Although not knowing what direction she’ll take after her new album Musas Vol. 2, Natalia Lafourcade feels she’s matured as an artist, doing what she loves the most, getting on stage, singing and sharing music with people.

Through her music, Natalia has the opportunity to take Mexico with her wherever she goes, sharing a bit of who we (Mexicans) are. Especially, the beautiful bits, like how we deal with death, love and life, all of this in every lyric. Music has this power over people that take us to places, familiar or unknown, it can immediately transport you. She makes this possible capturing images of Mexico, Cuba or Colombia, in her own particular way.

We met in a small but colourful restaurant in the Condesa neighbourhood of Mexico City - where she likes to go after coming home from tour - to talk about her music, her influences and the elements that sparked a turning point in her career.

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How did this infatuation between you and the sounds you've been exploring more and more in your last albums come about?

I think it had to do with the feeling that I was missing something, that what I was composing and what I was producing as a musician didn’t fill me, I didn’t know what it was but I needed to satisfy it and indulge it. Little by little, I realized that something I needed I could find it in traditional or folk music, in all that music that has something very luscious that later helped me to cultivate my artistic part a bit more, as a composer and as a musician. Then, I started listening to songs by Agustín Lara, to know other musical universes that I thought to be boring or very old or very traditional, they didn’t catch much of my attention before. Slowly, I got rid of those biases and got to know a whole new universe for me. From Agustín Lara another panorama opened up for me.

Natalia Lafourcade

Would you say that Agustín Lara was the trigger?

Yes, I think that having worked with the music of Agustín Lara was what triggered me to feel curious about the need to look for something else and it took me a lot of work to play his music. It was really different from what I’d been doing and that generated a breaking point in me, as well as the coincidence of having had tendinitis in my arm and not being able to play any instruments. I had to put them aside and start singing and using only my voice to express myself; I no longer had instruments to shield myself, what I had was me, my voice, and my songs. One thing took me to the other.

I feel that all my experience from singing Agustín Lara’s songs led me into composing from another vision, from Mexico and from my emotions, what I wanted to write, how I wanted to write and that helped me a lot. Having worked with Alondra de la Parra to make an album of traditional music and having toured singing songs by Chavela Vargas became a very strong influence. I stopped listening to music in English and started listening to more music in Spanish.

It’s funny but amazing because normally, it happens the other way around - artists start singing in Spanish and for a particular audience, and then they make the crossover.

Everything is valid but I realized that that wasn’t what I wanted to do. It hurt a lot to come back from Canada and see that I’d walked away from my audience. I don’t regret the trip, but I felt that I’d have to go back to square one after being away. From that point on, I felt that I had to rebuild my career and my path with much firmer steps and being much more honest with myself about what I wanted to share with people. At that time I didn’t know of someone, a pop artist, that was looking into folklore or something traditional to let themselves be influenced in their music and I found it very interesting to do so and in doing so I realized that I really started to mature as an artist.

Natalia Lafourcade

Do you think the music you play now has shaped or changed the way you write your lyrics?

Definitely. I feel that since I started composing for my album, Hasta la Raíz, I was trying to find those elements in the writing of my songs that could be seen, or rather, be heard; letting people know that those were songs of a Mexican. So I wanted to get that Mexican feel, even though there were some Bossa Nova rhythms or chords, which I always like to mix in my music.

How did Musas Vol. 1 come about?

Musas was born mainly because of the need to return to my home after touring Hasta La Raíz with an itch to do a musical project that would satisfy me. Not with the obvious inertia of making a bigger album, rather to be in my house and meet with the Macorinos; to learn from these composers and sing that music that I listen to in my house, in hotels, everywhere and play with it, like going back to bohemian times. Suddenly you pick up a routine, you're travelling so much and playing in so many places that sometimes you lose the everydayness of music without wanting to and I feel that in my case that was lost, like playing music in my living room. I was very ambitious with the project, I wanted to record a lot of songs so I could make the most of the Macorinos.

Natalia Lafourcade

So Musas Vol. 2 was born because...

...because there was a lack of space in the first album to put all the songs we made, yes [laughs] and because the label was very interested in releasing this project. Musas Vol. 2 continues to be a tribute to Latin American folklore and with the first single, 'Danza de Gardenias', we gave ourselves the opportunity to flirt with a genre that I’d never even imagined I would sing, like Salsa. However, the way I composed the song didn’t sound like that in the beginning. The exercise was to explore and flirt a little with those rhythms and genres we have in Mexico and Latin America, although it’s not directly traditional. Each genre that we’ve included in the project has been like a flirtation, with Son Jarocho and with my hometown Veracruz, with Bolero but a pop Bolero, with Danzón, with the Peruvian waltz, is a constant flirt with those genres that I like and that many artists that I admire play them.

What everyday Mexican things inspire you?

Markets, I love markets on wheels (tianguis), I love crafts. I really like folklore, I mean, what becomes very folkloric, like what happens with the streets, the subway, the traffic, the chaos, with the men who sell mangoes on street corners. I find it wonderful that we are a country that sells fruit so cheap because the land is so abundant and so rich, that it’s full of colour, and full of life. I really like the way people talk and the rhythm of people's words, the diversity of language that exists in a city, that’s amazing! Our music, our history, our way of being, with all our good and bad things. We have a very particular black humour that I adore - those kind of things.

Natalia Lafourcade

Who are your muses?

I have many muses. First of all, my mom, I admire her very much for being a very strong woman and for teaching me since little that one has to work to get things.

For this album I had the presence especially of women, but it was more on a spiritual level like Chavela Vargas, Violeta Parra, Mercedes Sosa, María Grever and Frida Kahlo. Women like Rocío de Todos los Campos, who was an old friend of mine that died two years ago just when I’d already decided to make an album with the Macorinos. The day we got to the studio we put an altar for her.

Figures like Simón Díaz, Atahualpa Yupanqui, Bola de Nieve, Frank Domínguez, all of them became muses in a way. The muses of this album had to do with the muses of love, the muses of sensuality, and of death.

For people in London who have yet to know you, what can they expect from your show there?

They’re going to listen to something different from what they’re used to. I would’ve never imagined that we would visit London to present this album and surely most of the people that will come to the show will be either Mexicans or Latinos, people who are far away from their homes and who are probably going to bring some friends along who don’t speak Spanish. What I can tell you is that it’s fantastic for me to bring you a piece of what we have that’s so valuable to us and that we long for when we go away from home, because I know it's always hard to leave your country.

Natalia Lafourcade is playing Koko London on February 12, get your tickets here. Her new album, Musas Vol. 2, is out on February 9th.