In 2015, Mexican singer-songwriter Natalia Lafourcade's sixth studio album, Hasta la Raiz, won five Latin Grammys, more than anyone else. Unlike some winners who let their trophies collect dust in a dark corner, Lafourcade proudly displays them.
“They are at home in the studio,” she says. “I put them on top of my piano. I gave one to my mother, and I gave one to my father.
“I wanted to have them in a place where I could see them and remember all the people that were with me when I was working on Hasta la Raiz. It’s something that you did, and it talks about the work and all the energy you put into a project, but it isn’t just you.”
According to Lafourcade, the placement of the little golden gramophones celebrates family, friends, co-writers, and fellow musicians. This theme of collaboration is one she expands upon in her latest record, Musas.
In a recent interview, Lafourcade explained that Musas was made on a whim after the idea came to her to work with the famed acoustic-guitar duo Los Macorinos while she was on holiday in Brazil. Pivotal to this project was her desire to record with the pair, Juan Carlos Allende and Miguel Peña, whom she met five years ago on a tribute tour for the legendary Costa Rican singer Chavela Vargas.
“I wasn’t really thinking about releasing a new album; I was just thinking about going to the studio to record with them,” she says. It was Lafourcade’s label that pushed for this personal pet project to become something more official. During this working vacation, she was inspired by generations of Latin American artists dating back decades. As the album’s title would suggest, Lafourcade had an ever-present muse by her side and never found it difficult to slip into this more traditional songwriting mindset.
“I was very, very inspired," she says. "What was difficult sometimes was putting on paper what I had in mind. I knew I wanted to write a song for Mexico, for example. I knew I wanted to write a song for the Mexico we have now. I wanted to make ‘Mexicana Hermosa.’
“It’s a love song, but it isn’t. It’s more like a song as if Mexico was the Maria, the beautiful woman that I love... I [also] wanted to make a song for Veracruz, the Veracruz of my childhood... the stupid happy, the rich, the colorful and wonderful.”
The result is an enchanting album that mixes some very old-school Latin American sounds with Lafourcade’s modern pop sensibilities. The combination of original material seamlessly sitting alongside covers of classic Latin American tunes brings together a collection of odes so pretty it hurts. Standouts such as “Rocío de Todos los Campos,” “Soledad y el Mar,” and “Tú Si Sabes Quererme” are gorgeous compositions that make for a nostalgic, wistful experience.
She’ll bring that experience to South Florida for her show Friday, June 16, at downtown Miami’s Olympia Theater. It’s the first of a handful of American cities where she’ll perform.
And though Musas might be about embracing the past, it still has a firm grip on the present and foreseeable future, concepts that are never far from Lafourcade’s mind. Her connection to where she lives now, Veracruz, is what lends the album its humility, sense of belonging, and general warmth. If home is where the heart is, Lafourcade is madly in love with where she decided to settle down several years ago. It acts as not only an anchor to her identity but also a method to emotionally and spiritually recharge her batteries.
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“I go to many different places many times, but I miss my house constantly. Every day, I wish there was a moment when I could go back to my house and my land.
“Every time I go to Veracruz, I feel like, OK, I am back. When my feet go to the ground on the earth, I think, This is me, this is home, these are my roots, and now I can go and travel again to wherever you want me to go."