She used this experience to fuel her desire to become well versed in the music industry, in order to pursue her dreams of creating the genre of music that touched her – artists like Celia Cruz, Bryan Adams and Selena Quintanilla.
After researching the music schools that would offer him the best opportunities, Carvajal auditioned for the Berklee College of Music – and with a scholarship, moved to Boston to launch his career at the age of 18. During her studies, she won the coveted John Lennon Songwriting Competition for her song “Me Viene Bien”.
“I called the guy and said, ‘Are you sure it’s me?’ She laughs, remembering the moment she received the email. “Because I never believe when these things happen, I’m like, ‘Are you sure? Say it again. ‘ And he said to me, âGirl, you won! “
It was during her university studies that Elsa y Elmar was born. His last full album dates from 2015 Rey, and she is now preparing to release her next LP, Eres Diamante (released on May 17th).
Before you dive into Elsa’s dreamy and uplifting Spanish tracks, find out below what drives this week’s Latin artist On the Rise – and also check out the new music video for her latest single, “Ojos Noche.”
Background: âI was born in Colombia, and at 18 I moved to Boston. I studied music there for a bit, then moved to the Bay Area in California and lived there for four years. Now I am here in Mexico City.
What prompted you to pursue music? “What inspired me the most was the role music played in my life. There wasn’t a lot of art around me but I discovered music and words – the power. music and lyrics. So for me naturally it first became a process of appreciation and how I felt understood by these artists and this music. But then what inspired me was is the feeling of wanting to do that – of having a voice that does, first myself, then someone feels understood and not alone. “
What is the meaning of the name of your project? âMy name is Elsa Carvajal, but I thought it was very boring. I also didn’t want it to be a one-person-centric thing, even if it was just me. I pictured Elsa y Elmar, which is cool because people always ask me, âWho is Elmar? And I say, ‘It’s you.’ The one who wants to be Elmar. And yes, I just kept doing it and here I am.
Recommended song: Elsa y Elmar’s latest single, “Ojos Noche”, opens with the familiar ballad of Ben E. King’s classic “Stand By Me” and later turns into a slow-tempo, R&B-tinged pop melody with Elsa’s shrill voice as she sings the thoughtful lyrics about being heartbroken by someone who lied about her intentions, even though she was telling the truth. The gripping video was shot in Mexico City and depicts a doomed love affair with footage of Elsa as a portrayal of the Virgin Mary through the panoramic shots. Elsa says she deliberately wanted this to be part of the visuals, as Our Lady’s altars are on display in many spaces throughout the Central American country and represent a sense of sadness.
What inspired you to write âOjos Nocheâ? “I wrote ‘Ojos Noche’ during a visit to my city, Bucaramanga. It gave me a lot of nostalgia to see the places I had been with my first great love, to walk the same streets we used to walk, but on my own. So it’s a memory of my first love and at the same time my first grief, because it basically broke my heart. He was unfaithful. So it was about that feeling you get when you tell the truth, and hope and trust that the other person is also telling the truth, but they don’t.
The song is based on the city, in the city streets where we just went out at night. And ‘Ojos Noche’ [which translates to night eyes] is a metaphor for his eyes, and the fact that we went out at night, and he had black eyes. We recorded that one in San Francisco at the studio my producer called Fantasy Studios, which is actually closed now. It’s a studio where a lot of jazz has been recorded. “
Did you know that this would be your next single after âCulpa Tengoâ, âPuntos Mediosâ and âNadie Vaâ? “No. Life has forced me to change a lot, and what I have learned is to plan and be prepared, but at the same time to be open. I could tell the album needed a touching song to show. Last year we started with “Culpa Tengo”, then “Puntos Medios”, then “Nadie Va”, which are very urban songs. But I wanted the other side to be shown before the next one came out. Because there is another side which is very acoustic and it is very vintage.
What was it like studying at Berklee? Did you win the John Lennon Songwriting Contest while you were still there? âFor me, university was very difficult. So I basically focused on my music when I was in college, and I applied for that award, and I was like, “Okay, cool, I’m just going to upload my song and the to forget.” A month later I got the âyou wonâ email and I was like, what is itâ¦ like I called the guy and said âare you- you sure it’s me? Because I never believe when these things happen. And he said to me, âGirl, you won! ” [Laughs.] I was 20 when I won this. I was very happy, and it is a very nice price because it is not only like the price, but it also gives a lot of perspectives.
Did that award help you realize that this is something you don’t just want to do, but you’re good at as well? âYes, this is a battle that I still face. Do you know the voice in your head that says, “Ah, you haven’t done enough, ah, there are other people who are taller”? That’s why it’s so hard for me to believe when I get these opportunities and recognition. Because I’m like ‘Is this really me?’ It’s a good thing to remind me, like, ‘Okay, maybe you did a good job.’ “
And then you gotta open up for Coldplay in BogotaÃ¡ in 2016. “Yes I did. It was another good example of my inability to deal with the good things that happen. [Laughs.] I said to my manager, “No, no, send me a screenshot of the email we received!” It took me a week to accept that I was going to do this. And I did and it was beautiful. It’s so surreal, to be honest. I’ve known them since I was a teenager. This is the kind of thing that, to be honest … is so crazy! I was like, ‘Do you think at 14 you really thought you were going to open for these big bands?’ No, I never thought about it. And it happened. So it’s beautiful.
And after? âI’m excited for the album. It’s going to come out with a new video and a lot of media around it, which I’ll talk about later, because I’m really interested in the different ways of exploring an album and the story behind an album. I’m also going to have shows in South America and Mexico and hopefully in the US too, we’re working on that. “