Sebastián Yatra is a heartthrob superstar. He’s also a darn fine songwriter. Yatra, who was born in Colombia and raised in Miami, Florida, now has legions of fans numbering in the tens of millions. He’s collaborated with the Jonas Brothers, covered Elvis Costello, with the singer’s blessing, and he’s currently on tour with Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin, idols who Yatra looked up to as a kid.
Now, though, he’s sharing their same air. This is what comes when you’re a Latin Grammy Award-nominated artist, what follows you when you garner millions of song streams in a matter of days. Yatra, who released his most recent hit, “Tarde,” two weeks ago, even more recently earned a Latin Grammy nomination for his earlier 2021 single, “Adios.” That song, which has its own unique backstory, came to the artist in a matter of moments.
“It’s a very personal, meaningful song to me,” Yatra says. “It’s a crazy story, I actually improvised it on the microphone.”
While Yatra can sometimes undergo painstaking efforts to write and complete a track, “Adios” came to him in minutes. Sometimes that can happen, sometimes the muse beams something directly to you from the proverbial heavens. It’s happened before with artists like the Beatles, Lady Gaga, and Gnarles Barkley. And when it happened for Yatra, he knew to bottle it. Then, with the demo in hand, he re-recorded it later, worked up a couple of musical parts and the chorus, and boom. Sometimes ten minutes can change your life.
“For me,” he says, “it was very gratifying as a songwriter to see that people connect with real deep emotions that sometimes you don’t even understand—those lyrics came out of my mouth, but I only understood those lyrics a year and a half later.”
For Yatra, the recent accolades and attention are nothing but “enormous” honors. For him, they’re a testament to believing in your own specific dreams and imagination. And if he continues to play his cards right, he will be there on the stages decades in the future to help usher in new stars, just as Iglesias and Martin are doing for him today.
“They’re definitely two of the biggest names in music,” Yatra says. “Two guys that have repped Latinos since 20 or 30 years ago, which is insane, to have careers this long. And they’ll definitely last beyond even when they leave this world.”
Listening to Yatra’s songs, it’s clear he appreciates feeling and finding a full heart wherever he goes. He’s amorous, caring, in touch with his soul and spirit. He sings, most often in Spanish, about love and loss, connection and desire. During his new song, “Tarde,” Yatra sings as if whispering, and the hairs on your ear tremble.
“’Tarde’ is just pure honesty with a couple of beautiful chords,” Yatra says. “I’m doing a lot of falsetto. I hadn’t done that in a while. I’m saying things I normally wouldn’t say in songs, speaking them very honestly and clearly.”
Yatra shot the video for “Tarde” in Venice, Italy. It was another track that came together from one day of songwriting and a motivated effort to produce the video afterward. But where does this dedicated motivation come from? For someone so famous in his country and around the globe, it might be easy to dabble here, release a song there. But Yatra works to maintain his drive and creative output. He learned it from his parents.
“I think it definitely is the example I’ve seen in my home,” Yatra says. “All my life, my parents are super-hard working. My dad was super-hard working. All his family, all my mom’s family. They never give up on things or projects that are long-term, especially. It’s something that I grew up being used to a bit.”
Yatra, who moved to Miami with his mother while his father stayed in Colombia to work real-estate, remembers when he first started getting into music and songwriting as a kid, around 12 years old. There weren’t many peers around who wanted to be singers, Yatra says. In fact, he remembers getting laughed at here and there. Around that time, he got the part in a major school musical and there was no looking back. But even before then, there was a moment during class when, for a big assignment, Yatra wrote new lyrics to a favorite song.
“That felt good,” he says. “It felt like something I was comfortable in and something that came naturally to me. That was where I started that connection with songwriting and music.”
While Yatra’s songs are often rooted in romance, he likes to try out different styles. From traditional ballads to electronic or even trap. He’s a perfectionist, which is likely the true source of his success. If a melody or a chorus or a lyric isn’t right, he won’t move on. There is no good future without a proper present. But this perfectionism is aided by an appreciation of the eclectic. Growing up in Miami, Yatra interacted with all types of people. It gave him a unique, worldly perspective. He’s fluent in both Spanish and English and uses that in his work. But, at the end of the day, it’s all about the songs, of course, and the journey making them.
“I love where music can take you,” Yatra says. “It can take you on a ride. Music has the capacity to mark our lives. There’s a song to every moment.”