Mon Laferte Talks U.S. Tour, New Music and the Influences Behind ‘Norma’
Chilean singer-songwriter Mon Laferte blew up in her home country with the release of 2003’s “La Chica de Rojo.” There could hardly have been a more fitting introduction, as the title itself translates to “The Girl In Red,” which captured the feistiness and vivacity of her music and presence that was bound to set a streaming record in Chile, and demand attention far beyond those confines.
Laferte relocated to Mexico City and became a celebrated chauntenuese there, soon blooming into Latinx icon, earning Grammys for 2013’s “Tornasol” and 2017’s “La Trenza.” Her latest album “Norma” bears her original first name as its title, and was produced by the virtuoso Omar Rodriguez-Lopez of At the Drive In and the Mars Volta. It captures Laferte broadening her palette on certain songs, and adding new flourishes to a sound that already channeled disparate international influences into a striking blend.
Laferte has been taking the world by storm, recently playing the mainstage at Coachella 2019, with a set fully in Spanish that thrilled fans and newcomers alike. Now, she’s making her way back to the U.S. for a headling tour, and has new music and a visual companion to “Norma” on the horizon. Laferte sat down with Entertainment Voice to discuss her music, the influences behind her latest album, what her Coachella experience was like and what’s next.
Your latest album is titled “Norma,” your given name. Choosing your name as an album title suggests that it is a very personal and defining work that you feel represents your story and your craft. Is this the case? And will you expand on the overall concept of the album?
This album was conceived of as a conceptual album, actually, an audio/visual piece. It’s ten songs that narrate a love story. And, yes, it is a very personal album, and not just this one because it’s my given name, but because all my albums are very personal. But in this case, Norma is my name, but also a double play with the word, because in Spanish “norma” means “the norm.” That story that I’m telling, how those ten songs narrate those ten episodes of a love story, is what repeats itself in every relationship. You fall in love, you’re very happy, you break up, but then you get back together. You tell this story over and over again, and that’s the norm.
Can you tell us about the inspiration behind “El Beso,” the first single off of “Norma?”
So with “El Beso,” I wanted to create a very, very personal song and something that related very much with Chilean music. The final result wasn’t as Chilean as I wanted because the arrangements were not as true, maybe, to the essence of Chilean music, but I wanted to reflect in it that celebration that I remember in music from my roots in Chile.
“Ronroneo,” your first track off the album, has a loungy, atmospheric vibe. Is this something that comes out naturally in your music or something you specifically intended for this song?
I looked specifically for that sound, and the reason is that it brings you to that moment in the relationship when it’s that first look. It’s the attraction, the first moment, and it was meant to be a very sensual cumbia. That’s the loungy cumbia feel that you hear in that song.
Every song on your last album is upbeat and festive. You sing with so much sustained enthusiasm and positive spirit. Where does this inspiration come from?
I don’t know exactly where it comes from, but I remember that since I was small, I’d get goosebumps coming on stage and just listening to the music, to the band. It’s just a love and a passion for music.
Some of your songs have a percussive emphasis that vaguely recall the likes of Tito Puente, “The King of Latin Music.” Is he an influence at all?
Definitely, I was intentionally looking for that kind of sound, and he is a big influence. When I was creating the album, I was looking for all that old-school salsa from Tito Puente to Victor Manuelle to Celia Cruz. These are artists that have that sound in them, the sound that I wanted to put on that album.
Are there any other major influences you would like to add that have helped shape your sound?
I have a very diverse set of influences, and it can go anywhere from Janis Joplin to Billie Holiday to Björk to all these singer-songwriters from the Latin world, like Juan Gabriel and Violeta Parra.
If you could pick one song from your last album that you would most like people to be exposed to, which one would it be, and why?
Definitely, it would be “El Mambo,” the reason being it’s probably not the most structured song out of all of them. It’s actually a very risky piece that I did, and it’s a mambo with basslines for trap, and also some rap. It was the challenging one, it was the riskiest one, and that’s the one I’d love people to hear. It’s just out-of-the-box.
What have you been working on recently, since “Norma”? And how would you describe the music on which you’re currently working?
I’ve been writing a lot. Not specifically for an album, but I have a lot of songs and I’ve been creating a lot. Many of them are geared towards blues, but that doesn’t mean that the album will go towards that. There’s a lot of things that could happen, and right now I’m just focused on writing.
You played two incredible main stage performances at Coachella 2019. What aspect of Coachella were you looking forward to most, and what parts of your performances were the fans most excited about?
What I was looking forward to the most was, obviously, stepping on stage in that moment, but also discovering other artists and seeing other musicians and being able to visit those smaller stages as much as the main stage, and I was able to see Tame Impala and Childish Gambino as well.
What connected out of my performance, I think was the electricity, the electricity I felt prior to coming on stage. I think that was what really hooked them.
When will you tour the U.S. in support of the album? And is there anything else coming out that you would like to talk about?
I’m going to continue touring [on behalf of] “Norma” and it’s going to the rest of Latin America and it will be coming to the U.S. in the second semester. I’m also very excited because the visual piece for “Norma,” the documentary/short film, will be coming out second semester as well. It narrates, through images, the rest of the story that’s in the album.
You’ve toured all over at this point. Do you have a favorite city to perform in?
That’s a really hard question. I love performing in Mexico City, but it’s really because I’m a granny. That means that I can wake up, go perform, give the best concert of my life, go home and sleep with my dog. [Laughs].