The big winner at the Los40 Music Awards, with three awards, returned to his hotel soon after the ceremony held in Madrid last Friday, November 3. “I was tired and I went to sleep. I didn’t go to the after party or anything like that, I had a quiet night in,” Manuel Turizo confirms days later. The singer has dominated Latin music with solid melodies in the last year. It may sound contradictory, but the person responsible for providing a soundtrack to club nights with global hits, such as La bachata and El merengue, is one of those that likes to curl up at home and prefers his own company. “There are people who like to go out in every city and be on the street, but I prefer quiet nights with my friends and my girlfriend,” he adds almost apologetically. Unwinding after bathing in the adulation of thousands of people is not easy. “There are times when it hits,” he concedes during the interview with EL PAÍS. But he gets used to it: “I start writing or have a beer with the team because if you come home with a lot of energy, and you stay there looking at the ceiling, your head talks a lot. The crazy person in your head never stays silent and it can be toxic. You have to control it.”
At first glance, Turizo checks all the boxes of the typical young music star. He wears clothes that are a couple of sizes too big, sneakers by Louis Vuitton, glitzy rings and pendants, an XL dial watch, sunglasses with tinted lenses, and a mesh cap. The interview starts with a handshake and an affectionate “how’s everything, bro?” in a suite that has panoramic views of Madrid, and he takes the opportunity to check his social media while waiting for the lens to point his way. Once settled on the set arranged for the occasion, the aesthetic artifice pales before his shy smile and a thoughtful speech about his artistic instinct. “Everyone is happy to get awards, but I don’t make music with that in mind. I do it because I love it and if one day people don’t want to listen to me anymore, I’ll still do it. My mind thinks about songs, lyrics, and sounds all the time.”
His found his vocation early, in the family apartment in Montería, a city with a cattle tradition in the north of Colombia where becoming an international star seemed like a dream that would never come true. His bedroom walls were decorated with guitars, horse riding accessories — horses are his other great passion — and a violin that he asked for one Christmas and has never learned to play. Although his father is also a musician, Turizo’s personal soundtrack was marked by his mother’s tastes. “When I got up every morning, she already had the radio on. She really likes the music people can dance to: salsa, vallenato, merengue.” He explains his predicament due to the mixture of genres that is now one of his hallmarks as a performer. “If I like many types of music, why should I limit myself to just one? You can try performing them all and see if it works.” His next album will be released in Madrid at the Christmas by Starlite festival in December. It is called 201, in homage to the apartment number that has marked him so much.
Today, the 32 million monthly listeners he has accumulated on Spotify alone bear witness to a hope on which he bet his future. Pursuing his dream, he went to Medellín as a child with his brother Julián, who also wrote several of his hits. “My parents made me finish school, but my mind only thought about music. I remember looking on the Instagram profiles of producers and record companies to see if they had the email address listed and I could write to them so they would open the door for me. I searched and searched for whatever it was,” he recalls. No one offered him the opportunity he desired. At the age of 16, Manuel found a digital platform that would host songs for only nine dollars. “But I didn’t have a credit card to pay for it, so I had to ask my cousin because they did have money,” he remembers with a laugh. The song, halfway between reggaeton and pop ballad, was called Una lady como tú (2016). In a matter of months, it was an undisputed hit on both sides of the Atlantic and Turizo’s passport to stardom. Did you ever return the nine dollars to your cousin? “No, and it’s accumulating interest.”
Despite his early success, the path to his current status has not followed a straight line. “If it were easy to maintain a career, believe me everyone would do it. There is no manual in this industry, you only learn by doing and making mistakes.” At this point in the conversation, he has taken off his glasses and maintains eye-contact with his interlocutor. Unlike other artists of his generation, he says that there is no difference between the person and the character, that this Manuel Turizo is the only authentic one, although he deliberately hides the less pleasant episodes of his routine. “The public only sees the good side because our job is to help them have a good time with our songs. “Everyone has their problems, why would you load them with more negativity?” he asks. Above all, in times as turbulent as these: “Music and dance are therapy, everyone needs their escape.”
The singer tries to lead by example. If he stands out among urban artists by taking risks with merengue or bachata, he also swims against the tide by avoiding making controversial statements, clashes with other artists, or publicizing his private life. Don’t look for photos of his girlfriend or parents on his social media, you won’t find them. “I have always thought that the people around me should not be exposed. They have not decided to have a high profile and it upsets me to see them attacked in any comments people may make about me.” And he continues: “I know that this is not just music and that we work in entertainment that consists, literally, of creating a novel of your life. But I always wanted to put my focus on my music.” And despite his meteoric rise, he is committed to keeping his feet on the ground. “I can’t say that a year from now I’m going to be the biggest artist in the world because I don’t know if that’s going to be possible. Nobody controls that,” he concludes. For now, the “little one,” as his family call him, prefers to liven up the mornings of those who, like his mother, start the day with the radio on.
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