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

This cover image released by Sony Music Latin shows "Portas," the latest album by Marisa Monte. (Sony Music Latin via AP) (Uncredited)

NEW YORK – It took Marisa Monte 10 years to release a solo album, but the four-time Grammy winner never abandoned music.

Far from being away, the Brazilian singer-songwriter remained extra busy over the last decade with projects including Tribalistas — her group with Arnaldo Antunes and Carlinhos Brown — as well as producing for other artists and touring, until the pandemic hit.

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

“Portas” — which means doors in Portuguese — seems like an appropriate title for the times.

“In the beginning of 2020, I was ready to start to record this new album and then everything 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 a musical versatility that ranges from pop to pop rock, samba, jazz and folk, also spoke about the way she works and about “Segue o Seco,” a song about the Brazilian droughts she sang at an outdoor concert in 2016, when it famously rained the moment she finished.

Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

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

Monte: Yeah. (It comes from) the song “Portas” (that) I did before the pandemic, but it’s about a very atemporal issue: How to deal with choices, decisions, changes and new situations. There are doors that you can open to the outside, but there are also inside doors. And all the symbolic figures that surround the door were there in the song telling people: “Well, people try to chose one door, but you can chose 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 breath.” It’s a song that I did maybe four years ago, but it’s very current.

AP: Any other “old” new songs in the album?

Monte: There are songs even older than 10 years. (Laughs.) “Praia Vermelha” was ready before my last album. So the creation — they have their own time, their own life. After all this time I had 14 songs and since I had to wait (because of the pandemic,) I did four more, (two of which will be released later, including one with Uruguayan singer-songwriter Jorge Drexler, an Academy Award-winner for the song “Al Otro Lado del Río” from "The Motorcycle Diaries.") They came out super beautiful.

AP: You’ve kept very busy throughout the years as a musician, but how was it going back to recording solo?

Monte: Well, I’m not really ever solo because I have a very collective work and I’m very horizontal as a leader. I really like to listen to everybody and to collaborate. I love to work with partners and musicians and technicians. I listen to everybody, so that’s the way to feel less solo (laughs.) I knew that it was the moment to come back to myself after a lot of collaborations and a lot of works with other artists, which is of course always a learning (experience) to me and always a challenge and a pleasure, but I wanted to take back my solo voice.

AP: Tell us a little about “Calma,” the first single of the album.

Monte: It’s a song that I did maybe three years ago. It’s a song about relationships, about someone that is telling to 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 very hopeful love song, and because we are living in such dark times in Brazil, in such a tragical historical moment here not only because of the pandemic... this song is good for people to listen to.

AP: You famously sang “Segue o Seco” at an outdoors concert in Belo Horizonte and it started pouring right when 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 composer and he told me: “We have to sing that because it’s an issue that is not solved yet.” Of course, in Brazil we always have historical droughts. It was ’93 and it’s maybe getting worse because of this climatic change and everything. So I have to keep singing to make people conscious about that. And to maybe help rain to come down.


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