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Nathy Peluso was not expecting to be nominated for a Latin Grammy Award. “I was shocked,” she tells BAZAAR.com over Zoom from her home in Barcelona. “I think it was maybe one of the best days in my life.”
To Peluso’s surprise, she received not one but two nominations, for Best New Artist and Best Alternative Song for her soothing track “Buenos Aires.” She’ll perform at the virtual award ceremony tonight too. Though the 25-year-old singer and rapper might not have the massive followings of her fellow nominees Anuel AA and Rauw Alejandro, she’s turned heads for her genre-bending fusion of soul, Latin trap, and R&B, as well as her provocative aesthetic. And it seems like the rest of the world is starting to catch on.
Peluso, who was born in Argentina but grew up in Spain, dropped her debut album, Calambre, on October 2. The title translates to “shock,” and on her Grace Jones–inspired album cover, Peluso is photographed jumping over water while holding an electric cord. The theme reflects the kind of effect Peluso wants her music to have on people, whether on a jazzy release like “Buenos Aires” or an in-your-face track like her 2017 breakout hit, “Corashe.” “It’s hard, and it’s ballsy,” she says. “I love to try something new, and I love to provoke something, especially in your heart and in your feelings.”
It’s like the urge to dance, she explains. “You can’t control this passion, you hear that and you need to move. You can’t control this energy and this power,” she says. “So this is the calambre for me.”
This boldness is evident in her visuals and wardrobe, such as the contrasting looks from her dramatic “Sana Sana” video, or the devilish red ensemble she wears in her anthemic “Business Woman” video, or the eclectic mix of styles she sports on Instagram, ranging from baggy graphic tees to revealing, body-hugging pieces.
Here, we catch up with Peluso before she hits the virtual Latin Grammys stage.
How have you been spending your time in quarantine? I see you have a studio back there. Have you been just making more music?
This house was new when the quarantine started, so I bought everything here, and I put myself here, and I started to work so hard to finish my album because it was only a demo.
And I worked a lot here alone to make all the things the best way I can. I try so hard to prepare myself for the shows. When they start again, I want to be so prepared for the stage. So I try [rehearse] a lot, and I worked in my studio to finish my album. It was productive.
Do you miss performing live?
Yeah, I really miss that. All my work and all my music is focused on the live [performance]. All the songs start with the live concept. Like, "Okay, I want to do salsa because in live I can dance and I can feel this thing." So now it's strange because I say, "Wow I need to wait," but when it starts again, it's going to be amazing. And I'm preparing these moments with so much love for my people and for my [fans].
It seems like you have a lot of input in how your visuals look. What goes through your mind when you're working on a music video or art for your album?
I'm always in contact with my intuition. It's important to be elegant and theatrical. I take care of everything around my music. These aesthetics, the videos, the pitch—everything accompanies my music.
In my last video, "Sana Sana," I was looking for cinematographic feelings like Tarantino. I'm proud of "Sana Sana," because I see the video and I see the song. Sometimes you see the video and you say, "Ah, I prefer to only hear the song." Maybe the concept is strange and you lost the feeling of the song. It's so important to take care of the concept in the videos and in the performance. So I work hard for this.
It seems like you put a lot of that thought into fashion too. Tell me about what you choose to wear.
I decided to work with this stylist Carolina Galiana. She's amazing. I know how I want to look, what I want to wear. I have really hard ideas, and I work with creatives and people that help me to work that into reality. In "Sana Sana," I decided to wear three different outfits.
I look for the characters. If I'm a woman in a hotel running out because someone is looking for her and she is scared and she is in fear, what is she going to wear? So we worked on that concept. And then, in the Prada look, it was so powerful to me to share my perception of Prada, my perception of a fashion soldier. In the third outfit, I'm wearing Jean Paul Gaultier. All the fashion means a lot to me, because it's so important—the colors, the textures—the way you wear it is so important to build a character.
Who are some of your dream collaborators?
I'd really love to work with Erykah Badu or maybe Bad Bunny because he's huge. He has a concept, he’s important in Latin music. Maybe it's a big dream, but I would love to share my music with Stevie Wonder. He's my king. He's my god.
When did you know that you wanted to be a musician?
When I was very, very young, like, a little child. I was feeling the music in such a powerful way, I was dancing all day in my mother's heels, I was acting, I was dancing, I was singing every time. So when I grew up, I decided to focus on the art. It was my way. I decided to learn about the music, about my vocals, about every kind of music. I feel, "Oh, wow, this is my passion." I [went to Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid], I was studying performance, I was studying design. Everything that I studied reminds me that this is my passion, this is what I'm looking for in my life.
I wasn't expecting, "I'm going to be like a famous singer." I thought I was going to be a teacher, a theater teacher, or maybe singing in hotels and bars, something little. But I never thought that I was going to be that huge character in the music industry. So it can mean so much for me, because I feel I'm doing something special for what I loved since I was a child. The music is my life. I have a tattoo here. [She reveals the phrase "Music is my life" inked on her collarbone.]
Did that hurt? That looks like it's in a painful spot.
I don't remember, I was a child. I was like 15 years old. I was crazy. [Laughs.] I was like, "Hmm … music is my life. I'm going to do a tattoo here to remember every day in my life."
What's been the biggest high or the most exciting moment from your career so far?
The Latin Grammy nomination was unexpected for me. I was shocked. I think it was maybe one of the best days in my life. And maybe when my manager called me and said I was booking Coachella, because it is the biggest festival in the world, the most important show; it is a ritual. I was shocked, too, because everything is happening so fast, and I'm never prepared.
And the release of Calambre was an important moment, too, because it's something I was waiting for for two years. Like, "I need to share with the world!" So when it came out, I was so happy, and I was so nervous, and I'm never going to miss or forget that feeling.
Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?
I hope I'm happy with my work, with my family, and with my friends. I really want to do what I feel, and I don't want to lose the improvisation, the intuition, and all that stuff I feel in my heart. So in five years, I want to have three albums more, at least. I really want to play my music in very huge places for a very huge [audience] in every part of the world. And I want to have my house, my animals, and my plants, and my family. I want to be happy.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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