In just a few short years, Nathy Peluso has built a brand on constant provocation. She’s a shape-shifter whose music has never committed to one genre; her experiments range from the sleek R&B of “Buenos Aires” to the abrasive rap verses of “Sana Sana.”
She says listeners can always expect her to go for the risky move—a quality that’s completely entrancing for some audiences and completely polarizing for others. Still, the singer, who was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and eventually moved to her current base in Spain, explains that what comes naturally to her is to embrace the unpredictable and keep people guessing, no matter what their reaction might be.
Every once in awhile, though, even she’s shocked by the twists and turns of her career. That was the case this week when the 25-year-old newcomer found out that she’d been nominated for two Latin Grammys, including one in the coveted Best New Artist category and another in Best Alternative Song.
Calambre, her full-length debut, is out Friday and delivers even more of the variety Peluso has been after. While she continues to push R&B and hip hop sounds on cuts such as “Amor Salvaje” and “Llamame,” Peluso also tries her hand at ideas that are entirely new for her as well. There’s a salsa proposal on “Puro Veneno,” one of the most energetic moments on the album, and an updated take on tango on “Agarrate,” a nod to her native Argentina. The record is in-your-face and relentless, which seems to be exactly her goal.
Peluso spoke to Remezcla from Barcelona ahead of the album’s release; she tells us how she put the album together, what she wants her fans to take away from her new music and more.
This interview has been translated, lightly edited and condensed for clarity purposes.
Congrats on your Latin Grammy nominations! Where were you when you got the news and what was your reaction?
If I’m being totally, totally sincere, I was getting my nails done and I was on a really important call about planning and marketing. Toward the end, my team said, ‘Nathy, we have good news. You’ve been nominated for best new artist.’ Well, imagine! I wasn’t prepared for that at all and I didn’t even remember nominations were being announced that day, so it was just a huge surprise. Then I went off to do an interview, and my team called back to say, ‘Nathy! You’ve also been nominated for ‘Buenos Aires!’’ From there, it was just craziness.
You’re nominated alongside people like Rauw Alejandro, Cazzu and Anuel Aa. What do you think about the “best new artist” category and the contemporaries joining you in it?
I think it’s a super special category because it’s artists who have been collaborating and contributing so that the musical universe keeps growing and expanding and proposing new things. I think it’s really exciting they’ve given us a space to say, ‘Hey, we’re here!’ and to be recognized as artists who are promising to do new things. And also, I can’t tell you how proud I feel to see so many artists who, as you might have seen, there are a lot of Argentines and we’re all friends. Cazzu is a good friend, and there are so many colleagues, in this category and others, that make it feel personal to see friends recognized in this way. I think it’s a positive thing for the whole musical moment I’m a part of—not just me individually, but my present and my industry because it shows that we’re here.
You’ve been recognized, in part, for a style that incorporates so many different genres and different sounds. How would you say that you’ve built that approach as an artist and what’s it been like making a case for constantly trying something new instead of sticking to one style?
The truth is, it’s never been a premeditated or planned thing. I think the variety in the music is something that just flows out. It’s something organic where I can’t just stay in one place—I’d get bored and I’d be limiting myself from possibilities for experimenting and a bunch of things I could be writing and composing. I’m a huge music lover and I have so much passion for all kinds of music, and I see so much beauty in all of it. Depending on my appetite or mood, I love to play with different eras in music and lots of styles and rhythms. It’s something that I know is risky because sometimes people don’t really get the approach when they just hear me one time, and they have to listen a few more times to understand what I’m doing, but I like that. I like being different and playing with risks and surprises and toying with irony and things people don’t expect from me.
Are you ever apprehensive about trying certain sounds and genres?
The truth is, no. Some people might not get it but there are going to be other people who do, and I really try not to let myself be driven by fear or nerves that something isn’t going to work. I feel like I do things with my heart and it’s something genuine, and as long as I approach it that way, it’ll resonate. So I always take risks with the things that feel like they’re naturally coming from my heart because that’s what’s brought me to where I am: listening to my intuition and making music without fear.
Calambre is an example of the eclecticism you’re after and incorporates pop, hip hop, salsa and even Argentine traditions. Tell us a little about the influences on the record and what new things you ultimately wanted to achieve here.
I wanted to show the passion I have for different genres and the possibilities at my fingertips when I play with them and bring them to a younger audience. For example, I wanted to think about salsa in 2020 because it feels like people don’t always appreciate it enough, and I love it so much. So it was a question of, ‘All of this music that makes me absolutely crazy—what can I do so other people who aren’t as interested in it feel the same passion and love for it? I have an opportunity to make my fans become lovers of that genre, so how can I do that?’
So on this record, I wanted to try out things that maybe aren’t totally commercial, but I feel like every artist should get to decide and do what feels right. I don’t want to only do what I know works, but what makes me passionate—and when you do that, I think things work out because it’s beautiful and it comes from a deeper place. So I tried to be daring with genre fusions, with tango, with salsa, with hip hop, and I had the luck of working with really powerful musicians and producers who I’m so grateful collaborated with me. In the end, Calambre is a combination of that versatility that I feel inside of me, as well as a sort of presentation card of what I can do.
You worked with producers such as Illmind and Angel Lopez. What were those collaborations like?
I came up with the album in terms of concepts and big picture ideas, and then I had the luck of working with the person who was my right hand on this project: Rafael Arcaute. He helped me shape all the ideas and bring the project together, and he put me in touch with some of the producers you mentioned, like Illmind and Angel Lopez and a bunch of musicians, like Spinetta, who I admire so much. It was really fun because it took place kind of all over the world. I started recording in Spain with my technicians, then I went to Argentina for ‘Buenos Aires’ and recorded in their original studio. I never imagined doing that. Then I went to Los Angeles and the whole thing was just so natural—we locked ourselves in the studio and through improvising for hours, we came up with songs like ‘Sana Sana’ and ‘Trio.’ There are tons of people and I’m so bad at naming everyone, but it was just such an honor to work with musicians who are so huge in genres I admire so much and have studied non-stop.
What do you want listeners to take away from getting to hear your debut?
My maximum hope here is for people to enjoy it at an energy level. I named it Calambre because I feel like it’s an album that electrifies you, like putting a plug directly into water. It’s something inevitable and it’s powerful and it’s really different. So really, I’d love for people to dance to it, to celebrate it, and to enjoy it without thinking about “What’s a cool way to dance? What’s cool music to listen to?” No, I want people to hear it and dance to it however their bodies tell them to, scream if you want, move if you want. The album has a lot of joy in it and a lot of love—it can even have sadness. It’s all of these states of being that are powerful, so I’d love for people to find their own catharsis in each song. Honestly, that’s what I want the most and why I gave it this title, so people can get electrified.
This was supposed to be a big year for you—the album’s coming out and you were supposed to perform at festivals like Coachella. What would you say about the kind of year it’s turned out to be and what are you planning for 2021?
The truth is, this year really surprised me. At the beginning, there was so much darkness, and things kind of changed in so many ways, including for me at a personal level. I was supposed to go to Coachella and Lollapalooza and all of these important festivals without my album being finished, but this pause did kind of allow me to get some space and give the project time. I hope that it helps people whose lives haven’t gone back to normal yet and that they can find some company in the album. I hope my fans get some joy out of having new music from me and to be able to connect with me. And when we do go back to touring, it’s going to be crazy because I’ll be back with an entire album out and people will be able to enjoy the songs they’ve been listening to at home and they’ll finally get to see the live versions they might have imagined listening to the record. It’s going to be crazy.