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Kali Uchis Is Having a Cool Girl Summer

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Kali Uchis photographed by Indiana Piorek for Interview 2020.

This is “Add to Queue,” our attempt to sort through the cacophony of music floating in the algorithmic atmosphere by consulting the experts themselves. Our favorite musicians tell us about their favorite music—the sad, the happy, the dinner party-y, the songs they want played at their funeral. In this edition, we speak with Colombian-American pop star Kali Uchis in honor of her latest collaboration with 1800 Tequila, a female-led campaign directed by Jenn Nkiru, set to an uptempo version of her chart-topping hit telepatía” from her album Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios). Below, the singer shares what she’s been listening to—from Sade to J. Lo, plus a few Mexican classics to accompany her new tequila.


ERNESTO MACIAS: First, I want to talk to you about your collaboration with 1800 Tequila—you’re known for your amazing collaborations, musically and creatively, so how did this one come about?

KALI UCHIS: They wanted me to be a part of it, and I’ve always loved tequila. I also love that they’re actually a Mexican tequila brand, and they’ve always been super supportive of artists. 

MACIAS: We love a good tequila, especially a real one. You’re the star of the video, which is directed by Jenn [Nkiru], two very successful women in the industry. Why are female-led projects important to you?

UCHIS: I think just being able to work with other Black and brown women is important to me. Most of the amazing creatives right now are Black and brown women.

MACIAS: It’s been a long time coming. You recently won a Grammy, congratulations, and your latest album, Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios), has been super successful on the charts, everyone loves it. First, did you expect this reaction? And second, how does it feel to experience it in real-time?

UCHIS: I’m blessed in the sense that I have a fan base that is super supportive of whatever I put out, and they just get me. I knew that they were going to be happy with the project, but I never thought it was going to have any commercial success, and I looked at it more as a passion project. It’s definitely a surprise to me.

MACIAS: And how do you feel now seeing not only Spanish-speaking people, but the entire world reacting to your music in such a passionate way?

UCHIS: I’m very grateful because I think it’s helping to open doors for other Latin artists, and hopefully making people around the world want to add some songs to their playlists that are in other languages. Being able to open those doors is very humbling.

MACIAS: You released acoustic versions of a couple of songs on Sin Miedo. Can you tell me a little bit about how this project came to be?

UCHIS: The acoustic project came about because I haven’t been able to tour, obviously, so I just wanted to put out versions of the songs that resembled how I might do them live. I liked being able to sing without thinking too much about being overshadowed by production. I have a soft voice, so it was nice to be able to actually showcase my vocals.

Kali Uchis in “Held Higher” by 1800 Cristalino.

MACIAS: Did your parents play music in the house, and what did you grow up listening to?

Kali: I spent most of my time with my aunt and my uncle, and they played a lot of music. My aunt listens to a lot of boleros, cumbia colombiana, salsa, Mexican music—basically music from everywhere in Latin America. My uncle is Mexican, but from California, so he used to play a lot of oldies.

MACIAS: What artists have you recently discovered that you love?

UCHIS: I haven’t discovered anyone recently, to be honest with you.

MACIAS: You’ve been busy. Where was the first concert that you went to, and who was playing, do you remember?

UCHIS: The first concert I went to was this band, I don’t know if they still make music, that were called Prefuse 73, it was an underground band. I think that was my first concert, and I was 14. That was in DC, I didn’t go to LA until I was 18.

MACIAS: Who do you want to see in concert that you haven’t yet?

UCHIS: I would say Sade.

MACIAS: Do you have a favorite song of hers?

UCHIS: No, I love all her albums.

MACIAS: Do you remember the first music video that left an impression on you?

UCHIS: I would say all Gwen Stefani videos when she first went solo. Sade videos, Aaliyah videos. 

MACIAS: Do you recall the first CD that you ever purchased with your own money?

UCHIS: Yeah, it was J.Lo, “Love Don’t Cost a Thing.”

MACIAS: What song or artist makes you feel sexy?

UCHIS: I think Kelela, “S.O.S.”

MACIAS: Amazing. If you were to make a playlist for getting high, what would you include in there?

UCHIS: Azealia Banks and Whitney Houston.

Kali Uchis in “Held Higher” by 1800 Cristalino.

MACIAS: What would you listen to if you were taking a bath?

UCHIS: Donna Summer. All of her songs are great.

MACIAS: She’s an inspiration. What’s your go-to karaoke song?

UCHIS: I don’t have to go to karaoke. Maybe Destiny’s Child.

MACIAS: What song would you use to describe yourself to someone else?

UCHIS: No song could describe me.

MACIAS: I love that answer. What’s one album that you think has zero skips, that you can play from start to finish.

UCHIS:  Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios).

MACIAS: If your life were a TV show, what would be the theme song?

UCHIS: I think I would definitely have to make the theme song.

MACIAS: In your opinion, what is the best setting to drink tequila in and what music would you play?

UCHIS: On the beach, for sure. I guess probably some Mexican music to keeps the vibes up.

MACIAS: Okay Kali, what is next for you? 

UCHIS: I have a song coming with SZA in Spanish. I helped to write it. I’m really excited for it to come out. After that, just a few more singles for the summer, you know, something for my girls and my gays to enjoy and really prosper this summer. 

MACIAS: No touring?

UCHIS: I’m not touring this year. I’m dropping an eyewear collection. I’m focusing on hosting and performing, and I’m nominated at the MTV Latin Awards, which is going to take place in Mexico. Then I’m going to take some time off for my birthday. I just want to relax now because I’m going to really be on the road touring for a while. Everything in its time and one thing at a time, you know?

Listen to Kali’s “Add To Queue” playlist below, and follow Interview on Spotify for more.