MEXICO CITY ( Associated Press) — Kevin Johansen shares some of his favorite songs and authors on “Tú ve,” an album that features guests like Natalia Lafourcade, Jorge Drexler and one of his “idols,” rocker David Byrne.
Johansen also had the pleasure of singing a duet with her daughter Miranda, alias Wiranda Johansen.
“It’s my connection to the song,” he said in a recent video call interview from Buenos Aires. “Beyond the fact that I have sometimes said that I am ‘degenerate’ with respect to the musical genre and that this has remained in time, the truth is that my genre is the song itself, in some way ‘Tú ve’ is an album that talks about that, about the songs that go through you”.
Johansen, who was born in Alaska -of an Argentine mother and an American father-, grew up between the United States, Argentina and Uruguay. His album included classic songs from the Latin American songbook such as “El Albertío” by Chilean singer-songwriter Violeta Parra and others from his own repertoire such as “Tú ve”, which he performs with Lafourcade.
“Regardless of the time in which these songs have been composed, a good song is always new… It seemed super interesting to me that friends, artists who were also crossed by these songs accompanied me,” he said. “The album has a lot of that, of going through the times and at the same time appreciating the timelessness that a good song has.”
His collaboration with Lafourcade dates back to “La fugitiva”, a song included in the Mexican singer-songwriter’s album “Mujer Divina – Homenaje a Agustín Lara” from 2012. After this song they have had other collaborations, to the extent that Johansen describes their constant exchange, although not everything they do sees the light.
Originally, he had thought to do “El Albertío” with Lafourcade, since his father is Chilean, but she asked him to do a song by Johansen. And that theme, “Tú ve”, which he describes as “a love manifesto”, was one of her favorites.
“It gave it a power, a strength, that the original version really didn’t have,” said Johansen.
The song was the first single from the album released at the end of May and features a black and white video filmed in a relaxed and intimate setting, the studio of Uruguayan musician Juan Campodónico, who produced the album.
Instead, to meet Byrne, Johansen and Campodónico traveled to New York to record the audio and video for “Last Night I Was Dreaming With You,” the English version of Johansen’s “Anoche soñé con tú.”
“With David Byrne the stars aligned like a brochette (skewer), as (Andrés) Calamaro would say,” he recalled. “It was a very nice situation, very fortuitous.”
Johansen asked Campodónico and his representative to intercede for him to request Byrne’s collaboration, and he responded with a list of the Johansen songs that he liked the most.
“The first email he sent Juan was like ’20 KJ sons I love’ (20 Kevin Johansen songs that I love),” he said. “He broke my heart with love.”
The song also has a mini homage to Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” in a hum towards the end, which was included with the rock diva’s approval, Johansen said.
Johansen’s tribute to Byrne continues in another song, with a Spanish version of “Heaven” by Talking Heads entitled “El cielo”, a song that he sings alone and in whose choirs his daughter Miranda is heard. Johansen describes this sky as having a “milonga… from the 70s” style.
Another of the songs transformed to bring them closer to the milonga is “Orón al tiempo”, a Spanish version of “Oração Ao Tempo” by the Brazilian star Caetano Veloso, which Johansen performs with his daughter. Veloso “blessed the Spanish translation of the song,” he said.
“She is an artist who already has two albums,” she said about her eldest daughter’s career. “She is going to Spain and making 20 albums a week and 20 clips a week, like a good young woman full of energy”.
Their other children, Kim and Tom, also sing, an activity they like to do as a family.
Johansen also included on the album Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day,” which she sings with Miranda, and Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne,” which she performs with Drexler.
“These are people who have been through their time,” he said of Reed and Cohen. “They have left us such an enormous legacy that it is a small way of saying that, thank you, ‘blessings, teacher, wherever you are’”.
With the Uruguayan musician Rubén Rada he indulged in “El Tungue Lé” and with the Spanish singer Silvia Pérez Cruz he worked remotely on the cathartic and spiteful “Desde que te perdí”, a song that he qualifies as suitable for “letting go and seeing that life offers you surprises and new windows open”.