After being the lead vocalist of norteño act Grupo Arranke for four years, Carin León is certain that going solo in 2018 was the best thing to happen in his career. “There’s a time to make those kinds of decisions,” he says. “I made it when I felt capable. I felt that I could dominate a stage. I felt that I could compose, produce [and] make my product by myself … And I didn’t have to deal with people who didn’t have the same vision as me.”
To help launch his solo career, the regional Mexican artist born Óscar Armando Díaz de León Huez signed to Tamarindo Rekordsz, the independent label owned by his manager, Javier “El Tamarindo” González. He found quick success, scoring his first entry on Billboard‘s Regional Mexican Airplay chart in 2019 with “Me La Aventé” and since collecting eight top 10 hits, two of which reached No. 1 (“El Tóxico” with Grupo Firme in 2021 and “Ojos Cerrados” featuring Banda MS in March).
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Starting next year, León hopes to expand his independence with the launch of his own label, through which he will sign and develop new talent — primarily from his hometown of Hermosillo, Mexico. He also plans to release a new studio album, where he will experiment with other genres such as vallenato, bachata and bluegrass, but with, as he says, “a lot of soul.”
“The moment you have the freedom to make the music that you like, it gives you a very strong power called ‘sincerity,’ ” adds León. “When your essence is really there and you are not satisfying the needs of the industry and you are the owner of your image, people feel it and connect with it.”
Most of your Billboard hits are collaborations. As an independent regional Mexican artist, why is this beneficial?
I’ve always noticed it in the urban market, but in our genre, a lot of artists are territorial with their work. After I began collaborating, I realized that I can progress a lot and I could solidify my audience. It’s not so much that collaborations have benefited me, but it’s simply the model of the music that is being used now.
As you’ve gained momentum, why did you remain independent?
I was never open or closed to the possibility [of signing a major-label deal]. I think things began to happen in my solo career, and I don’t know why, but no record company paid attention to what I was doing at the time. Then I began to see that the path could be achieved independently. I personally think that being independent is the best thing that can happen to any artist because it means developing your art in the freest way possible and not depending on many things.
What is key for indie artists when building a team?
It’s letting the artist develop, taking care of them to a certain point and always trying to polish and exploit the best things about them. In the end, there are many people who can influence the final product but might not really trust or love it the way that you do. Make sure that the interests are not only for business or numbers but that there is also chemistry for making art. Everyone on your team has to like how the music and the product are being made and feel proud of it.
What’s your advice for emerging indie artists?
Learn from the opportunities that life gives you, and pay attention to what the music industry is lacking. I feel that looking within, you’ll realize what type of music fans want to listen to. But truthfully, be sincere with your music. Learn how to express yourself and discover what makes you different. Regardless, after any good deal or promo plan, I believe that when you make good music, there is no human power that can prevent something from working.