The 21-year-old singer Paloma Rocío Castillo Astorga, known as Paloma Mami, first showed up on the scene in 2018 with her bilingual hit “Not Steady.” Now, she’s back with an artful full-length debut, Sueños de Dalí, that honors both sides of her Chilean-American roots. With a forward-thinking sound that blends pop, Reggaeton and R&B, she weaves together a life story about family, love, loss and triumph, sliding easily between Spanish and English along the way. For W’s annual music issue, she discussed her creative process, working with her boyfriend, and why bilingual music is the future.
In 2018, “Not Steady,” the first song you ever wrote, recorded, and released, became a sensation and now has over 80 million views on YouTube. Almost three years later, your debut album, Sueños de Dalí, is finally out. How does it feel?
I’m so excited. I’d been working on it for two years—Covid kind of just added more time to it, because everything slowed down. My boyfriend and I went down to Puerto Rico, where he’s from, and we wrote this whole album together.
Was his writing something that attracted you to him to begin with? It seems like it could be a little nerve-racking to work so closely with somebody you’re in a relationship with.
Actually, I didn’t even know that he was a writer. He kind of got better at writing when he was with me. [Laughs] I liked how he wrote, because, since English is my first language, I always had a problem in the studio where I couldn’t say everything that I wanted to say in Spanish the right way.
I love that you sing in English and Spanish, often in the same song. Does it come that way naturally for you?
It’s whatever comes in the moment. I don’t really stress it, and I don’t think about it too much. It’s like, if this line is going to be perfect in Spanish, then I’m going to have that line in Spanish, and the rest of the song in English.
You’re Chilean-American, and in Latin America, people listen to music in both Spanish and English. How do you think those influences come through in your work?
All my beliefs, my morals, and the things that I talk about in my music on a personal level are definitely based on my family and my Chilean background. When it comes to my flow, the way that I talk, and the way that I sound on the track, that comes from growing up in New York. Us Latinos, and American Latinos, we grow up liking music just for being music—the sound of it. I feel like now, the whole entire world is getting on that wave. Americans don’t even know what the hell anybody is singing in these Spanish songs, and they’re singing along to them, the same way that people in Spanish-speaking countries may not understand anything in English, and they’re still singing the lyrics as if they’re in their own language. It’s pretty fire.