At this point in his life, Camilo could own any car he wanted: a Lamborghini, a Bugatti, maybe a McLaren — all vehicles of choice among Latin music stars.
Instead, Camilo has Romerito. The word is the diminutive of the Spanish romero, which means “rosemary.” But Camilo has used it to name his car. “Because of the color,” he says with a smile, affectionately patting the front door of the olive green 1975 Ford Bronco with a beige roof that’s parked in front of Sony Music’s recording studios in Miami.
Romerito may look retro on the outside, but inside he’s been carefully restored, from the motor to the electrical system, an expensive labor of love that took months. But Camilo had no idea how much passion it would awaken in others. In Miami, where the singer-songwriter lives with his wife Evaluna Montaner and daughter Indigo, and where driving the most expensive car possible is the order of the day, Romerito stands out — so much so that Camilo had to read up on the history of the Ford Bronco in order to answer relentless questions from fellow drivers.
Like Romerito, Camilo has turned heads by virtue of what he isn’t. The songwriter wears a Dali-like mustache and silver chains instead of diamond necklaces. His melodic songs — boasting simple, yet moving and poetic lyrics — are built on guitar chords instead of computer beats. In the era of reggaetón and explicit sexual content in Latin music, songs like his “Pegao,” a romantic cumbia (“Stuck, with no air between your body and mine; stuck, like my tongue on a frozen glass”), defy every expectation of how a young act with seven No. 1s on Billboard’s Top Latin Airplay chart and three top 10s on the Pop Albums chart should sound. On Sept. 20, Camilo received six Latin Grammy nominations, including one for record of the year (“Pegao”) and two for song of the year (“Baloncito Viejo” and “Índigo,” collaborations with Carlos Vives and Evaluna Montaner, respectively).
“At the beginning of my career, I told my tribe, ‘People, the only thing I promise you is honesty,’ ” says Camilo, speaking of his close circle which he affectionately calls his tribe, a term he also uses to refer to his fans. “From that point onward, I apologize for what may come behind that door of honesty. But I’m an honest person, connected with my craft and my creativity. And the day my guitar takes me down different paths, I promise I’ll share that with you as well.”
Read his full Billboard Español cover story here.