Puerto Rican singer-songwriter Kany García never imagined that the album she composed in the middle of a global pandemic "with zero planning" would make her the female artist with the most Latin Grammy nominations of the year.
"That was a big surprise, especially for an album that was recorded at home with home microphones and even cellphones," García said in Spanish.
With her newest album, "Mesa Para Dos," Spanish for "Table for Two," García landed nominations in five categories, including album of the year and best singer-songwriter album.
"The nomination for best singer-songwriter album is one I desire, because it's my genre, it's my nature. I strive for that one," García said, although the most significant nomination was for record of the year, a top Latin Grammy Award.
"It made me immensely happy, especially because I'm not an urban artist. It's true that urban musicians are living through a wonderful moment of visibility. But for me as a singer-songwriter, getting my music to play on the radio or be the face of a streaming playlist costs us triple the work," she said.
It took García two weeks to write all of her album's 10 tracks, which are all collaborations with other artists, and a month to produce the album in a home studio. That never would have happened under normal circumstances.
"We were all at home, and all of our calendars were suddenly free, and I used that time to make duets with whoever I wanted, and they all said yes," García said.
Somewhat unintentionally, "Mesa Para Dos" captures the ways people have found new ways to express love, distress, powerlessness, strength and vulnerability during the pandemic.
"The biggest gift in this album is how minimalist it was," she said. "I got messages from many colleagues telling me that the thing they loved the most about this album was how simple it sounded," which was a significant contrast from her previous album, which she recorded in a studio with dozens of orchestra musicians.
The album's first single, "Lo Que En Ti Veo" ("What I See In You"), a collaboration with the Argentine acoustic guitarist and singer Nahuel Pennisi, is nominated for record of the year and song of the year.
García's ability to overcome the challenges that come with producing an album during quarantine becomes apparent in the song "Acompáñame" ("Accompany Me"), a sort of revolutionary anthem reminiscent of some of the historic mass protests seen across Latin America. "Cacerolazo" protests — consisting of the banging of pots and pans — echoed in countries like Chile, Colombia, Bolivia and Venezuela last year in response to unrest over weak political systems. Unprecedented mass protests also took place in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic over the past year.
With the help of collaborators Goyo, the lead female vocalist of the Colombian hip-hop group ChocQuibTown, and Cata of the Colombian musical ensemble Monsieur Periné, García recreated masses of people with just three people and recorded. Parts of the song were also recorded with a cellphone.
"There's definitely a before and after," García said. "It made me think about how I want to make music in the future."
Her song "Búscame" ("Find Me"), a collaboration with the singer Carlos Vives, who is known for showcasing Colombian folk genres such as vallenato and cumbia, earned García her most surprising nomination yet, she said.
"I'm not a tropical music artist by any means. I've done a cumbia or a bachata here and there to experiment and nurture my repertoire, so getting a nomination for best tropical song in one of those experiments was a big surprise," she said.
The Latin Grammy Awards ceremony will be held remotely Thursday, Nov. 19 and broadcast on Univision at 8 p.m. ET.