Music

How 19-Year-Old Joaquina Went From Playing in Bands With School Friends to Winning the Latin Grammy for Best New Artist

Joaquina Cr Maria Zarate Press 2023 Billboard 1548.jpg

At 8 years old, Joaquina wrote her first song. She can’t remember the name, only that it was in English and that she felt so embarrassed at the thought that her parents could see it, that she tore the page out of the notebook, crumpled it and threw it away. “I would love to go back in time and not have done that,” she admits today. This month, at 19, she won the coveted Latin Grammy Award for best new artist. She was also nominated for best singer-songwriter album for her debut EP, Los Mejores Años.

Joaquina was part of the first class of graduates from producer Julio Reyes Copello’s Art House Academy before signing a record deal with Universal Music Latin. A well-rounded artist who writes her own music, she sings primarily about teenage angst in indie pop/rock songs like “Rabia,” “Niñas de Instagram,” “Los Mejores Años” and her most recent single, “Quise Quererte.” She has already opened for well-known stars such as Alejandro Sanz and Fonseca, and Juanes included a song written by her (“La Versión En Mi Cabeza”) on his latest album, Un Día Normal.

Born in Caracas, Venezuela and raised from the age of 6 in Miami, Joaquina Blavia Canabal (her full name) grew up between music, theater and ballet lessons. There were no instrumentalists or singers in her family, but they were all lovers of the arts in general. “I also always loved reading and reciting poetry,” she tells Billboard Español. “I was always very studious — I always loved school, really. I was always very nerdy.”

A nerd with a rock soul, inspired by singer-songwriters like Avril Lavigne, she began posting Instagram videos of herself singing covers of others at 11. At 13, she began writing her own music while playing in bands with school friends. “I did it very much for fun, but I knew I wanted to do this [professionally] one day. I always knew,” she says.

At the age of 15 she looked for a producer to help her record her first songs, and in El Doral she found the small studio of Eduardo Stambury. “He was very nice to me. I didn’t know anything about recording, I didn’t know anything about the music industry,” Joaquina recalls. In 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, she released “Primer Amor,” a song with which she admits she does not relate to today, but which served as a starting point.

The pandemic was a defining moment for Joaquina’s budding career. In times of quarantine, while she was studying high school remotely from home (or even from the recording studio), she dedicated most of her time to writing songs and continued posting on social media, where others began to notice her work. “That’s how I got my first opportunity to go to a session in Miami to write for another artist, [a 12-year-old girl in Venezuela who I don’t know if she ended up recording the song], but I got many more opportunities from there,” she explains. She was only 16 at the time.

When the time to apply to college arrived, she thought she would study music at an institution like Berklee, UM or USC. But then a friend told her about Julio Reyes Copello, and the new program that the renowned Colombian producer was creating in Miami at the time. “It was like, ‘Obviously,’” she says. “My mom, like a mother hen, wrote to Julio — we sent him some demos and some music links — and Julio replied, saying ‘Hey, how nice, I loved it, come to the studio.’”

Joaquina got the last available spot at Reyes Copello’s academy, and took its two programs simultaneously (for sound production and engineering, and as a music artist), while finishing her last year of high school online. At the end of a very intense year, she signed with Universal and made her debut.

Learn more about our November Latin Artist on the Rise below.

Name: Joaquina

Age: 19

Recommended Song: “Los Mejores Años” — “It’s a song I wrote when I was 17, when I was about to graduate from high school. Although I am very extroverted and I love to socialize, I am also very private and it’s difficult for me to talk about my fears, my thoughts, and ‘Los Mejores Años’ was a big relief song for me. It helped me a lot to understand many things I was feeling in a time of normal transition in everyone’s life. It’s a bit that concept of feeling the fear of growing up for the first time in your life. The title has a double meaning: Everyone tells you to enjoy your teenage years, that they are the best years in life, but the truth is I didn’t have such a good time at school 100% of the time — I had many doubts and I would wonder, ‘But why are these the best years of my life?’ This is what the song is about.”

Major Accomplishment: “The Latin Grammy. It was one of those moments when time stops and you are in front of so much, and you feel like your head is pounding and everything is like in slow motion. Out of nowhere I started seeing everything in slow motion. I felt like I entered an alternate reality (laughs). The truth is that I didn’t expect it. Seriously, honestly, I didn’t expect it.”

Joaquina poses with the award for Best New Artist in the media center for The 24th Annual Latin Grammy Awards at FIBES Conference and Exhibition Centre on Nov. 16, 2023 in Seville, Spain.

Niccolo Guasti/Getty Images

What’s Next: “Right now I’m working on my album, an upcoming project that will be released around mid-next year. There will be new music in about two months.”



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