Mexican rock trio Camila plays the James L. Knight Center Saturday, July 16
You hear about overnight success stories all the time, but seldom are they as dramatic as that of Camila. With its very first album, this trio from Mexico City took the Latin pop world by storm, laying siege to radio. It shattered preconceptions about what a new artist in the genre could do, and how long a lifespan its songs could enjoy.
Consider that Camila's debut album, Todo Cambió, dropped in the States in 2006 but that the last single from it, "Yo Quiero," was still sounding off on Latin radio across the nation in 2009. Further, that single was the album's seventh, a staggering number by today's standards and practically unattainable by just about everybody not named Lady Gaga.
All of those seven singles charted, earning Camila a rabid following. And of course that came with a slew of nominations and accolades running the gamut of the Latin awards circuit, from Billboard to Grammy and all points in between.
The band, meanwhile, takes it all humbly. "I think that on the first disc," soft-spoken vocalist Samo says, "we had the fortune that a lot of people took many of those songs as parts of their lives."
When one watches a live Camila performance and witnesses firsthand the emotion with which fans sing along to every song, there's little doubt about Samo's statement. The singer, who along with bandmate Mario Domm makes up the group's one-two vocal punch, continues: "I think maybe the audience just sensed the honesty and sincerity in each of the songs we made," he says. "All three of us had a lot to say and a great desire to say it, and there was no better moment for us to bare our souls to the public."
But Samo is quick to point out the band's success wasn't as sudden as it appears. "We all three spent a good many years working hard behind other artists," he says, "and I think there were a lot of stories to tell, and we did that with Todo Cambió."
Without question, each of the members has paid his musical dues. Well before founding Camila, Mario was a respected composer and producer, working with top Latin pop acts such as Alejandra Guzman, Kalimba, and Reyli. Samo, meanwhile, made the rounds singing background vocals for other artists, also including Reyli. It was through this shared acquaintance that Samo and Mario met, and when they brought in guitarist and composer Pablo Hurtado to round out the group, Camila was complete.
They created a unique style, a light rock-pop sound with frequent tendencies toward blues and a vocal harmonizing style reminiscent of R&B. Then there's that much-discussed sincerity, which, musically, often oscillates between hushed and intimate moments and swelling crescendos. Altogether, it's a package that resonates with a vast swath of music fans.
"The album took us to many countries," Samo recalls of Todo Cambió. "We got to share a lot of different experiences with a lot of different people. And now it's a privilege that the same public that accepted us has given us a chance to put out a second album."
That second album is Dejarte de Amar, released late last year. It's an earnest, heartfelt, and often plaintive account of far darker moments than those broached in their debut.
"On the first album, we talked a lot about perfect love, romantic love," Samo says. "This album demonstrates pain and nostalgia. On this album, we're presenting the side B of love, or falling out of love."
He explains that a large part of that drastic change came simply from what they were experiencing, and did not reflect a conscious effort to present a different facet of themselves. "It just came from this time in our lives that we lived, this very intense period while on tour," he says. "Sometimes, when we're surrounded by people, we still find ourselves alone, and we wanted to demonstrate that."
It was a risky move, considering the fan base Camila built on love songs such as "Solo Para Ti." But it all worked out — fans have embraced the new album with the same dedication they showed the debut, relating to the heartbreak like they did with those tales of perfect love.
Of Dejarte de Amar's first single, "Mientes," Samo says, "I think the public really identified with the song. Unfortunately, I think lies are just prevalent in our lives." He has more of those audience sing-alongs to prove it. "The crowd loves to sing along to it, and we've really noticed that on tour. When the first chords of the song start up, everyone goes crazy."
The second single, "Alejate de Mi," is experiencing similar success, quickly gaining traction on radio at the same time "Mientes" still reigns. Samo, like his bandmates, is still disarmingly thankful, stressing again the group's appreciation for its fans' support.
"We know this is a difficult career, and there are lots of artists working hard out there who wish they could have their album in the stores and their own tours," he says. "So we're very grateful to have gotten our hands on this."
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