Up Next: She’s The First Chilean To Be Signed To A Major International Record Label In Our Generation
Up Next is a FIERCE series highlighting rising Latina and Latin American women artists you might not know about but definitely should.
Paloma Mami’s face and name are currently on a digital billboard at the center of Times Square. For passersby, she’s a new PYT shining under New York City’s flashing lights. For Amazon, who’s behind the advertisement, she’s an Artist to Watch in 2019. For urbano fans, she’s the young chilena songstress we’ve excitedly observed thrive from independent hitmaker to anticipated Sony Music Latin signee in less than five months.
Born Paloma Castillo Astorga in New York City to Chilean parents, the 19-year-old up-and-comer is not playing games. Making a name for herself in music as a contestant on Rojo, a Chilean reality TV talent competition, where she was a fan favorite, the singer-songwriter left the series because she did not feel comfortable signing a contract that would’ve prevented her from making her own music. Boss moves for a boss mami. Her first single “Not Steady,” an independently produced viral song and video about refusing to compromise herself for romance, caught the attention of the record label, which signed her in October. Since then, Castillo released her second single, and first under Sony Music Latin, “No Te Enamores,” a Mambo Kingz and DJ Luian-produced reggaeton banger sticking to her message of female independence that garnered more than 1 million views on YouTube on its Dec. 21 release.
The rising star, who has spent the last two years living in her parents’ homeland, is fighting to put Chile on the musical map. With back-to-back girl power jams, Castillo, the first Chilean to be signed to a major international record label in our generation and a performer at this year’s Chile edition of Lollapalooza, makes accomplishing that lofty goal look easy. Melding soulful rifts over urbano rhythms that range from trap to dancehall, Paloma Mami has become one of the most gripping and rapidly ascending young acts in the game.
We chatted with the new mami of urbano about her growing success, leaving an opportunity of a lifetime to follow her own dreams, believing in her gifts, making hits for self-sufficient women disinterested in romance, New Year resolutions and more.
FIERCE: Happy New Year! You ended 2018 with so much to be proud about, from signing to Sony Music Latin to your second jam getting a million views on YouTube in less than 24 hours, that I’m sure you have to be excited about what lies ahead for you this year. Tell me, what are some of your career resolutions or intentions for 2019?
Paloma Mami: I think my goal is just topping 2018, getting more known in 2019. I would like to have a lot more people know who I am this year and definitely have more music, more content, out. I have a lot of goals. I think the billboard thing is huge. I’m one of Amazon’s Artists to Watch in 2019, and they have a billboard in New York with my face on it. I’m from New York, too, so it’s crazy. Times Square is like the most popular place in New York, so it’s pretty exciting to see my face there. And it’s pretty amazing that this happened in my first two weeks into 2019, that I’m already meeting my goals.
FIERCE: This is exciting, and for anyone else maybe a little far-fetched, but you have really proven you have what it takes to not just make the unlikely happen but supercede it a million times. Just last year, you were a contestant on a Chilean singing contest called Rojo and now, legit months later, you are considered one of the most anticipated artists in urbano. What is this like for you? Does it feel fast?
Paloma Mami: Obviously, it feels like it’s happening so fast, but I think I’m handling it pretty well, pretty calmly. I feel like it’s happening fast but also that it’s meant to be. I hadn’t attempted a career in music before, and I feel like it’s happening this quickly because it’s been waiting for me. I’m really happy about how everything is happening.
FIERCE: You mentioned not previously pursuing a career in music. When did this change? When did you realize that singing and performing is something you wanted to do seriously?
Paloma Mami: Actually, this is a funny story. It was at a Bad Bunny concert in Chile last March. I always wanted to do music. It always called my attention and was a dream that I had, but I never pursued it, tried or really dared to until I went to that Bad Bunny concert. I saw the whole crowd go crazy. I saw people of all ages, little kids to grandfathers. Everyone was there, and I just loved that feeling, that whole vibe in that arena. It was amazing, and that’s what inspired me. Right after that concert, I went home and said, “Yo, mom, I’m going to try out this music thing. Let’s see how it goes.” And then from there, history.
FIERCE: Shout-out to Bad Bunny, haha. From there, though, you tried out for Rojo, made it and then left mid-show because you were not comfortable signing a contract, which restricted you from making your own music, that was required of you. You’re 19 and you were just 18 at the time. Was this a difficult decision for you to make?
Paloma Mami: No, it really wasn’t. Obviously, people thought it would have been because it was such a good opportunity, but I really did believe in myself and I knew that if I was not going to be on the show that there was going to be something else waiting for me. So it wasn’t really hard.
FIERCE: When I read that you walked away from this opportunity, especially at your age, I was astonished and immediately felt a great respect for you outside your music. You are an example of a young woman who knows her skill, worth and vision, and chose to protect that even if it meant stepping away from an opportunity that could have furthered your career. How do you think you are able to trust and believe in your magic?
Paloma Mami: I just believe in myself. People just know when something is coming or you know things are going to be good for you either way, no matter what happens. Really, I just trusted in my talent. And I felt like, I’m a female and there’s not really many girls that do the same type of music I do. Not just girls, there’s just not anyone like me, you feel me? I just trusted in that, in knowing that I’m kind of different.
FIERCE: Clearly, it’s been working out for you. Soon after leaving the show, you dropped the video for “Not Steady,” a banger that I’ve had on repeat for months. And I wasn’t alone. The song caught the attention of Sony Music Latin, which signed you in October. How has your life changed since then?
Paloma Mami: It’s changed drastically in the last couple months. I feel being signed has helped promote the song a lot more. Literally, when I first dropped “No Te Enamores,” the day after I went outside, and there were people singing it to me. I thought, whoa! How crazy! How drastic this change is. Before, some people recognized me, but now it’s like all eyes are on me, especially here in Chile. It’s such a big move to be signed with Sony Music Latin because there’s no chilena that is signed with them, and it was like huge news here in Chile. It’s like making history.
FIERCE: You are the first Chilean act of your generation to be signed to an international label. What does that feel like for you, as a chilena, as an artist?
Paloma Mami: It’s awesome. I feel like it’s going to help a lot with having Chilean music progress and evolve a lot more. Here in Chile, the music is still unknown. There’s not many artists that are known that are chileno, so I feel like it’s so cool that I’m the one who is breaking the ice, at least for urban music.
FIERCE: The first song you dropped since joining Sony Music Latin was “No Te Enamores,” produced by Mambo Kingz & DJ Luian, another really dope track that already has more than 11 million YouTube views. In both this song and “Not Steady,” you really stress your independence, particularly your preference in being single and doing your own thing on your own terms rather than being in a relationship. I feel like more and more younger women are sharing the same sentiments. Just last week, Ariana Grande wrote on Twitter that she wouldn’t be dating this year. What do you think of this musical shift, where female singers are increasingly writing about enjoying their own solitude over being in relationships?
Paloma Mami: I think it’s a whole movement that’s happening right now. I feel it’s something I always felt and many other girls felt the same way. What has sold in the R&B and urban music field is singing about falling in love and girls being with their boyfriends or falling out of love and being sad and heartbroken. And that sold really well in the music industry, but now this whole movement that’s happening is right on time. It corresponds with the feminist movement and girl power. I feel it’s awesome to hear girls sing about how we don’t want a man, don’t want a relationship, that they don’t want anything to do with it. I think it’s really cool, and that’s what I love to sing about. I think it’s what flows more with me because it comes from the heart.
FIERCE: Personally speaking, what do you think we as women gain by prioritizing relationships with ourselves versus romantic relationships with others, particularly men?
Paloma Mami: Just knowing yourself more, knowing your worth. I feel like every girl has gone through that path where they don’t know their value or who they are. You don’t really get to know that until you are alone. That’s when you build a relationship with yourself and know your worth.
FIERCE: Your music meshes reggaeton and trap ritmos with R&B and your lyrics oscillate effortlessly between Spanish and English. I know you were born in Manhattan to Chilean parents and later moved back to their home country. What type of music did you grow up on and how do you think it influenced your style today?
Paloma Mami: I grew up listening to R&B mostly, like really just R&B. Soul music and what my parents were listening to. I didn’t listen to a lot of Spanish music when I was younger. Half of my life, I was listening to English music, and now, in the second half of my life, I feel like I’m only listening to Spanish music. I think that gives me this perfect mix. But listening to R&B has gotten into my craft, especially how I write, because I feel like there’s not much popular Spanish R&B. My first song “Not Steady” is R&B in Spanish with some urbano.
FIERCE: With the success of “Not Steady” and “No Te Enamores,” we are all excited to hear what you have coming up. Can you tell us what you’re working on?
Paloma Mami: Expect a whole bunch of new music. I feel like a lot of what I do is really different from the last thing. I don’t think you will expect what comes. From dancehall to reggaeton, you’re never going to know with me. So expect that: something different always. I’ll also be releasing more solo singles. We haven’t really focused much on collaborations, but I think once I get more of my stuff out, we will get into the fun collab stuff.
FIERCE: You’re 19 years old, at the start of your career. In a few years, what do you hope the people can say about Paloma Mami?
Paloma Mami: I hope in a few years a lot of people can say that I’m a fierce woman, also recognizing that I’m Latina for sure and have New York roots. I don’t know, that I’m cool. I never really thought about this. Just that I’m an independent girl who is fierce and strong and humble. I hope people can say that about me five years from now.
Check out “No Te Enamores,” Paloma Mami’s latest single, below:
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