Venezuelan-born duo Mau y Ricky are continuing their journey from writing songs for other artists to becoming superstars in their own right. Last year, Mauricio "Mau" Montaner and Ricardo "Ricky" Montaner, Jr. lived the best of both worlds, scoring hits as songwriters and as Mau y Ricky. Their music careers experienced a breakthrough thanks to their collaboration "Mi Mala" (My Bad Girl) with Colombian reggaetonera Karol G. At the same time, they had a hand in penning one of Latin music's biggest global smashes, Becky G and Natti Natasha's "Sin Pijama" (Without Pajamas). The sons of famous Argentinian singer Ricardo Montaner are well on their way. On the eve of the release of their new single "Perdóname," Mau y Ricky talked to us about making that song, their upcoming album and what's next.
AXS: Last year was such a breakthrough year for you guys with "Mi Mala" and "Ya No Tiene Novio" (Don't Have a Boyfriend Anymore). How do you guys feel?
Ricky Montaner: It's been a life-changing year for sure. We've been able to tour everywhere and it's all thanks to that first song you mentioned: "Mi Mala." And after that came "Ya No Tiene Novio" and "Desconocidos" (Strangers). That really helped consolidate everything that was happening.
You guys wrote, recorded and submitted your new song "Perdóname" in 24 hours. Can you tell me about the process of making that song?
RM: "Perdóname," which means "forgive me," is a ballad. We love it. We haven't done a ballad in forever. We really hope people connect with the song. It's a topic that people can really relate to. We had a call with our manager and we found out some great news about our upcoming single. There's this big campaign that's behind it, but it has to be pushed back about a month and a half or two. We were like, "Yo, we need to release a song now." And he goes, "Do you have a ballad that we can release?" You know we haven't written one yet and he was like, "Alright, no worries. I'll talk to the label or something." As soon as we hung up, we picked up the guitar, wrote the song in an hour, recorded it and by noon the next day the label had it submitted. The music video was that way too. We recorded the music video and it was edited and color-corrected in less than a week.
Mau Montaner: I'm so excited. I'm so pumped. It's a style of music that we hadn't forgotten it. It's very much a part of us - that slow, romantic type ballad. However, we kind of dedicated some time to doing super pop and urban stuff. That was awesome because it allowed us to get a reach of a huge audience, which is now on the lookout for new music. It's the perfect moment to release this song, which I feel is gonna really connect with people and really go deeper and go straight to the heart.
AXS: I think that's a sign of how good of songwriters you guys are to just crank out a song in one day.
RM: It was kind of an inspiration motivation to see how fast we could submit a song. It could be a song that really talks to people. Me and Mau wrote that in literally an hour. We did the production with Richi Lopez who is one of our trusted team members. He did the arrangement in about an hour and we recorded the vocals at night. It was that quick.
MM: It was such a beautiful moment.
AXS: Before "Mi Mala," you guys were mostly known as songwriters and now you're becoming artists. What's the difference between songwriting for someone else and writing your own songs?
RM: We were trying to be artists before, but no one really knew because none of our songs really picked up. We started picking up traction as songwriters first with some artists like Thalía, Ricky Martin and Maluma. As soon as we started placing all these songs, the artist stuff started happening too. Last year as songwriters we really released some of our biggest records: "Sin Pijama" and "1, 2, 3." We also did "Pa' Dentro" (Inside) from Juanes. We did "Pineapple" from Karol G. I think the language is the difference. When we write for ourselves, we write how we would say it and when you're writing for somebody else, you're thinking how they would say it. As songwriters, I'm not trying to tell my life to people through my songs. I'm trying to tell their's through my songs. I'm trying for them to listen to a song and feel like they've lived that moment before. I'm trying to find common stories that we all go through but to tell those stories in a different way.
MM: I get more excited for writing for ourselves. That was the original dream. The reason we started songwriting for other people was kind of the lack of attention. We were in a transition between labels and we felt we weren't really necessarily getting the success that we wanted, so a friend ours suggested that we should maybe start writing for other people. We love songwriting and because of our father and our upbringing, it was something that we felt we were pretty strong at. The moment we started songwriting for people, it was like a new dream that started five years ago. The other dream, being artists and singer-songwriters, started when we were 10-years-old. I think we're more in love with songwriting for ourselves just because we love being able to go out on tour and sing those songs and see people's reactions.
AXS: As brothers, how it is working together as Mau y Ricky?
RM: A lot of people think that would be tough, but to be honest, it makes things easier to be able to share that out with your brother: the tough times, the happy times. You know it's great - half of the money [laughs]. I'm super excited to be able to work with my brother who is also my best friend.
MM: I was talking about it with Rick last night that I'm so grateful that we're doing this together because it is a pretty difficult job to do as a solo artist. It's very lonely. If things don't go as planned or something goes wrong, it's a lot easier to deal with it when you have someone living it with you. We respect and admire each other so much that for us, it's a pleasure and a privilege that we get to do this together.
AXS: As Venezuelans, how was it playing the Venezuela Live Aid concert last month?
RM: That was really great, thinking we were a part of history. That's a historic event that really brought the whole world together. We've been waiting for this moment in Venezuela for a long time to have the world's eyes on our country. At this point, it's not really a Venezuelan issue. It's a human race issue. It's all of us who are involved in this. There's people who are dying of starvation. There's people who are dying of malnutrition or not being able to have access to their medicine for their different illnesses. There's no food. Like something is seriously f**ked up and we need help. This was a big first step toward getting that. We're just very happy and proud to be a part of it. As a family, our father performed as well and our brother-in-law [Camilo Echeverry] performed "Desconocidos" with us. We had a lot of friends performing and not just Venezuelan artists - everyone.
MM: It was like a mix of feelings to be honest. I feel like I was left super drained and excited at the same time. I haven't been to my country in about seven years. I was so close to it. I could see Venezuela from where I was standing. I was at the border. I can't believe this is closest I've been to my country and there's a bunch of military people in front of me and these containers sealed to the floor so that people wouldn't get through. It was a weird feeling, but at the same time, it was so beautiful to see all these huge artists and personalities from other countries coming together for a country that is not their's. It's amazing that with this event that it became more of a global problem and global issue.
AXS: Who are some artists that you want to collaborate with next?
RM: We're very good friends of J Balvin but we haven't done a song together yet. I keep sending him songs but he's like, "No, not that one. Next one." We gotta write one that he wants to hop on. We're really close friends so we're open like that. And Ozuna. We really like him a lot. Mau will probably say Ed Sheeran. I love him too.
AXS: Has your dad given you guys any advice about being in the business?
RM: Yeah, definitely being grateful that every moment is like a gift. To not take things for granted or think of different things as a given. Like to really appreciate each single fan when your fanbase starts growing or a different position on the charts - not just to focus on the No. 1, but if you went from No. 15 to No. 14, to be really appreciative of that and enjoy the moment.
MM: Of course, we grew up seeing how he did things. Our father, before being an extraordinary musician and singer-songwriter, he's an incredible human. We learned a lot from that. That no matter how big or how small, you always have to be kind. His example has been that for us.
AXS: How's the album coming along?
RM: It's finished. The last song to get on it was "Perdóname." I think we're gonna submit the record fairly soon. We're going to release an album with the songs we released 'til now and we're going to include four or five new ones. There might be a remix of something special there that I think people would really like.
MM: We had finished it before "Perdóname," but when it came out we were like, "This song has to be a part of the album." We ended up adding it to the tracklist. I couldn't be happier. I feel like it was missing that song without us even knowing. It's now in a perfect balance and we can't wait for it to come out.
AXS: What do you guys hope to accomplish this year?
RM: We hope to be able to release three or four other songs that really connect with people and to keep touring everywhere. To hopefully do over 150 shows this year. That would be amazing.
MM: We have this goal in mind of 150 shows in total for the year. Not for the number itself, but because we feel it's important for people to see us live. I think that Rick and I are in our best moments when we're being able to share our chemistry as brothers and as musicians to the people directly. That's one of them and definitely just being able to keep putting out music that people want to hear.