The Caliber 50 concert in Fort Worth, Texas on Sunday was like any other show. The band ate breakfast together, joked around on the bus and took the stage to sing their norteño anthems, just as they have for the past 12 years.
Except it wasn’t like any other show: it would be the last time Eden Munozthe leader and accordionist of the group, would perform with his longtime comrades (Armando Ramos, Alejandro Gaxiola and Erick García) before announcing and officially launching his solo career.
For many, the announcement seemed to fall out of the blue, even recklessly. But that decision was something the 31-year-old Mexican singer-songwriter and producer pondered carefully and for some time, he explains. “The first time I noticed something was wrong was in 2015,” Muñoz said in a phone interview with Billboardtwo days after announcing that he was going solo and had signed a recording and management contract with the independent label Lizos Music (Banda MS, Natalia Jiménez).
“I realized that as a band, we were a concept, but we weren’t the kind of artists who give a concept to a song. Sometimes during production or post-production, I made suggestions that weren’t taken into account. For example, if it was a ballad, maybe it could have been more minimal in terms of production, added a little guitar to make it pop, or just had a simple piano piece to fuel it . But that didn’t fit the style or concept of Caliber 50, which was very pure norteño and banda. And these are songs that I had written. Maybe if it weren’t my songs, there wouldn’t be a problem. But I saw how some of my songs didn’t reach their potential just because they had to fit into that structure,” he adds.
But he stayed, and with Caliber 50 he would rise to the top of the charts for years to come. Caliber 50 has placed seven No. 1 albums on the Mexican Regional Albums Chart. Their last album, Go well, peaked at No. 8 on the count (dated Sept. 11), and earlier this month the group scored their 21st No. 1 on the Mexican regional Airplay chart (dated Jan. 22) with their cover of Marco Antonio Solís “Si Te Puediera Lying. With 21 No. 1s, the Sinaloa-based group extends its record for the most No. 1s since the launch of the Regional Mexican Airplay ranking in 1994.
Muñoz, who was named Songwriter of the Year at the 2021 SESAC Latin Music Awards, wrote most of Caliber 50’s repertoire – which will remain Caliber 50 songs, he says adamantly. After all, Muñoz has something different in mind for his solo project.
Sure, he’ll still sing breakup rancheras and party anthems, but his sound will range from pure norteño to a fusion of sounds ranging from big band to mariachi. On stage, he will also be accompanied by nearly 30 musicians. “I feel alive again. I feel like I’ve escaped the monotony. I’m motivated now that I have creative freedom.
Since announcing he is no longer a part of Caliber 50, Muñoz has been on an emotional roller coaster dealing with good and bad. “I am excited but also nervous. I relied on therapy and allowed myself to cry the tears I have to cry. Closing a chapter is not easy, especially when you leave behind friends who have become family,” explains Muñoz. “But, at the end of the day, I have to face reality again with my head held high.”
Below is a Q&A with Muñoz about his decision, why he signed with Lizos Music, and his new single “Chale,” which will be released on February 18.
How are you? Do you feel like a big weight has been lifted off your shoulders now that you’ve shared the news with your fans?
I’m excited but nervous because I’m starting something totally different. I’m not starting from zero, but there is a lot of hope but also a lot of uncertainty. The transition was tough. It is something that I have been looking for and that I do not regret. I relied on therapy and allowed myself to cry the tears I have to cry. But like any other chapter you close, it’s not easy and you need help to process, especially when you leave behind friends who have become family.
I don’t think anyone expected this type of announcement, but I know that many factors contributed to this decision. When did you realize it was time to change?
I started this career very young. I was 13 when I joined my first band but it wasn’t until 2012 that we really became Caliber 50. We’ve developed a formula that has really worked for us for many years now. But it was in 2015 that I noticed something was wrong. I realized that as a band we were a concept, but we weren’t the kind of artists who give a concept to a song. Sometimes during production or post-production, I made suggestions that weren’t taken into account. For example, if it was a ballad, maybe it could have been more minimal in terms of production, added some guitar to make it more pop, or just had a simple piano piece for it. ‘feed. But that didn’t fit the style or concept of Caliber 50, which was very hardcore norteño and banda. And these are songs that I had written. Maybe if it weren’t my songs, there wouldn’t be a problem. But I saw how some of my songs didn’t reach their potential just because they had to fit into that structure.
But we kept growing as a band [so I stayed]. Then, three years ago, I became a father and having to work every weekend became very difficult. I don’t want a tour to consume me and be the type of dad that’s always away, like my dad was. I love my dad so much but he wasn’t there for me. I want to break this cycle. So much so that I’m ready to start again but on my own terms this time and with creative freedom.
I know that you have already recorded most of the songs that will be part of your first album as a solo artist, so what kind of impact has this “creative freedom” had on you as a musician?
The impact has been overwhelmingly positive in every sense of the word. I’m going to say something that maybe I shouldn’t say but it’s my reality: I feel alive again. I feel like I’ve escaped the monotony. I feel motivated and it has also helped my personal life. I want to start going to the gym again, be a better husband, father and friend. That’s how I work. It’s also interesting to record alone because I can be really honest with myself. I pat myself on the back whenever something goes right and I’m really hard on myself when something goes wrong. It was really healthy.
Why did you decide to sign a recording and management contract with Sergio Lizárraga’s Lizos Music? What more did they offer you than the other labels?
I will first say that Sergio and I have been friends for 15 years now. Before Caliber 50, I used to play with this other band that performed in the same places as Banda MS. I watched him grow as a person and as a professional who put together a great team and did great things with his artists. Listen, I left a big family (Caliber 50) to join another big family. I based my decision on the fact that I know Sergio not just as a friend, but as a passionate businessman who wants to do things right. When we had to sign a paper it was weird because we were friends so first we shook it off and promised to take care of each other. Then we awkwardly signed the deal because hey, that’s how it works here.
What can fans expect from you in terms of upcoming projects?
I’m constantly writing or making up beats or melodies and it’s something I can’t control. But it also led me to this vast field of opportunity. I really want to try new sounds and experiment with different [Regional Mexican] subgenres that have become popular in recent years. I’m actually not that old, so I think it’s a great time to start experimenting and see what works and what doesn’t. I can’t wait for you all to listen to the music I’ve been working on because once you hear it you’ll understand what I’ve been trying to say about the merging of different sounds. My debut single, “Chale,” will still be a party, drinking song, but it will include jazz percussion, mariachi, big band arrangements, and subtle tuba. You probably think I’m talking nonsense here, but you’ll understand when you listen to it. Believe me.
Caliber 50 is now looking for a new singer to join the band through an open audition. Do you have any advice for the artist who joins the band that has been your home for 12 years?
I’m no one to give advice but the Caliber 50 is special because I can say we were kind of born together. This person will take the place that I had for many years and he will not only have to sing and play the accordion but also be a leader. The only advice I could offer this person is to be genuine. Edén has always been authentic and I think that really made me stand out. Often they will try to replace someone who leaves a band with another artist who looks like them or who sings like them, but that person must bring their own style. What if they are so unique that they can take Caliber 50 to a new level? This person could be a game changer, who knows.
You played your last show with Caliber 50 this weekend in Fort Worth. What went through your head?
We had a few gigs across Texas that had been postponed. It was like any other show but I was also super anxious knowing it was the day of the last show. But I was comfortable because my leaving was very mature, very genuine, and felt so much love and respect for my bandmates. They were family. But we got on stage and gave 100%, like we always have. It was perfect.