Q&A: Marisa Monte on her first solo album in 10 years

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This cover image released by Sony Music Latin shows “Portas”, Marisa Monte’s latest album. (Sony Latin Music via AP)

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It took 10 years for Marisa Monte to release a solo album, but the four-time Grammy winner never gave up music.

Far from being absent, the Brazilian singer-songwriter has remained very busy over the past decade with projects such as Tribalistas – his group with Arnaldo Antunes and Carlinhos Brown – as well as production for other artists and tours, until the pandemic hits.

Last week, she released “Portas,” a 16-song effort that follows “O Que Você Quer Saber De Verdade” from 2011 and includes the single “Calma,” which she co-wrote with Chico Brown. It opens with the song that gives the album its name and ends with the haunting “Pra Melhorar” starring Seu Jorge and his teenage daughter, Flor de Maria.

“Portas” – which means doors in Portuguese – seems to be an appropriate title for the time.

“At the start of 2020 I was ready to start recording this new album and then it all happened, the doors closed, we were locked at home,” Monte told The Associated Press in a recent. interview from Rio de Janeiro.

The 53-year-old star, who has sold 15 million albums worldwide with musical versatility ranging from pop to pop rock, samba, jazz and folk, also spoke about his way of working and of “Segue o Seco”, a song about Brazilian droughts that she sang at an outdoor concert in 2016, when it rained by the time she was done.

Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

AP: Many doors were closed during the pandemic, but it seems others have opened. Is that why you named the album “Portas”?

Monte: Yeah. (It comes from) the song “Portas” (which) I did before the pandemic, but it’s a very timeless question: how to deal with choices, decisions, changes and new situations. There are doors that you can open to the outside, but there are also interior doors. And all the symbolic figures that surround the door were present in the song telling people, “Well, people are trying to choose one door, but you can choose more than one. You can go in and out if you don’t like it. And it’s better to let them open to let them breathe. It’s a song I made maybe four years ago, but it’s very current.

AP: Are there any other new “old” songs on the album?

Monte: There are songs that are even over 10 years old. (Laughs.) “Praia Vermelha” was ready before my last album. So creation – they have their own time, their own life. After all this time, I had 14 songs and as I had to expect (due to the pandemic), I made four more, (two of which will be released later, including one with Uruguayan singer-songwriter Jorge Drexler, Oscar winner for the song “Al Otro Lado del Río” from “The Motorcycle Diaries.”) They came out super beautiful.

AP: You’ve been very busy over the years as a musician, but how did you come back to recording solo?

Monte: Well, I’m never really solo because I have a very collective job and I’m very horizontal as a leader. I really like to listen to everyone and collaborate. I like working with partners, musicians and technicians. I listen to everyone, so that’s how I feel less solo (laughs) I knew it was time to come back to me after a lot of collaborations and a lot of work with other artists, which is of course always a learning (experience) for me and always a challenge and a pleasure, but I wanted to resume my solo voice.

AP: Tell us a bit about “Calma”, the first single from the album.

Monte: It’s a song I did maybe three years ago. It’s a song about relationships, about someone telling the other to have faith in the future, that things are going to get better, and not to give up in a very assertive, very positive way. It’s a hopeful love song, and because we live in such a dark time in Brazil, in such a tragic historical moment here, not just because of the pandemic … this song is good to listen to.

AP: You sang “Segue o Seco” at an outdoor concert in Belo Horizonte and it started raining as soon as you finished. Are you singing it now to help bring some rain to your country?

Monte: (Laughs.) I recorded this song in 1993. Carlinhos Brown was the songwriter and he said to me, “We have to sing this because it’s a problem that hasn’t been resolved yet. Of course, in Brazil we still have historic droughts. It was 1993 and maybe it’s getting worse because of this climate change and everything. So I have to keep singing to make people aware of this. And maybe to help the rain fall.


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