Camila Cabello on C,XOXO, mental health and DMing Drake


Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Camila Cabello’s music has often reflected her heritage

  • Author, Pete Allison
  • Role, BBC Newsbeat

“I have a very naïve attitude before I put music out,” says Camila Cabello.

“I think because I love it so much and I think it’s good, everybody’s going to love it.”

Camila’s just released her fourth studio album C,XOXO.

As someone who’s been in the public eye since she was 15, it’s not exactly a first for her.

But she tells BBC Newsbeat that the more experimental sound of her latest meant she felt “a little bit more nervous” than usual.

Camila started out as a member of girl group Fifth Harmony before going solo and finding success with a Latin-influenced pop sound.

Her best-known tracks, Havana and Señorita, have had billions of plays on Spotify.

So C,XOXO was a potentially risky departure for the 27-year-old, but it’s one that’s led to collabs with rappers Drake, Lil Nas X and Playboi Carti.

“It’s a testament to ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’,” says Camila. “And I had that energy throughout this album.”

‘The immigrant hustle’

Camila’s also been braver recently when it comes to speaking about her mental health and living with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

She says it’s a “complicated” subject she can be “hesitant to talk about”, especially around taking medication and the stigma that can come with it.

Camila says she feels privileged to have had access to “things that have made my life a lot easier”, such as tools, therapy, and medication.

But at times, particularly in her early 20s, Camila says she’s felt guilty for not feeling great despite being a globally famous pop singer.

“One of my favourite things about getting older and experiencing life is this persistent sense of irony,” she says.

“Where what you see a lot of time is not the reality.”

“I think it just goes to show you how complex we are and how complicated we are as humans that it’s not really black and white.”

Camila says she still has bad days but practising “self-compassion” has helped her.

“I think it’s really treating yourself with kindness and love,” she says.

“The more empathy, less judgement and the more compassion you have for yourself, and for your own difficult emotions, the more that you’ll have that empathy and space for other people.”

Camila was born in Havana to a Cuban mum and Mexican dad, and moved between both countries until she was six, when the family settled in Miami, Florida.

She says talking openly about how she was feeling didn’t always come naturally.

“Latin families – or immigrant families – don’t a lot of the time have the bandwidth for realising what their mental health is,” she says.

“They’re so focused on survival and it’s just not on their radar.

“That was a big part, probably in the beginning for me, the confusion of my own guilt and shame of ‘I should be great’.”

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Having been an architect in Cuba, Camila’s mum Sinuhe worked in the footwear part of a store when they first arrived in the US

Family is an important pillar in Camila’s life.

Her previous album, Familia, written during the Covid pandemic, explored her Latin roots and how her family inspired her work ethic.

She says that’s filtered into making C,XOXO.

“My mum is the definition of so hard-working,” says Camila.

“If I’m working, she’s like working,” she says.

She says her mum, like lots of “immigrant parents”, is constantly “trying to improve and create”.

“They just have that kind of hustle mentality. And I really had to have that for this album.”

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, During her Glastonbury performance, dancers in dog masks melted ice lollies on her body

Camila says she and her team spent 10 days in the Bahamas recording the album, and “barely saw the sunlight because we were in the studio the whole time”.

“Anytime you are trying to make something great, it’s insanely hard,” she says.

“I remember just being so frustrated and was exhausted.”

But some things came a bit easier.

Getting Drake involved simply “started with a DM”, and wasn’t actually a request to “do a song” at first.

“At that time, I really genuinely was looking for friendship and connections with other artists in the music industry, because I had been such a hermit for so long,” Camila says.

“I just felt like kind of antisocial.

“This album, I kind of spread my wings a little bit more.”

When Camila speaks to Newsbeat it’s just after her Glastonbury appearance, and she’s just woken up from a nap with her mum.

She says she’s “still recovering” from her Other Stage set “and pretty sure I’m getting sick”.

But once she’s feeling better, Camila says she wants to spread those wings even further, and “just wants to have shows in the UK”.

“They were so loud and everyone was so kind. I felt welcomed,” she says.

“I love the Brits and the Brits love me.”

Listen to Newsbeat live at 12:45 and 17:45 weekdays – or listen back here.

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