On the way to success

12/17/2021 · By Teresa Morales
The singer Nella
This year Nella released 'Doce Margaritas', her second studio album. © Courtesy of Nella

Dedicated to music and curious about everything she can continue to discover in life through it, the singer Nella Rojas  —better known as Nella — stars in an incredible professional project in which there is no shortage of duets with established artists, nominations for great awards and concerts in the United States, Latin America and Europe. The key to her success? The love for her roots, the fusion of different styles and, above all, the intimate nature of her voice.

When she sings, her broken and sweet voice, almost wounded by an extreme sensitivity, moves and seduces. Anyone would think that Nella is indeed a fragile woman in the middle of a madding crowd. Yet this 32-year-old Venezuelan, originally from the island of Margarita, is a torrent of vitality and action. She travels happily through the streets of New York on her bicycle; She never forgets her first coffee in the morning and she lives immersed in her greatest love story: Tambor, a dachshund puppy who has softened the ravages of the pandemic. “When my sister saw me down, she said: Get the dog you want now! Some friends from Miami introduced me to Tambor and now here he is. He has stolen my heart and whenever I have enough help, he comes on tour with me”. A tour (the one postponed in 2020) that has resumed this fall and that will culminate this year in Madrid, on December 18 in the Galileo Galilei concert hall. “Going back to the stage is one of the most beautiful things that has happened to me in recent months. I hope this tour continues to grow in taking these margaritas around the world”.

The margaritas she refers to are the songs from her latest album, Doce Margaritas, for which Nella has been nominated in the recent Latin Grammys for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album, and Best Pop Song for Ahí. She was also nominated for Song of the Year for a duet together with Juan Luis Guerra called Mi guitarra. An overwhelming success just two years after being voted Best New Artist at the 2019 Latin Grammys.

What has the experience of these three nominations been like?
I still cannot believe it. And with an album that was made during a pandemic! I am very happy to have been there, sharing such important categories with colleagues and artists that I admire so much, and to have had the opportunity to sing at the ceremony with the great Carlos Rivera.

A little disappointed for not having brought one home?
No, because I never imagined winning them. I went to the ceremony with the same attitude as 2019 when they told me: “Great, how beautiful! We are still going to the party even though you are not going to win competing with all those great artists like Pablo Alborán, Carlos Vives, Ricky Martin and Juan Luis Guerra. This is impossible!" The difference is that then I did win the Grammy. A big surprise! That was super exciting, like a first kiss. But now I was convinced that it was not going to be repeated, although these nominations in themselves are already an award.

"Taking the Grammy was super exciting, like a first kiss"

Do the nominations and the 2019 Grammy give you the strength to work harder?
They provide a lot of inspiration and I see it as motivation. On the other hand, being present at events like this, surrounded by so much talent and by so many artists with whom I grew up musically, such as Rubén Blades, Juan Luis Guerra or Gloria Stefan, is a gift for the soul and the home I return to.

You have sung a duet with Juan Luis Guerra that was nominated for Song of the Year. How was the experience?
It was a dream. For me, Juan Luis Guerra is an artist with a vision that I share the most: that of maintaining the rich rhythm of our land, Latin America, without forgetting the lyrics and the messages. He is a great example to follow and this song, Mi guitarra, where our voices blend together, still makes me cry with emotion. It’s also been extra special because of how everything happened. Javier Limón, my producer and mentor, sent him the song in which I had the guiding voice. When singing it, Juan Luis Guerra had to remove my voice. However, he then returned it instead of erasing me. Javier didn't understand very well and when he asked him why, the master said: “Don't take Nella's voice, I loved it. This stays like this, the two of us together”. I couldn’t believe it! I’m very grateful that I have experienced something like this in my life.

On some occasion you have said that Javier Limón spoils you, because he writes you the songs with which you identify and makes you so happy. Don't you miss performing your own songs?
Although they are songs written by Javier, they are songs written for me, thinking of me, and each song has a little bit of who I am. And yes, I say that I feel spoiled because I am very comfortable with someone who sends me songs as though I had written them. Maybe he has simply found a voice that can interpret his songs, and I have found someone who reads my mind as he writes. It is very nice to find someone with whom you have that special connection, because in the artistic world it’s not easy. An example of this symbiosis is Me llaman Nella, from my previous album Voy. Javier has not visited Isla de Margarita, where I was born, but could describe it as if he had stepped on the beaches there. As for my own songs, we are already working on my third album and I started to put music to some of Javier's lyrics. There is a particular subject that I am very satisfied with and that I am looking forward to people hearing so that they discover something more about me.

“It’s with Juan Luis Guerra that I share the vision of maintaining the rhythm of our land, Latin America, without forgetting the lyrics and the messages"

With someone with whom you have such an affinity, is the artistic process simple?
Yes, it always starts with a letter. It is like a poem, where there is still no music or melody. Javier sends it to me and if after reading it and whether or not I feel connected to the message, which is almost always the case, we proceed to the music.

And that's where all the different musical styles come in?
I always say that if the lyrics work with just a single guitar, that nucleus is already formed and from there you can add a whole orchestra or mariachis, or whatever you want. In this last album, Doce Margaritas, for example, we have explored more with electronic sounds, with my influences of soul, R&B, neo soul, pop and all those musical styles that fascinate me.

"In my last album we explored electronic sounds with influences of soul, R&B, neo soul, pop..."

Without losing the roots...
Of course, always keeping the essence and without losing the root that is so important to us. But above all, as I told you, having the initial communion with the message very clear, because that is what makes singing it, transmitting those lyrics that I am so connected with it, regardless of the musical style chosen.

How is Doce Margaritas compared to Voy?
Voy was more like being in your living room with a glass of wine and dim lighting. And Doce Margaritas already lends itself to changing the wine for a cooler cocktail, having the light practically off and dancing, because we have incorporated a little rhythm in these songs and more electronic elements.

The song Volando, turned into Iberia´s anthem, is now a musical documentary in which you have participated too. A nice experience?
It has been a spectacular adventure and a beautiful project. I will confess that when they told me that I had to sing the song to the plane, on the plane, because Volando is a song dedicated to an airplane, the Airbus A350, everything sounded a bit cold to me. But when I finished, I saw Iberia´s team crying, telling me that their parents had worked there and personal stories of different generations that had been in the company and, suddenly, singing to a plane stopped being cold. It became honoring many people and generations that have made up Iberia´s family. Then came the documentary, in which the song Volando travels the world, transforming with each one of the artists who sing it. A very beautiful project and a blessing to have been able to participate, singing with Diogo Clemente in Lisbon, with Genara Cortés in Cuba, sharing a project with Juan Carmona, Piraña, Inma Cuesta... and so many great artists and, of course, being in this production together with Iberia´s family and my family from Casa Limón.

"‘Volando’ has become a tribute to many generations that have been part of Iberia´s family"

Where is Nella flying to now?
Not being able to perform with an audience during the pandemic has been one of the most difficult things. The virtual concerts, all through a small screen where there is no kind of feedback of the people, have been horrible. So right now what I hope is to fly to many stages with live audiences.