Artist Q&A: Catching Up with J Balvin

Artist Q&A: Catching Up with J Balvin

By William Glanz

It looks like J Balvin will have something to celebrate at the 19th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards® on November 15.

The Colombian singer received eight Latin GRAMMY® nominations, more than any other recording artist. He received two nominations for Record of the Year – one for “Mi Gente” (with Willy William) and one for “X” (featuring Nicky Jam).

José Alvaro Osorio Balvin also is up for Album of the Year award for Vibras. J Balvin just ended his Vibras Tour on October 28 after performances in 26 U.S. cities. He also received nominations for Best Urban Fusion/Performance (“Mi Gente”), Best Urban Music Album (Vibras), Best Urban Song (“Downtown,” with Anitta, Justin Quiles and Alejandro Ramirez), another Best Urban Song nomination (“X”) and a third Best Urban Song nomination (“Sensualidad”).

It’s been the year of J Balvin, and the Latin GRAMMYs® likely will provide further confirmation of that truth.

So, with the awards show coming up, we wanted to catch up with reggaetón recording artist who is becoming a household name. We asked about Latin GRAMMYs®, his many nominations and about singing exclusively in Spanish.

SoundExchange: You have eight Latin GRAMMY® nominations this year. It feels like this year’s awards show could really establish your legacy as one of the top recording artists ever in Latin music. Do you feel like you’ve reached another level?

Balvin: I feel incredibly honored to have received the nominations I did this year. I’m just happy to be able to share my music with my fans and the world. And if that means growth as an artist, then even better. Music constantly inspires me to keep going and achieve my goals. The recognition that comes with it is just affirmation that I’m doing what I should be doing.

SoundExchange: Is there one nomination this year that you’re most proud of? And what makes it special?

Balvin: I’m really humbled by each nomination. All of them make me very grateful to be recognized by the Academy. But I have to say that my Vibras album is a labor of love and a collection of songs that really mean a lot to me – especially, the song “Mi Gente.” It broke a lot of barriers. So, I’m very proud of the grabación del año (Record of the Year) and álbum del año (Album of the Year) nominations.

SoundExchange: Can you talk about continued growth of the Latin music genre? It’s becoming more and more popular. Do you feel like Latin music has become mainstream in the U.S. market?

Balvin: Yes, of course! Latin music has always existed in our own cultures and countries, but now it’s receiving more of the recognition it deserves because the way music is consumed. Technology and new media have provided a way for music discovery tools to be available to everyone everywhere, which is why so much of our music is now popular in places and in markets never reached before.

SoundExchange: Why do you think Latin music resonates with U.S. audiences? And is it ironic to you that it resonates with U.S. audiences even if they can’t understand the lyrics because you’re singing in Spanish?

Balvin: Music is a universal language. You don’t have to speak a certain language to understand the feeling that a song can give you. If the music is good, then all you must do is enjoy it and dance to it or feel happy or sad to it. There’s nothing that really speaks to the human heart the way that music does. So, it’s not surprising that so many Americans love Spanish-language music.

SoundExchange: Latin artists collaborate with a lot of non-Latin artists now. You’ve collaborated with Beyoncé. Do you feel like you’ve reached a place, professionally, where you have the ability to pursue collaborations with people you may not have been able to a few years ago? And which recording artists do you hope to work with in the future?

Balvin: Having Beyoncé join me and Willy William on the “Mi Gente” track was really an honor. She’s inspired so many people with her music, and the fact that she took the opportunity to record the remix was a major move for her and me. She was so happy to do it because she also saw the value of making good music no matter what language it’s in. On top of that, her Spanish is great. It was fun for us all.

 I’ve worked with so many artists already, but there are a few that I’m looking forward to working with soon, so stay tuned.

SoundExchange: “I Like It” is a unique collaboration of three Latin artists with three distinct backgrounds (Cardi B, Bad Bunny, and yourself). It’s also unique because it’s sung in English and Spanish. Was there ever any doubt in your mind that “I Like It” was a good project for you to be part of?

Balvin: Not at all. I knew that the three of us would bring different elements to the track knowing how different each of us are. And, in a way, it’s a clear representation of what Latin culture is like. People tend to put us in a box because we speak Spanish, but that’s not the case. Latin culture is so diverse and a mix of so many backgrounds that we all love what we each can offer. The beauty of it all is that we speak the same language, but there are different accents and ways of saying things which keeps it purely Latino!

SoundExchange: Your Vibras tour is about to end. What’s next? Are you writing new music and thinking about the next release? What do you want the next release to sound like?

Balvin: I’m always thinking about the next step. This means I’m constantly writing and drawing inspiration from life, people, and personal experiences that allow me to come up with good music that is real and something that music fans can try to relate to and enjoy as well. When I make my records I usually make it a point to have a lot of fun, so this really translates into the sound of it. So, it’s going to sound exactly like that.