IN CONVERSATION WITH DEBI NOVA
Interview by Jana Letonja
Costa Rican superstar Debi Nova is the first Costa Rican in history to be nominated for a Grammy Award. This September, she returned with her new single ‘Baño De Luna’, the first single from her upcoming album, which is due to be released in April 2024.
Debi, you just released your first single since 2020, ‘Baño De Luna’, which is also the first single from your upcoming album. What inspired this single?
This song is about reuniting with those you love, it was inspired by me having to spend time away from home because of work and counting the days until I can get back to my family. It definitely sets the tone for the album too. This album is all about coming to terms with this new me. I just became a mom two years ago and the songs come from the place of finding a balance between being at home, having a career in music, living my life and understanding what it is that I enjoy. This whole album is about finding your place in the world and learning how to enjoy your life.
What can the fans expect from your upcoming album, coming out next Spring?
This is an album that out of all my albums I’ve paid much more attention to the lyrics. It has a lot of weight in the lyric department because I had such a life-changing last few years. It explores a lot of different topics, but at the end of the day, it’s about not being so hard on ourselves and allowing ourselves to live our lives.
You started playing piano at 4 and played classical music for 10 years. How did your career as a singer begin?
My first singing gig was with Sérgio Mendes. I moved to Los Angeles and I was going to school there. I went to an audition for Sérgio Mendes and I got the job, that was my first singing job. After that I signed with Ricky Martin as a background singer and I started to get really well-aquainted with my voice and singing on stage and I think the two combined to really kickstart my singing journey.
You are also a songwriter. What usually inspires you when writing new songs?
I think anything can become a song. I really believe that the key is to have your antennae ready for when that information can be downloaded onto your aura. It’s so magical and mystical the way songs just appear and come out of nowhere. I do believe that anything can become a song, we just have to be open to it.
The though that crosses your mind every time you sit down at the piano to write a song is that with passion one can create music that breaks barriers. How does this thoughT influence your songwriting process and your music in general?
I think it’s a balance of tuning into the world, I think it’s important to be open to what’s happening in the world and the way music is created and consumed. For me, that’s exciting and it’s interesting to be a part of what’s happening right now. But there’s also a part where you have to tune out of all of that, cancel all the noise and go back inside yourself to see where you’re at. I think that’s the beauty of art, you get to share your fingerprint with the world and everybody’s fingerprint is so beautiful and unique. For me, that’s the key, the balance of being part of something and feeling part of a community of other female singer-songwriters and the Latin music world, but also finding where I stand, what I have to say and what I’m going through.
You also write music for other artists. How does writing for others differ from when you’re writing songs for yourself?
I have to say that writing for other artists is so much more fun than writing for me. I’m just not as worried about it. It’s really interesting how we are, at least for me, ‘do I really mean this’ and ‘is this really what I want to say’. But when it’s for other artists, it’s just much easier for me to channel what it is they want to say and not be so careful about it. I’ve been having to learn from that process for myself so I’m not so over-analytical with it.
Your international career began when you became a back vocalist for Sérgio Mendes and Ricky Martin. What have you learned from working with such big names in the industry?
Oh my god, that was my university, working with other artists that each in their own way have just created an amazing path. Sérgio Mendes globalised Brazilian music and Ricky Martin was one of our first crossover artists, Latino artist. I learned different things from both of them. For example, with Sérgio it was a very intricate musical repertoire. I had to really work hard to be good on stage with the two other singers. It was very intricate melodies, so there was a lot of musical preparation and phonetically because I was singing in Portuguese.
With Ricky, I learned how a global music machine works. Ricky was just always professional. I saw him waking up at 4 am to do press interviews for Asia and then we were actually in London together doing promo and I’d see him doing interviews and then flying back to tour rehearsals. The machine of how the tour works was also crazy, how you choreograph, how you prepare. I learned so much, it was my biggest university working with him. He is also the most beautiful human being so that to me was the best example.
You then also collaborated with the Black Eyed Peas, Mark Ronson and Sean Paul, amongst others. Who is the artist you would really love to collaborate with in the near future and why?
There’s so many. I dream big. I love Alicia Keys, I’m a big fan and she’s a big inspiration for me. I love John Mayer, I think he’s just amazing. I’d love to write a song with him at some point. Also Juan Luis Guerra is a major inspiration. Songwriting wise, I think he’s just a maestro, a master.
You are the most successful artist from Costa Rica and also the first Costa Rican in the history to be nominated for a Grammy. What does such an achievement mean to you?
It’s an honor, really. What I hope with what I’m doing is that it inspires other artists in my country to know that there is a way to make a career through music. It is a small country, it is limited and it is hard for us here. It brings me a lot of joy that things like this nomination can inspire other artists in my country. It’s a huge responsibility too. These things come and they’re like a pat on the back to keep going, but I feel ‘I have to write more, what can I do more’. I’m always thinking of the next step. I take it with a lot of honor, gratitude and responsibility.
Debi, what fulfulls you the most in life, aside from music?
My family, for sure. My daughter, my husband, my dog. That is my most treasured thing in this life. Also the ocean. We live close to the ocean in both Costa Rica and Los Angeles and I’ve had the ocean next to me for my whole life. My husband and I are both surfers too. It’s very healing. If I have my family and I have the ocean, I’m good.
What can you share with us about your upcoming projects, besides your new upcoming album?
Right now, we’re very focused on the album. There are a few singles coming out and I’d really hope to be touring in Summer 2024. And I really hope I get to come back to London, it’s been too long.
Debi Nova’s new single, “Baño de Luna” is out now.
Photo credit: Sony Music Latin