By Lucas Villa
Even as one of last year's biggest Latin music hits, Becky G and Natti Natasha’s "Sin Pijama" ("Without Pajamas" in English), tore up the global charts, hitting No. 1 in four Spanish-speaking countries and going 13 times platinum in the U.S., one of its writers was without a recording contract. But that was 2018. Camilo Echeverry, who goes solely goes by Camilo, is now making moves from hit-making songwriter to artist in his own right: He revealed on February 4 that he signed with Sony Music Latin. Backstage at the Fuego Music Festival in Miami on February 24, the 24-year-old emerging artist was gracious about his major career shift.
"I feel very happy,” Echeverry said in Spanish. “The truth is that it's been a very long process to get to this moment."
At a Florida performance last November, when Echeverry sang his rising hit "Desconocidos" with frequent collaborators and Venezuelan-born duo Mau y Ricky, Ricky Montaner had to playfully push Echeverry to the front of the stage to sing his part. The title, which translates to "Strangers" in English, recently charted at No. 31 on Billboard's Hot Latin Songs chart. This time around, with a surprise appearance during Mau y Ricky's headlining set in Miami, Camilo strutted in with swagger and raised his mic to the fans who were singing along in the crowd.
Before getting "Desconocidos" out with Mau y Ricky and Colombian reggaetonero, or reggaeton music artist, Manuel Turizo, and then signing his deal, Echeverry's notoriety in the Latin music scene was mostly behind the scenes. Echeverry was born in Medellín, Colombia, the hometown of Latin superstars J Balvin and Maluma. After winning a Colombian spin-off of The X-Factor in 2007 as a teenager, his star exploded and his debut single, “Regálame Tu Corazón,” or “Give Me Your Heart,” shot to No. 1 locally and was certified gold in less than two months.
But after releasing his second album, 2010's Tráfico de Sentimientos (Traffic of Feelings), he pulled his music career over to the side of the road and moved away from the spotlight. In a video Echeverry posted last year called “Back to the Game,” he said, “For a long time I wanted to hide backstage or under the stage.” Having been wrung out by the pop machine, Echeverry decided to take some time off rather than stubbornly push forward.
Echeverry's name started to appear outside of Colombia at the beginning of last year. The once clean-cut teen idol re-emerged as a scruffy, Bohemian-styled twentysomething armed with a handlebar mustache you might only find in an Urban Outfitters. He was now a full-time songwriter working with all your favorites in the Latin music circuit: Mexican-American singer Becky G, reggaetoneras Natti Natasha and Karol G, Colombian heartthrob Sebastián Yatra, Brazilian beauty Anitta, Latin pop star Prince Royce, and Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny.
"When you write for someone else, you're being an actor," Echeverry said. "The feeling is the feeling of another." It’s a feeling he knows well. “Sin Pijama” — on which he shares a writing credit with Mau y Ricky, Daddy Yankee, and others — is about having a sexy sleepover with marijuana and without clothes. It hit No. 70 on Billboard's all-genre Hot 100 chart last year. Currently, the music video sits at 1.3 billion views on YouTube.
Another hit Echeverry scored as a songwriter was Mau y Ricky and Yatra's "Ya No Tiene Novio," which he wrote with the duo. The title translates to "Don't Have a Boyfriend Anymore" — the music video, where they steal each other's girlfriends, has amassed over 517 million views on YouTube. With Royce, Echeverry wrote "El Clavo" (or "The Nail" in English) and on that one, the Dominican-American artist sings about scooping up a lady who deserves better.
"When you write for yourself, it's 100 percent all your essence," Echeverry said. The best example of Camilo's own essence is on "Desconocidos" with Mau y Ricky and Turizo. Backed by a breezy ukulele courtesy of Turizo's older brother, Julian, and reggaeton beats, Echeverry sings in Spanish about being the man of your dreams. Those words feel real with his distinctly delicate vocals. In a Latin music scene currently dominated by urban music, Echeverry is finding his footing in a novel sound, one of the singer-songwriter. With “Desconocidos,” he's starting off on the right foot: The music video has crossed over 250 million views.
Outside of music, Echeverry uploads cute videos on YouTube with his fiancée Evaluna Montaner, the sister of Mau y Ricky, and his Instagram feed is like a Latinx Hallmark card filled with positive messages of hope: "AMAR ES MI REVOLUCIÓN," or "LOVE IS MY REVOLUTION," reads his IG bio. “[Love] is the feeling of everything I write and it's like my driving force for everything," he adds.
Echeverry brought these good vibes to the Venezuela Aid Live concert in Cúcuta, Colombia on February 22. "It was a concert that moved me a lot," he said. "It was not easy, but so many people are suffering. I felt happy to be a part of raising global awareness to show what is happening in Venezuela is a tremendous injustice." He sang "Desconocidos" with Mau y Ricky again. Onstage, he donned pants carrying a message in Spanish that translated to "the truth will set you free."
As Echeverry explained, it was easy to see why he would be so full of positivity: "I feel very happy because this is the beginning of something very important for my career."