It's safe to say that Calle 13's Eduardo Cabra, aka Visitante, is no stranger to the praise and recognition of the Latin Recording Academy. In fact, he and his brother René Pérez, known as Residente, became the act to win the most Latin Grammys, with 21 awards for Calle 13.
Two years after Residente and Visitante decided to put a pause on Calle 13 to work on personal projects, Visitante is still going for the gold. This time around, the multi-instrumentalist received a producer of the year nomination for Chambao's Nuevo Ciclo and Gustavo Cordera's Tecnoanimal. Younger sister and former Calle 13 backup vocalist Ileana Cabra is also up for a Latin Grammy this year as best new artist.
While Calle 13's music is known for its hip-hop and reggaeton beats and raw lyrics mainly about social issues affecting Latin American's around the world, Cabra's vision as a producer for other artists ranges from Chambao's beautiful flamenco beats to Monsieur Periné's jazz/swing romantic tracks and Cordera's rock anthems.
In an interview with Billboard, Cabra talks about the rewarding experience of becoming a full-time producer and why honesty is key to creating timeless music.
Being nominated for a Latin Grammy, or winning for that matter, is nothing new to you. But this is the first time you're nominated for producer of the year after your time with Calle 13. What does this recognition mean to you?
For me, this nomination is very important. Two years ago, I started making that switch to become a full-time producer. I mean, I had always been producing, but not like I am now. I had been nominated for producer of the year in 2014, but this is the first time after we decided to do our own thing. The nomination was very unexpected and I couldn't be happier. I feel very thankful.
You mention that you had been wanting to go the full-time producer route for quite some time now. What is it about producing that excites you the most?
What's happening now is that I am meeting so many other artists, some that I never even imagined I would one day be able to meet. I'm meeting musicians from different parts of the world with who I am collaborating with or just communicating with. That makes me very happy.
What is it about an artist that catches your attention and will make you want to collaborate with them?
It's something that I can't even explain. It's something very abstract. You have to connect with the idea and the music. Most importantly, I need to know that I will contribute something to that idea. If I don't have anything to contribute, it wouldn't be cool that I participate in their project. And the decision to be part of something isn't up to me; it's a collective decision. The communication has to be incredible and all parties have to be comfortable in working with each other because in the end, it becomes a communication exercise. When I used to produce for my albums, I defended the music onstage. And now that I work on other artists' projects, I'm not the one that's going onstage to defend the music. They have to be comfortable with it.
When it comes to creating the vision for an album, what's the communication like between you and the artist you're producing for?
A few months before we begin the project, I start pre-producing. I listen to the songs and prepare some sort of structure so that way everything can flow better. I always try to do a great pre-production plan so that way the production time in the studio is shorter. Obviously, there is always space for modifications, but the sessions are short and I try to be very efficient with the time we spend in the studio.
What's the key to making a hit album or song?
I actually try to stay away from the word "hit." To me it's very vague. For me a hit is a song that I connect with and it can mean something different for someone else. But I don't think there is any sort of secret or key. An important ingredient is honesty. The song has to be honest to its genre. It can be a love song or a song with a social message, but if it isn't honest, it doesn't work and it won't connect.
You and Residente are inspiring a new generation of musicians in Latin America and around the world. What's the best advice you could give up-and-coming talent?
It all goes back to honesty. They have to be honest with their music. They shouldn't start a project about something that's already being heard on the radio or music that sounds so cliché just because they're thinking of making a "hit." If you think it sounds the way it should sound and that's how you want to communicate your music, then go for it. Naturally, they're going to have a new sound, but the new ideas that connect with an era or a time are the ones that are experimental and honest.
Aside from producing for other artists, are you working on any personal projects?
I am also working on a personal project. I'm still in the pre-production stages still but hoping I can get it done by 2017. I have a clear vision for it already but haven't decided if I will be playing the music onstage. Right now I'm really enjoying producing and dedicate time in the studio.