Photo: Jesús Cornejo / Courtesy of Criteria Entertainment

Acrylics, Oils, and Mexican Soil: Mon Laferte and the Embrace of Culture

“I had a lot of time to be by myself, so I wrote a lot about that,” says acclaimed Chilean singer Mon Laferte. “You have time to go deeper when you’re all by yourself”.

1940 Carmen
Mon Laferte
29 October 2021

Mon Laferte is a Chilean artist who has built a large international audience with her previous albums and engaging live shows, as evidenced by her more than six million monthly listeners on Spotify. Her album Mon Laferte (Volume 1, Special Edition) was certified triple platinum in her native Chile and quadruple platinum in her adopted home in Mexico.

For the past 15 years, she has lived in Tenoztlán, Mexico, where popular Mexican ranchera singer Chavela Vargas lived at the end of her life. Laferte’s new album Seis was inspired in part by a documentary about Vargas. On the album, which she describes as “very personal,” Laferte embraced Mexican styles of music and Mexican artists. The album includes songs with both Alejandro Fernandez and Gloria Trevi.

By phone through her translator Dayluz Arce, Laferte spoke to PopMatters about the new album, recording during the pandemic, and her favorite things about visiting the United States.

What was the inspiration for Seis?

It’s a very personal record. It has a lot to do with the solitude of the confinement due to the pandemic. I had a lot of time to be by myself, so I wrote a lot about that. You have time to go deeper when you’re all by yourself. There’s a song called “Cancion Feliz”, which translates to “Happy Song”. I did this writing in my hometown in Mexico. It’s a very magical place. It comes basically from that.

Was recording the album a challenge during the pandemic?

No. I recorded it at home, as a matter of fact. My two producers, who are also my friends, came over and set up a little studio in my house. I found that it was a more personal space. We were able to make it more homey. I’d rather do it at home than in a studio because you can go to the kitchen and have some coffee, then return to the studio and keep recording.

How is Seis different from previous albums?

It’s very different from everything I’ve done before. For the first time, I go toward more traditional Mexican music — specifically folklore music. I’ve never done that before. Each record that I make presents opportunities to make new investigations and grow as an artist. Each one has been different. What I like to do is tell stories. What I try to do for each one is to develop a sound.

Do you feel like you have absorbed the Mexican culture, which led you to this album?

Definitely. I am Chilean. I came to Mexico 15 years ago. After so many years, the culture goes into your skin, and you feel it. It does have to do with where you live, so there is an influence.

What was the biggest adjustment when you moved to Mexico?

I guess being alone. In Chile, even though I lived by myself for quite some time, while I was very young, you still have your friends and family. When I came to Mexico, I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t have any acquaintances. Not knowing any people, I think, was the biggest challenge for me. Even though the cultures are similar, the people of Mexico are very nice and kind. The hardest challenge was moving where I didn’t know anybody.

You were writing songs at that time when you first moved to Mexico?

I’ve been writing songs since I was very young. Sometimes I’m very shy to show it all. I got over it. Lately, I’ve been feeling that way again. I write my own songs, but I have that problem showing that to people.

When you first moved to Mexico, did that solitude impact your songwriting?

Yes, but at that time, I was kind of embarrassed to show my true feelings. Some of the songs are stored and maybe even forgotten. The songs back then don’t necessarily talk about what I was feeling at the time. They were never recorded. They have been stored since then.

What was your experience recording with Gloria Trevi?

I like Gloria Trevi very much. I have been listening to her music since I was very little. I think I was about seven when I started listening to her songs. Back then, the music of Gloria Trevi was forbidden because it was ahead of its time. I remember we used to make copies of the tapes and listen to it, but it was kind of forbidden. The lyrics were very strong. Having the opportunity to record with her was very nice. She’s very sweet and fun. I loved doing that with her.

What is your favorite thing about touring the United States?

The best part for me is getting to do the tour by bus. The United States is one of the few countries where you have the infrastructure that to be able to do that. What I like is that I can come down the stage, take a shower, put my pajamas on, and take a rest. I don’t have to take an airplane, or a hotel, which for me is annoying. I love the road. I love being on the road. When we’re traveling, I get inspired a lot, especially in the south.

Do you have a favorite place to visit in the US?

I love the entire United States. For me, it’s just like hallucinating. All the states are different. I love that we’re going to Seattle, and then we’re going around the entire country all the way to New York. I’m not even sure where it ends. I like going to new places. Traveling is amazing. I’m really looking forward to North Carolina because I’ve never been to North Carolina. I don’t know what the audience is going to be like. I also find New Orleans amazing.

What would you be doing if you weren’t making music?

I would definitely be painting. I still do. During the pandemic, I spent half of the time writing. Half of the time, I was painting. I love everything that has to do with creativity. I love to make up stories. My mom used to tell me, “If you made a penny for every invention you make, you’d be a millionaire.” I’m not a millionaire, but I’m making a living from my creativity, so I kind of took it seriously.

Do you have a particular style of painting?

Not really a specific style. I like to paint with acrylics, oils. I just like to express my creativity.