Photo: Warner Music Latina
Manuel Medrano On Returning To His Roots On New Album 'Eterno': "It's Like Starting Over"
Five years ago, Manuel Medrano won the Latin GRAMMY Award for Best New Artist. The Colombian rocker took a few years after the win to experiment and take a new direction, working with different sounds and musicians. He turned the sum of these experiences over the past five years into his second album, Eterno, which was released Oct. 1.
"Eterno is like starting over," Medrano tells GRAMMY.com. "I say it's starting over in a cool and beautiful way."
Medrano was born in Cartagena, Colombia, but he grew up in the city of Bogotá. He wrote music as a teen, and in 2014 he released the independent single "Afuera Del Planeta," which became a local hit. That led to Medrano signing with Warner Music Latina the following year and working with then up-and-coming producer Juan Pablo Vega on his debut self-titled album, achieving a global breakthrough with his heart-warming ballad "Bajo El Agua."
At the 2016 Latin GRAMMY Awards, Medrano received three nominations — he was nominated for Song of the Year for "Bajo El Agua," and won GRAMMYs for Best New Artist and Best Singer-Songwriter Album for Manuel Medrano. While he's known for the pop/rock of his debut LP, Medrano used the following five years to explore different genres.
Manuel Medrano. Photo: Warner Music Latina
Last year, Medrano teamed up with Mexican DJ Leon Leiden for "Desde Que Te Vi" and CHIC's Nile Rodgers for "Cielo." He also worked with J Balvin's co-writers Feid and Mosty for the Latin trap-influenced "Buena." While the spirit of Medrano's long-awaited second album, Eterno, continues to embrace new genres, it also returns to his roots in both Latin rock music and Colombian music.
Medrano picks up his guitar to charm with new love songs like the soft rock of "Nenita" or the alternative edge of "Tengo Que Llegar A Tiempo." Elsewhere, he dabbles in genres that are native to his country like the tropical champeta of "Tesoro" or the spellbinding bambuco of "Negra." Eterno is the essence of Manuel Medrano as an artist.
In an interview over Zoom, Medrano told GRAMMY.com about his greatest hits, the gap years between his two albums and the inspiration for Eterno.
How did you feel winning the Latin GRAMMY Award for Best New Artist in 2016?
Incredible! [I was] very happy, honestly. I believe there are moments that define a 'before' and an 'after.' I literally felt like, "Wow, this is a very big moment." In my life today, it's taken it to another level both professionally and emotionally. I say emotionally because this changed my life in such a positive way.
One of your biggest hits is "Bajo El Agua." What was the inspiration for that song?
With that song, I was very in love with a girl, honestly. We were living in a moment in that relationship where [I felt] everything was beautiful. That's the message of the song: to connect that beautiful moment with people. In some relationships it's long, and others it's short, but it's about wanting to make that moment last as long as possible — that moment when you're completely in love with and respect your partner, and you want and dream of beautiful things with that person. It's beautiful to preserve that in a song.
Tremendous! Natalia is awesome. She's a beautiful artist and person. I believe I really learned a lot of things from working with her, not only through the music we made, but from her way of being, [her] personality, and her words.
What was the experience like working with Nile Rodgers on "Cielo"?
Amazing! Whoa! That was a dream — a really big dream. I've always dreamed about that, from when he appeared on Daft Punk's Random Access Memories and I saw him playing the guitar there. I'm a big fan of CHIC. I'm a fan of everything that he's produced.
I always wanted to make a funk song. I loved funk music in school. I listened to CHIC, Nile Rodgers, Jamiroquai, all the people that did funk, including in Latin America. What a way to fulfill that dream of making a funk song with one of the biggest stars in the history of funk. That was awesome. I'll always be thankful and happy to have done that in my life. I'm also so grateful to have worked with Nile because we did that in 2020, all from a distance. We produced it through email. We did an animated video. But everything came out great. Nile is a person that's broken down barriers. It's a song that shows you [that] even in your most difficult moments, you can do incredible things.
Why were there five years in between your albums?
When I released my first album in 2015, that meant I spent a year and a half touring. Then there was a year where I was alone and traveling, including filming music videos for songs that I wanted to have videos for [that were filmed] in different parts of the world. We filmed in places like Los Angeles, New York and Miami with directors who were my friends. I started to vibe with what I wanted as an artist and I started to write this album [Eterno]. I feel that was an important time.
During the last two years, I had the opportunity to work with other artists and great producers. That was enriching for my career. Now I'm back with a new album that was produced by myself and my great friend, Juan Pablo Vega. It's all of me; everything I've learned in these last few years and from my travels.
Why did you decide to name your new album Eterno?
I like to feel that I've always been a part of destiny. [The concept of] eternity together with destiny makes up my music. I hope that people will vibe with my music forever and that they can dedicate it from generation to generation. There's the eternity of love, the eternity of spirituality, the eternity of the universe and space. With my music, I'm trying to capture all the things that make us eternal.
What was it like to work with Juan Pablo Vega on this album?
That was so cool. Juan Pablo is a brilliant musician and working with him always gives us great results. We're a great team. We achieve great things together.
What was the inspiration for your new single, "Tengo Que Llegar A Tiempo"?
First I started with the name of the song as a joke about myself. Like, I have to arrive on time. I have to better connect myself with punctuality. I connected with the idea that you have to arrive on time for business meetings and work meetings, so you should be arriving on time for your partner as well. You should be just as detailed about your love life.
"Negra" is a song that sounds completely different from the rest of the album. What was the inspiration for that song?
The inspiration for me came through in a mysterious way. "Negra" is a bambuco song. Bambuco is a genre of traditional Colombian music. Today it's not a very popular genre, but it's from here, in the roots of Colombia. For this occasion and sentiment, the inspiration came from folkloric music, and it was amazing. I explore music and genres through feelings. I don't consciously think about what genre to take on next. When I'm starting to write a song, my body helps shape the song, whether that leads to a bolero, [a] rock [song], or a ballad. I believe that's magical.
Like "Negra," there are more proudly Colombian moments on Eterno.
The album has a musical diversity extensively from Latin America. From rock en español to funk and power ballads. There's a particular section of four songs that are exotically Latin and Colombian, like the bambuco or the champeta in "Tesoro." That comes from influences of African rhythms like soca and calypso, but in Colombia, we call it champeta, where that sound was created. There's a bolero ["La Distancia"], and even though you might not believe it, Colombia has been a great exponent of boleros in the history of the genre. There's also a reggae song ["No Sé Si Salga El Sol"]. That genre is known for being Jamaican, but today it's become an important identity in Latin music.
You write a lot of love songs. Where does that romantic energy come from?
I'm a lover of women. I'm a lover of life. I hope people fall in love with life as well, that they know that everything that is around us is magical, and that they love one another. I believe that's the key for everything to [be] a better world. I hope that people are able to love themselves and listen to things about love, and that will result in a better world. If people are good and they love each other, then the world will be getting better each day.
Who are some artists that you want to collaborate with in the future?
Next, I would love to work with some Colombian artists. I would like to work with Diamante Eléctrico and Monsieur Periné. Hopefully! With artists outside of the country, I have a dream that hopefully one day becomes a reality of making a song with Robi Draco Rosa. Ed Sheeran is my favorite on the Anglo side, as well as Khalid. I like him a lot.
What have you learned about yourself in the six years of being a musician?
I learned that everything will always be fine. I learned that faith moves mountains. I learned that it's important to work hard and make money, but that it's also important to work on yourself and your spirituality, and to build yourself from the inside.
What can we expect from you next?
We want to release more singles from the album and shoot more videos. Next, I'm going to be performing in a few concerts. I'm going to be performing in Puerto Rico at the Coca-Cola Music Hall on November 6, and I'm going to be part of the Tecate Pa'l Norte Festival in Monterrey, Mexico on November 13. We're planning to announce a tour, maybe for next year.