Words by: Andrea Susarrey
The LA based Kablito (aka Karen Friere) is the Pop Reggaetonera making something fresh sonically that she’s coined as being “Pop Urbano”.
For those that don’t know Kablito is the Ecuadorian born artist that has been taking the Latin contemporary music scene by storm from her new base in LA. She’s worked with a number of notable producers and industry talent as well as having been featured in a number of prominent publications including Vogue. This is increasingly impressive as she has managed to make this name for herself and separate herself with a distinct sound all in a period of about 3 years amongst a highly competitive and populated genre.
A lot of people make Reggaeton and Pop music, what do you think was the key for you to break through and put yourself in the position you’re in?
It’s a long story man! I’m still in it! I think the internet blows things up a lot, but if you ask me personally, I’m still working. I’m glad about where I’ve gotten with my own resources, and completely independently.
Basically, I’ve always done music. But because I come from Ecuador, I always had the sense that I needed stability and I wasn’t sure music was gonna give me that so I went to school for music composition and early childhood development. And for a very long time, I was fighting with myself to actually do the thing and I was afraid to let people know that I do music.
I used to have this phobia of showing people my music. Legit, someone would be like “She makes music!” And play something of mine I would be like “NO! Turn it off!!” totally freaked out. I was so afraid to let people know that that was my passion because I was afraid that if I told people then I was going to have to actually do it, and I’d be held accountable, and if I failed it would be embarrassing.
How old were you when this was happening?
Right after I started college. I think I was in my late teens. It [that fear] lasted like 4 or 5 years. But I was just so shy about it [music]. It was my passion but for a very long time I kept it to myself because I was afraid of what people might say or how they might take it.
What was it that got you out of that ?
I don’t know! I think it was just growing up! I always felt like other, you know? Growing up in Ecuador and moving to the States I always felt like I never quite fit in. I went to a very white school and it’s just.. you know, the only latin girl in the school. I was just trying to find my place and I think there was a lot of confusion from the whole moving here when I was 15 and not being able to be with my family I left back home, it was all really traumatic.
I think It just took a really long time to figure that out. I mean we grew up with the same Pop stars like Shakira or Thalia or whatever, the same people. And for as much as I love Shakira, I never quite related to them on a very personal level – where they come from or their story. And, I mean, in Ecuador I’m like “la gringa”, you know, I’m so other. And here [in LA] I’m also other. And I just felt like I needed to represent who I am and my story and where I came from.
As I grew older It just became more and more apparent to me that I didn’t have someone that did that. I think It just took a really long time to figure that out. Over time, that idea and passion, and I mean just pushing myself, I’m still pushing myself! There’s times where I’m like this is terrifying, and I just have to do it, because it’s part of my job.
Do you feel like you have to do it partially because it’s terrifying?
Absolutely! It’s a lot of just being brave. A lot of this profession for me has just been stepping outside my comfort zone, and being like “well f**k it, do the thing.”
Were there any examples in your personal life that set a tone for this ?
Sounds cheesy, but honestly I think about my mom all the time. I’m like, this woman, she did crazy s**t for us. Not on an artistic level, but on a bravery level, her story is so inspiring to me. Everything she did for us when she moved to this country, and she never failed us. I’m just blown away by her. I would not be here in this situation, everything is because of what she did.
But apart from that there are artists as well, I mean I love Bad Bunny, I think that everything he does is like completely himself. Whatever Bunny does is just gold to me.
What excites you when you think about your music in the future? Is there anything in particular you would like to reach or create?
I’m always growing and experimenting, but it’s really not so thought out. I love working with producers that make either Trap, Dancehall, or Reggaeton – I’m interested in all of these sounds, and all the different types of music that I listen to, I want to experiment with a combination of these.
Tell me about Sentimental, it’s so different from the rest of your music.
I think Sentimental on its own really shows who I am, more than anything else, I mean it’s my most recent [work]. The first EP I put out, I made with my friends. And at that time, I was just making music for fun with a friend. I sort of thought no one would ever hear it, I really didn’t think that it would get any attention. I think it was something I needed to do to get myself in the scene. But when I actually got to sit down and figure out what kind of music I wanted to make, I think that’s when Sentimental happened. It describes my sound a lot more. I also started to work with producers in LA or Miami or Amsterdam, whereas before I was only working with one friend in their bedroom. I think it was a more realized thing, and it continues to be that!
I’ve been travelling a lot, I was just in Mexico, Miami, and NY for a couple months. I’m constantly experimenting, I’m not afraid to mix or try new things. I really think I will never stay still with a specific sort of sound, I call my sound “Pop Urbano”. But there’s so much that I’m interested in, from Trap, to Dancehall, Reggaeton to even acoustic music. The pallett is so big and I’m just starting to mix the colors and paint. I think it’ll continue to evolve forever, I dont think I’ll ever stop.
What is some music that’s inspiring you in new ways at the moment?
I started to Rap a little bit! Not like a full on Rap, but very subtle. I mean I listen to Trap music a lot, and I’m starting to play with that. You know, like a little bit more chanteo. I think there’s a part of me that I find rapping in my own way brings out a different part of my personality where I feel bad.
I think that the music that’s about to come out is in more that direction, I mean of course still love songs. But I’m not at the place I was in when I made Sentimental – post breakup. I’m trying to explore new versions of myself.
Do you feel like you are more free now to experiment musically than you were before?
Definitely. I have friends who either produce, or people that are in the industry, and just people who support me now. I think those people that have my back give me so much support and I’m safer just throwing myself out there when I know I have that support. But I still think that what I’m doing is a hard line because it’s not exactly commercial music. I do feel safer, but I think that as latinos in alternative music, we are still growing so much. I do feel the support I have but I’m still doing something that’s a little bit harder to do as a latin woman. So half and half.
Being independent, how have you managed to be your own manager and progress as an artist at the same time?
I think I’m overall a positive person and I believe in what I’m doing, my talent and my ability to see it through. I think I push myself hard because I know there will be a moment where I have a larger team and more support and that will all come when the time is right. I tell myself this all the time – that there is no way to know how to do this correctly, or the wrong way. It’s just a matter of doing it, and then your lucky stars align and you get it. But I think perseverance is key.
It’s really beautiful that you can visualize a future of where you want to be. I feel like that’s the key to being happy or whatever success means to you – you can actually enjoy the process.
Definitely, I mean we definitely all had Im sure moments during quarantine where we were like wtf. But honestly, I don’t see myself doing anything else as a human. I would do myself wrong if I tried to do anything else. I’d rather work and have my wins and losses for myself and just wait until it takes off.
What are you listening to right now?
I’m always listening to Burna Boy. Like all the time. A Lot of 90s music and Burna Boy.