She showed the song to her famous father, Latin icon Ricardo Montaner, who signed him to his HAMM label. Camilo then began writing songs for Ricardo's sons, pop-duo Mau y Ricky, and artists like Becky G and Natti Natasha ("Sin Pijamas), Bad Bunny ("Si Estuviésemos Juntos"), Gloria Trevi and Karol G ("Hijoepu*#") and more.
A testament to his versatility as an artist, he received his first GRAMMY nomination this year. He is up for Best Latin Pop/Urban Album, alongside Ricky Martin and Bad Bunny.
Read on for an exclusive deep dive into the making of Mis Manos, how Camilo continues to be inspired by his marriage, why these are "the best songs" he’s ever written and more.
ET: You just released "Machu Picchu" with your wife, Evaluna. What can you tell us about the single?
Camilo: This is one of the collaborations that I love the most because it's a song with my wife. She's my favorite artist ever. We've been sharing with everybody the different chapters of our story, since we met, from when I fell in love, when we got engaged. When we got married, we wrote a song about it. When we went on our honeymoon, we made a music video about it. When we bought our first house, we did a music video and a song about that.
So for us, it's very important that our second official collaboration was something about what we're living right now. The song is a bit more intimate, and Evaluna is the sexiest person I know. She's super sexy and I, not only as her husband but as her number one fan, I'm really waiting for her to share that sexy side of her identity. So this song is going to be that.
How would you describe the vibe of Mis Manos?
This album es más difícil de describir. Sin words, it's about the sound, it’s about everything that I've made before. It’s such a diverse album. I'm celebrating my diversity, the diversity that is inside of me...This album is an exploration of all those sides of my identity. The sound of this album, I think it's a very inspirational album, full of good vibes, good reasons to laugh, to dance, to heal, to celebrate that we're alive and happy. But in terms of identity, of the sound and genre, it's very hard for me to say. I'm going to wait for the people to hear it and they can [decide].
You’ve called the songs on Mis Manos the "best songs you’ve ever written." Why is that?
I love every song that I have released in my life. If I don't think that the last thing I just created isn't the best thing I've ever created in my life, it means I'm stuck and I'm not able to surprise myself. When I grab a guitar and I start writing a song, what I'm trying to do each time is write the best song I can write in that specific moment. My favorite songs ever, they're all on this album. The most proud I've felt in something that I have created is in this album. [With] this album, I discovered a lot of things in me that I didn't know I had. [I] was involved in the production of every little detail of the album, I've never done that before. The ideas and lyrics and melodies that are my ideas without asking anybody if it's good or not, I [finally] trust what I do. I do feel like these are the best songs that I have ever written in my life. I'm proud to say that I gave 100 percent of what I have. It's not about ego, like, oh these are the best songs in the world. These are the best songs that I have ever done in my life.
Did you have any challenges while creating Mis Manos or did it naturally flow?
Like the process of giving birth, it is natural but it is painful too. Yes, it was natural, it was organic, everything is real, nothing is processed, it’s all an honest exploration. But facing who you really are and looking into your roots, honoring your roots and your seeds, it's a very hard process and for you to take risks out of your comfort zone. People are expecting something from you and from your heart…[You] already know that you're going to surprise them, but the fear of the unknown, that's a very challenging process. Every song on this album was a huge challenge. Every production, the search for the right sound, and the right vibe in every song, was a huge challenge. This album has been the biggest challenge of my life. In the visual content, in the pictures, in the art, in everything that we did with this album has been way beyond my capacity. Bigger than my capacity. I wasn't ready to do this but I chased it and was like, let's go bigger and bigger in the challenges.
Do you think Mis Manos would have turned out differently if we weren't in a pandemic?
One hundred percent! One hundred percent it would be completely different. First of all, I wouldn't be releasing this album if it wasn't for the pandemic. If my plans [had happened], right now I would be on my first tour, singing the songs that we had been celebrating for months and months. Since we couldn't, all the frustration, and the need and how thirsty I was for that connection with the people, I had to make that frustration into songs. The bridge that was going to be the tour, for me to be closer to the people, I think these songs are gonna be that bridge for me to be closer to all the people that are listening to my music. So yeah, for sure, the pandemic and the challenges and everything that we faced in this season, the free time that we had in our houses, with my notebook and my guitar with no interruption and no traveling, that was a beautiful moment for my creativity.
You and Evaluna share so much of your life together with your fans. Is there anything that is ever off limits?
We know that our relationship is not only our project but it’s our testimony and it's a very huge part of our purpose in life. I think there's more people who have said to me, “Your relationship with your wife made me believe in love again," more than they say, "I listened to this song and I healed my relationship with my mother." My relationship with my wife has a lot of good impact on a lot of people. We know that that's part of our purpose and we have been very open about a lot of things. But, there are a lot of intimate things that they don't see on social media. Hay muchas cosas que no caben en las palabras de las redes sociales. Muchas cosas que no caben en una foto, muchas que if you want to explain a lot of those things, you have to have a face-to-face conversation... Of course, there are a lot of things that we don't or haven't [shared]. There's things that are ours, because when you share it, it's not yours anymore. Yes, we're very open. But yes, we are very careful about what we share and what we don't share.
You’re a coach on La Voz Kids. Being around these young singers and seeing your wife come from a musical family, does that make you want kids of your own?
That's part of my dreams. Actually, [the other day], we were talking about ...We sat and talked about it, like, "Yo, with everything that has been happening with my career and everything that is happening with your career, [do] we actually think that we will be able to have a lot of kids?" Because at the beginning of our relationship, we were talking and saying, "Let's have seven kids." We dreamed about that. But to be honest, we know that we don't want our plans to be done, we want God's plan to be done in our lives. So we know that he's planning a lot of things with our careers, with our purposes, with our journeys. I don't know when it's going to happen and I don't know how many kids we are going to have, but yes, I think we're going to. And [being parents] is for sure going to be part of the journey.
You’ve written and collaborated with so many major artists, who else is on your wishlist?
There's a couple collaborations that are on my album... that are very important to me. There are a couple of songs, maybe four collaborations, that I'm very excited about, maybe the biggest collaborations that I've ever had before... They are with people that I really admire from a long time, people that I felt since I was a child that they were legends. People that are impacting the world in a very positive way. I think they are songs that will make a lot of people dance and celebrate and laugh.
You’re nominated for your first GRAMMY ever, in the Best Latin Pop/Urban Album category. What would a win mean for you?
The other day I received the magazine about the nomination, and I read all the names of the categorias. I read my name and my album and I was like, "I cannot believe I'm right here next to these people." So that for me is already a triunfo. I feel like the No. 1 [artist] in the world just because I was considered one of the best Latin albums this year. To be honest, I don't have any expectations of, "Yes, We deserve it. We should win this!" No, I just think every album that is in my category deserves that recognition. [Getting a nomination] happened way before I thought it was going to happen [in my career]. This first nomination, for an American GRAMMY, I thought it was going to happen way after, but it's happening surprisingly before. So for me, that's already a win.
And lastly, from Por Primera Vez to Mis Manos, how would you describe your own personal musical growth?
I'm a completely different person than I am from yesterday. Not only from yesterday but after this year, 2020, that was the craziest year ever. We are different persons after this... And my art and my music and my songwriting, it's a resultado of what's happening in my real life. The way I approach two ideas is completely different, and right now I'm trusting [myself] 100 percent. On my first album, I was just starting to realize that what God gave me is enough for me to walk this path that I'm walking right now...But now, with this album, I'm following that blindly. If my heart is saying something, I'm going to trust it, whatever it is. This album is full of musical bridges. "Vida de Rico," which is the first single of the album and then "Bebé" and then "Ropa Cara," they are three different songs. A cumbia, a bachata and then a Cuban-urban, reggaeton kind of tune. The thing is, it's very different from a marketing perspective. From an organization perspective, it is very risky. But this album is all about me following my instinct, my creativity with no limits. It's a huge part of my evolution.