Carin León, born Óscar Armando Díaz de León Huez, is one of the biggest references in Regional Mexican music. He started his path into the scene being the lead vocalist of ‘Grupo Arranke’, but since 2018 he decided to start a successfull solo career.
After that, his songs soon landed in the Billboard chart and he received his first Latin Grammy last year for ‘Como lo hice yo‘, together with Edgar Barrera and Matisse.
Now he continues to be part of a new wave of artists who are popularizing regional Mexican music with innovative rhythms that are capable of reaching more and more places and audiences.
You have just released ‘Mil maneras de morir’ with Kakalo, how was this creation process?
Kakalo is an artist we just signed to our label. I have always been a fan of his music, he is a friend of mine from many years ago in Hermosillo. When he showed me that song it was very interesting to me. The idea was also very much in line with what we are doing for the album, very linked to American folk. It’s a very ingenious lyric and in a way it has to do with a ‘fancy’’ ‘borrachera’. The regional Mexican is always painted with themes of drinking and partying, so here we also sought to develop a very heartfelt song that has gone very nice.
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‘Que vuelvas’ with Grupo Firme is one of your most successful collabs, being on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 15 weeks in a row. What does this song mean to you?
My compadre Barrera’s song… the truth is that for us it is a great achievement and an example of what is happening with Mexican music and the acceptance that is having worldwide. It’s great to reach those places, to see the emotion that this song produced in festivals where regional Mexican music had never been present. To congregate a lot of people who perhaps have never heard regional Mexican music in their lives… it’s just incredible. For example, singing ‘Que vuelvas’ in a rock festival with 35,000 souls at the top of their lungs… that gives me great satisfaction. Mexican music is becoming our new pop.
You are nominated for five Latin AMAs this coming week, how do you feel about it and what do you expect from the nomination?
We’re very excited about the nominations! We’re expecting some awards and also to be able to share with great friends. Now at the Latin AMAs we are also doing a special presentation with Don Pepe Aguilar. So we really want to be able to share all these kinds of things and to be able to walk on these stages, see our idols and have the opportunity to share with them. These awards are to celebrate music and what is happening with our genre.
Let’s talk about more collaborations: with Spanish artist C.Tangana in ‘Cambia‘, also with Pablo Alborán in ‘Viaje a Ningún lado‘… How did these collaborations come about and what have they meant to you artistically?
For me they have been very important and, above all, very exciting. I have always been a fan of Spanish music culture. To be able to collaborate with Pablo Alborán was also a dream. It’s a great honor, a great medal that many people would like to hang and have it and treat it with dignity. Also the collaboration he did for our album, it was something amazing, something out of the ordinary for me, something that I thought was out of reach. And what happened with C.Tangana’s ‘Cambia‘… was also a great achievement to participate in a work of art like ‘El Madrileño‘.
What are you looking for in a collaboration artistically right now? What do you think is the most interesting thing? Do you have any future names in mind?
Yes, there are some collaborations coming up. We will release our new album ‘Colmillo de Leche’ around April 26tth. Here we also have another collaboration with Pablo Alborán, which we haven’t been able to release until now. We also have songs with Camilo, Kakalo, Kany García…We have released a lot of music and we don’t have time to announce all the ideas. But little by little we will be unveiling the things we have been doing. We are always looking to make a difference with our collaborations.
Regional Mexican is experiencing a cultural explosion in the US. How you think the perception of the genre is changing in general, specifically with regional Mexican and more generally with Latin music?
I think the success of Mexican music is because it has given us more identity. I think we Mexicans always lived doing the music that Anglo did. We wanted to copy that, to be in the trend and do what is fashionable. And I think that when we discovered at least in my case, referring to C.Tangana, who was one of the people who encouraged me to say: ‘Okay, our folklore, our roots, they are what gives you the most identity and that’s where no one can compete with you’.
So today we are more Mexican than ever, making our music in a dignified way, without looking for a hit, but for the simple fact of making good music. There are many exponents today who are trying to dignify regional Mexican music, many fresh proposals, many ideas trying to include lyrics with different content. In short, many people taking the genre to another level, which I believe is the responsibility that we, the exponents of regional Mexican music, have at this moment.
Will we see you performing in the United States in the next few months? Do you have any dates planned?
Yes, we have a very important tour that we are going to start next August and it’s going to be 37 dates around the country. Now we are returning to Mexico to work in the palenques. We started the palenque season and all the ‘ferias’ in Mexico.
On previous occasions you have indicated that regional Mexican music is a genre that used to be very stigmatized and part of your work is to change that perspective. Why do you think this is so? Have you experienced and perceived that discrimination when it comes to making music?
Yes, well, I don’t think it has affected me so much. The truth is that regional Mexican music has always been very marginalized. Ihink happens a lot with popular and folkloric music everywhere, they are genres for the people.
But there is so much richness in our culture and in our regional Mexican music, that I think it is time to be grateful for that, after a long time of stagnation. Since the pandemic there has been change and people are becoming more receptive, more open-minded. And I think that doing the same thing for almost 50 years is now over. Today there are fresh proposals, also from the young artist. They are bringing many things to Mexican music and taking it to other parts of the world.
As great exponents of regional Mexican music, how do you think the genre has evolved in the last few years and your music, with what you mentioned about exposing yourself, is now entering the genre as well.
Well, I think we are daring to do what we always had in our hearts and that before we couldn’t. It was very punished when we wanted to go for different types of lyrics, create other sounds or even collaborating with, for example, urban artists.
I thought that what we are doing know was almost impossible because literally, regional Mexican has always been a very purist genre. Nowadays I think we are all understanding it and especially the artists, and we are congregating a lot of people that we didn’t see before. We are seeing concerts of 50,000, 60,000 thousand people, the shows are being done at another level. We are making a difference doing music with dignity and doing it big and thinking big.
From your point of view, who do you think are the new talents, the new exponents of regional Mexican music that are entering the scene now?
Of my favorites, I think that right now the ones that have done a lot of things for regional Mexican music have been Grupo Firme, I think they were the ones that gave its credibility to the world. Like, «ok, something is happening in Mexico that is very strong and very good». For us in Mexico what people understands as urban music has always been the regional Mexican. Also what is happening with Grupo Frontera is a brutal thing. We are a whole movement that it is very varied, it has its own touch and it is very, very different.
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Since 2018 you have embarked on a successful solo career. How have you experienced the transition from belonging to a band to becoming and remaining an independent artist?
I think it was the best thing I could have done. I believe the truth and being in the group for so many years and belonging to bands was a great school. It taught us a lot of things and we were doing and looking for the trend at that time, doing what was fashionable. We went out of there and after that it became the moment where I’m going to make the music I want to make, the music I want to hear. Since 2018 when we started the project, I think it’s been a steady step and very, very safe and not trying to speed up, really enjoying the process. But we are also going with the freedom of being independent and making the music we want at the time we want. For any artist that is the most fundamental thing.
@carinleonoficial Ya está disponible lo más nuevo junto con mi carnal @Luis Mexia ♬ sonido original – Carin Leon
In previous interviews you’ve talked about that dichotomy that many artists are thrown into between business and art at the moment, where music production is determined by the pace of streaming platforms. How do you think this pressure to produce affects artists?
Any pressure affects any artist. I think the artist should always be focused on their music, but it’s also the usual behavior of immediate gratification. That has us confused and making a lot of music and I think you have to understand the difference between making art and making business. I think that the times we wanted to do business never worked out. For me it was not something that filled my heart either. Doing it with love and in pursuit of art, business always comes on its own.
We also think it’s interesting to ask you about the topic of artificial intelligence, which is very trending right now. How do you think this kind of tools can change the course of music production?
I find it very interesting. It is something very fascinating what is happening and what I have seen that Artificial Intelligence can achieve. It could be an incentive to spark creativity in other people. But wow, I think it’s something that’s fueled by us. It’s not something that’s fed by us and our art. However, I think nothing is ever going to change human sensibility. And I think that tending to the small mistake, to what is not perfect… I don’t know, I believe imperfection is what gives it humanity and quality.
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