Silvana Estrada is still processing her two Latin Grammy nominations. "It's still shocking," she says, recalling when she first found out about the nominations in September. More shocking still was the way she found out. In the middle of her second major tour, the 25-year-old singer and songwriter's 16-hour flight from Madrid ended in an emergency detour in Dallas. She was tired, stressed, and wondering how she would make it to her next stop in LA when her phone rang.
"[My friend] was like, 'Congratulations on your Grammy nominations.' And I was like, 'Oh my God!' And then I lost service, so I spent the next three hours in complete silence," Estrada tells POPSUGAR with a laugh. So, for three hours, Silvana sat alone in the Dallas airport with no one to talk to and nothing to do except reflect on the trajectory of her career and the journey that had led her here — finding herself recognized by some of the biggest names in music, now her peers.
"You know, I don't do music for awards. I do music because it's something that I love and the thing that makes me happiest," she says. "But the Grammys are huge, and I was just thinking during those three hours that like, something started to make sense. You know like, 'OK, I'm going in the right direction.'"
For many musicians, the reality of life on the road is often very different from the childhood dreams that propelled them toward stardom, fame, and fortune. And for Silvana, it has most definitely been a bit of a whirlwind, one she is still getting used to. Within the past year, Estrada has seen interest in her music skyrocket, something the artist credits to the popularity of reggaeton and Bad Bunny getting more people interested in Latin music in general. But along with the increased fanbase come more shows and more responsibilities.
The logistics of touring, for example, are grueling: the singer spends tens of hours in transit. Though she calls the stage her "happy place,'' she often only gets a few hours to perform before shuffling off to the airport to make her next show — something the young artist admits has been a challenge.
"I think I'm still learning how to deal with that. As a creator, this entire year I've been trying to figure out how to stay creative."
"I think I'm still learning how to deal with that. As a creator, this entire year I've been trying to figure out how to stay creative," she says. "On tour, I think that's one of the most challenging things. And also, learning how to take care of yourself, like, how do you take care of your mental health while on tour?"
But with the Latin Grammys recognizing the work she put into her critically acclaimed debut, "Marchita" (as well as her follow-up EP "Abrazo" garnering high praise), things are undeniably falling into place for the young artist. Speaking to POPSUGAR from her new apartment in Mexico City, Estrada sounds relieved to be home after months away. So much time away, in fact, that she admits she's still getting used to the apartment's layout and where things are. "I'm finally getting to know where the plates are," the songstress laughs. She describes the apartment as traditional with lots of windows, light, and space for her many books, instruments, and plants.
But as she is still settling into her house, she has more than settled into herself, her sound, and her place as one of the most genuine voices in Latin music today — a process that has taken her from her childhood home in Veracruz to the jazz-filled streets of New York City and back again in search of her sound. While "Marchita" is indeed Estrada's debut album, she actually recorded another album before it, titled "Lo Sagrado." She recorded it with jazz legend Charlie Hunter while studying at the Conservatory of Veracruz and refers to the project as a "beautiful experiment," but ultimately, wasn't her music.
"I did 'Lo Sagrado' thinking in [more jazz terms], and I think I was trying to be a little bit more masculine," she says. "You know, I was working only with men [during that time]. But, with 'Marchita,' I was all by myself." After completing "Lo Sagrado," she took Hunter's advice and spent some time in New York City trying to figure out if a jazz musician's life was for her. But ultimately, she ended up back in Veracruz.
"New York was actually the moment when I realized, 'OK, there are all these people doing amazing music, but I really want to do my music.'"
"New York was actually the moment when I realized, 'OK, there are all these people doing amazing music, but I really want to do my music,'" she adds. With her cuatro venezolano in hand, Silvana wrote and released "Primeras Canciones," a four-track EP that contains "Te Guardo," one of her favorite songs (and the one she'd choose if she could only sing one last time). But ultimately, she still wanted more out of her music. And she would finally find it through heartbreak.
Written in the wake of the global pandemic, first love, and the subsequent isolation and heartbreak that accompanied both, "Marchita'' was the culmination of years Estrada had spent searching for her sound. A minimalistic homage to the forest, her childhood house, her parents, and the earthy timbre of the wooden instruments lining the walls of their music shop, she describes the album as a "very lonely journey to understand what's behind the pain." Songs like "Más o Menos Antes," "Marchita", and "Corriente" — with their heavy focus on the cuatro venezolano and Silvana's ethereal vocals — illustrate this concept perfectly. In Spanish, the term marchita means "wither," the inevitable end for most beautiful things, from flowers to relationships. But in nature, withering is simply a point in a cyclical process, one that starts and ends with new growth. It is similar for Estrada, who views each of her albums as a snapshot.
"I feel like an album is just like a polaroid of the moment,'' she says. "I actually like to think that way because I feel that it's much healthier, to keep growing." It's a sentiment of impermanence, one that helps frame the narrative of her success. In Estrada's life, there are constants and there are moments. Constants are the things she always carries with her — the forests surrounding her home in Veracruz, the string of musicians parading through her parents' shop, the books of poetry that feed the lyricism of her own songs. Moments are the things she passes through and that pass her — the breakup that produced a beautiful meditation on loss, long spells on the road while she's missing the comfort of home. And she's learning to accept them as they come and to learn from them as they take her to new, sometimes intimidating places: for example, on stage in front of people who don't necessarily speak Spanish.
"I'm like, 'Oh my god, nobody's going to understand what I'm saying,'" she says. "But something happens where they don't need to understand, they just need to feel what's going on. And when that happens, it's like magic."
Creating this type of community is at the heart of Estrada's music, and it also speaks to the honesty with which she crafts her songs. The poetry of her lyrics and melodies transcend language — putting her in a unique position even among her incredibly talented peers. Ultimately, while she is grateful to have the opportunity to work with some of the most talented artists in Latin music, Estrada's main focus is on making music that connects with people. She describes her newest EP, "Abrazo," as the light to the dark of marchita — it's a record about togetherness and "creating community through love." Just like flowers that wither to bloom again, Estrada is constantly creating her sound and herself. But she also knows what she wants people to take away from her music.
"I want people to feel like there's a human soul on the other side of the speaker. Sometimes, when I'm performing, I feel something very special, a feeling of intimacy and fragility," the artist says."That's something I really try to do, to put everyone in the room in a position where they can be free to finally feel vulnerable. Vulnerability is the new superpower."