Ale Alberti, Edgar Barrera and Jhay Cortez Open Up About Their Creative Processes and Cultural Influences
Latin music hitmakers Jhay Cortez, Ale Alberti and Edgar Barrera share their inspiring stories with People CHICA, as part of Today at Apple's Latin Music Fridays.
It’s not every day that you get to chat with Latin music hitmakers and get their insight on making it in this competitive industry. Singer Jhay Cortez and songwriters Ale Alberti and Edgar Barrera shared their career and life experiences with People CHICA. “I think it’s the greatest moment in Latin music right now. We have the numbers, we have the music, we have the mix, we have the engineering, the respect now of other artists, including American artists,” Puerto Rican urban music star Jhay Cortez says. “We are sure of what we are doing, now more than ever!” Alberti agrees: “As I was growing up, people would say, ‘Latin music is a wave, it comes and it goes.’ I think it’s here to stay and the numbers show it. The biggest streaming comes from Latin records, so I feel that it’s just going to go up from here.”
The three artists connected for a creative writing discussion, which forms part of Today at Apple’s Latin Fridays sessions. These sessions are hosted in partnership with Apple Music, which continues to help artists share their music and grow their audiences all over the world. They were created to celebrate Latin music and connect fans with internationally renowned and local artists to explore how culture influences music, as well as to create Latin tunes.
All three music makers are hella busy this year. Cortez just released his album Famouz and the remix of “No Me Conoce” featuring J Balvin and Bad Bunny. Ale Alberti — born in Nashville and raised in Miami, of Mexican and Cuban descent — is working on new tracks for Lele Pons, Becky G, Anitta and Lauren Jauregui. Meanwhile, Mexican American songwriter Edgar Barrera has new projects with Maluma and Mexican rising star Christian Nodal. “I feel that [mainstream American] producers are now looking over here. That didn’t happen 5 or 10 years ago,” Barrera says. “They want the Latin sound, they want to know why Latinos are so hot right now.”
How do they get inspiration for their songs? “I incorporate everything,” Cortez says. “My roots have a lot of influence, from the time I lived in New Jersey to living in Puerto Rico. That mix of all that music I listened to and all I learned reflects in the music I make today.” Alberti also incorporates being bicultural — in touch with both the Latinx and American cultures — in her tracks and offers her unique perspective as a female songwriter. “I feel like I have a certain edge because being a female I’m very emotional and we know what girls want to hear. So when it comes to writing songs for guys, we know what girls want to hear, so when guys say, ‘Let’s talk about this’, I tell them, ‘No, I wouldn’t want to be told this.’ I feel that we have that extra hint of emotion.”
One of her latest hits is Lele Pons’ song “Celoso.” Working with the Venezuelan singer and internet sensation was awesome, Alberti admits. “She told us she wanted a female empowerment song with easy, fun, good vibes,” she says about Pons. In writing “Celoso” [Jealous] she made sure it was the guy in the song that was the overbearing one, not the girl. “I gave the power to the female,” she says. Alberti adds that she has to feel at peace with her lyrics. “It’s who I am as a person. I don’t write songs that I don’t agree with,” she says. “You could be sexy and have that chemistry as long as you respect yourself and who you are. There are specific lines that give you that power in a song. There is a line in “Celoso” that says, “Yo no soy de ellos ni tuya tampoco,” which means, ‘Don’t come at me thinking you are my boyfriend when you are not my boyfriend, don’t bother me about having fun.’ There are no strings attached.”
What helped these hitmakers be successful in the competitive Latinx music industry? “Networking is a big part of it, believing in yourself, creating nonstop, dominar tu arte,” Cortez says. “Opportunities are going to keep coming and you have to be ready for them.” Alberti, who began composing songs at age 15, adds that making personal sacrifices might be part of the formula, like having to leave her loved ones in Miami to move to Mexico City for 5 years to jumpstart her career and make connections with Latin music pop stars that recorded her songs. “It’s been different hustles, but you have to be consistent and relentless,” Alberti, who now lives in L.A., admits.
Barrera — who traveled with Maluma to London to add Maluma’s hook to the song “Medellín” with Madonna — concludes, “You have to be hardworking. You have to make songs every single day, that’s the key.”