La Tonta de Abril: Q&A with Karen Rodriguez

La Tonta de Abril: Q&A with Karen Rodriguez

Karen Rodriguez is confident. Evidence? A few years ago, while recording background vocals for Marc Anthony’s “Vivir Mi Vida,” with Romeo Santos in attendance, she thought to herself, this is my opportunity.

“That night right before the session ended I asked if I could play them some of my original music,” she tells. One of the songs she played was an early version of “Happy April Fools.” Santos immediately felt drawn to the song.

Today, the Roc Nation Latin artist released her debut original singles, “La Tonta de Abril” and “Happy April Fools,” both produced by Santos, RNL’s president. As they say, confidence is the best dress on a mujer.

Listening to both of your new singles “La Tonta de Abril” and the English version, “Happy April Fools,” we can hear the raw emotion, especially in the Spanish version.

The words in Spanish are just so much more intense because something happens when I sing in Spanish. Not to take away from the English one because I love the groove of that one. I sometimes go back and forth between which one I like the most, which is why it was important to me to have two versions of this song. I wanted people to be able to have that choice and not just conform to one single. It’s exciting to see what people are going to think about my singles. So far I’ve been getting good reviews from my family and friends so that makes me feel good.

When did you write the song?

I wrote it about four years ago, which is when I met Romeo. I was recording background vocals for Marc Anthony’s “Vivir Mi Vida.” That night Romeo was there as well and right before the session ended I asked if I could play them some of my original music. This song “Happy April Fools” was one of the songs I had produced on GarageBand. Romeo heard it and fell in love with it and that’s really what catapulted our friendship. He took me under his wing and mentored me. And he’s always wanted to produce this song. It’s crazy because the production I created on GarageBand became the foundation for the way the song was produced now.

How was it working with Romeo as your producer?

Romeo added a whole bunch of different elements. He heard drums, specific chords for strings. Whenever we’d get together, whether it was to write for his album or catch up, he would tell me, “Play that song.” To finally see it come to life properly and have both versions is such an amazing thing. Now that I’m signed to Roc Nation I was able to do that. We got into the studio that day and unanimously we both knew the first single was going to be “Happy April Fools.”

What have you learned from Romeo as a mentor?

There are so many things. He teaches me so much about song formatting, the melodies, and different ways to really make a song and create a feeling for the song. Besides that it’s just the way he carries himself. How successful his albums have been because of the work that he puts into them. I experienced that firsthand when I had the opportunity to write for his last album. It’s a lot of work, a lot of hours, and a lot of moves that he makes that dictates how the track comes out. There’s certain melodies he hears in his head that he can have the guitarist or pianist bring those emotions out. And that inspires me to be really involved as well.

Going back to the beginning, when did you realize music would be your life?

When I went to LaGuardia High School in NYC. They had a class called, “New Music Singers,” where you just go there and create songs. They teach you about song structure and that’s really when I got passionate about writing. They would bring writers to talk to us. It was really in high school when I started getting into my own as a songwriter. Then I went to Berklee College of Music and majored in songwriting. I’ve always had a love for writing.

You’re a big Selena fan. What is one thing you hope to emulate from her career?

Selena would flawlessly change from singing in Spanish to English and show the same emotion in both. She had the appeal in both markets and there hasn’t been anyone since. The reason is because she grew up right in the middle of it all. One of influences was Michael Jackson but she also learned about Tejano music and boleros. No matter what she did it was always her; her humility and the way that she performed. You felt like you knew her. She gave her all every single time she performed. There’s not one video you pull up from Selena that you go, “Oh, she had an off day.” She was on it!

You’ve had quite the start for your career. Where do you see yourself in five years?

I want to make it as big and as far as I’m able to go. I want to win Grammys, break records, I want to tour the world, I want keep writing, I want to write for other artists, I want to do everything. I want to be that voice of the generation of Latinos that speak Spanish and English and they need music that is catered to the type of music they love when they hear Top 40 American stations and Top 40 Latino stations. I just want to be right there in the middle and do music they can enjoy without feeling they have to choose one over the other. That’s who I am. I love Whitney but I also love J Balvin. That’s who I wanna be.

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