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'I Didn't Know If Ed Sheeran Would Say Yes': Camila Cabello's 'Familia' Celebrates Collaboration

5 May 2022 | 3:42 pm | Staff Writer

“It was just really cool, and I was honoured that he wanted to be a part of it."

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For Cuban-American popstar Camila Cabello, “interdependence” underpins new album Familia. “Our culture puts so much value on independence, and to me, this album is about all the people that make you who you are,” the three-time GRAMMY Award-nominated, multi-platinum and chart-topping singer-songwriter notes.

The creation of Familia, an album that has been described as Cabello’s biggest, boldest, and brightest release yet, took place during the pandemic when she was reconnecting with her roots. When COVID hit, Cabello was 23 and had been touring non-stop since she was 15 years old, and she notes that she’d “never been home for more than a month” during that time. 2020 allowed her to spend more time with her family, watching movies, hanging out with her pets and more.

Although it’s her third album, the origins of Familia date back to childhood, with Cabello recalling memories of her father, Alejandro, relieving stress via karaoke, her grandma making CD mixtapes and playlists of Bolero, and music just generally playing a big role within her family, noting they were “as obsessed with music as I am (and have always been)”.

In fact, Alejandro even makes an appearance on Familia, singing the last line of Buena Vida, while cousin Carolina Bern - who appears on the album cover and was eight years old at the time of recording - freestyled a verse (“My executive producer Ricky [Reed] edited it together in a way that fits perfectly at the end of the song, so that was really fun.”).

“A whole mariachi band was there [for Buena Vida], and my father had three tequila shots because he gets nervous,” she laughs. “Mexican singers, especially mariachis, do take a shot of tequila before singing because it warms up the vocal cords. 

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“So we both went into the studio and he completely improvised the part that you hear in the song, which was really cool because she’s always telling me [in Spanish], ‘Flaca, how do you write songs, it seems so hard!’ and when he improvised, I said, ‘That’s how I write songs, you just make shit it up!’ 

“I love singing with my dad, we’ve sung together before in Mexico which was really fun, and I'm so excited to sing this song with him.”

The cameos continue, with the album’s blockbuster single, Bam Bam, featuring none other than Ed Sheeran, with whom Cabello previously collaborated with on 2019’s South Of The Border alongside Cardi B.

“I'm such a huge Ed Sheeran fan, when he first asked me to work with him on South Of The Border, I was like, ‘Uh yea, duh!’” she recalls.

“Even though we're friends, he’s such a top tier artist and I didn't know if he would say yes to being on my project. I’ve gone over to his world before, and for Bam Bam he was coming to my world, into the studios with my collaborators that I worked with on this album, and singing in Spanish on a song that I had written the chorus for.

“It was just really cool, and I was honoured that he wanted to be a part of it. When he came into the studio, he had an idea for the verse, and even though I had a version of the song I was attached to, I trusted him and trusted his ear, and it turns out he was right and made it a million times better!”

Meanwhile, album focus track psychofreak features another close friend, Willow Smith.

“This was the perfect song for Will and I to collaborate on,” Cabello emphasises. “She had a project called The Anxiety, and this song is about anxiety and mental health, about feeling weird in your own skin, feeling like there’s something wrong with you, feeling like other people are not experiencing life the same way you are.

“We’re both very vulnerable about things like that. I don’t feel that either of us pretend to have it all together, to have it all figured out, or to be perfect, so it was the perfect song for us to work on together.”

Cabello’s quick to add that self-care is important, which, for her, includes “making time for therapy, rest, time in nature, friendships, letting loose and having fun".

“I think there is different ways to care for yourself and you just have to be in tune with what you need.”

‘Familia’ is out now