Fueled by a deep passion for music, J Balvin lives the #DontCrackUnderPressure motto of TAG Heuer. Born as José Álvaro Osorio Balvin in Medellín, Colombia, his interest in music grew while listening to rap, champeta, bachata and reggae, as well as watching music videos. These were the seeds that would eventually evolve into his style, opening the road to success.
J Balvin took this road in the fast lane: In 2009, he signed on with EMI Colombia and released his first single, “Ella Me Cautivó,” which hit No. 35 on the U.S. tropical chart. It brought to the world the unique urban-fusion sound that would become J Balvin’s hallmark. His success made him one of the fastest-rising stars in the music industry and the most promising Latin-American artist in recent history.
His talent didn’t go unrecognized as he won the Billboard Latin Music Award for New Artist of the Year, Latin Rhythm Song of the Year and Latin Rhythm Songs Artist of the Year. With “Ay Vamos” he also secured his first Grammy in 2015, followed in 2016 by one for his fourth studio album, Energía. If that wasn’t enough, he also made the Guinness Book of World Records title for the longest stay at No. 1 on the U.S. Hot Latin Song chart by a single artist with his hit song “Ginza.”
As successful as J.Balvin is as a solo artist, his talent and energy can also take many collaborations to the next level. He teamed up with Robin Thicke for the Colombian version of the hit single “Blurred Lines” in 2013, while later on joining Julión Álvarez on Juan Gabriel’s single “La Frontera.”
It is this energy that made J Balvin and TAG Heuer team up earlier this year, where he joined as one of the #DontCrackUnderPressure ambassadors. This relationship runs deeper than just being a famous face for the brand. J Balvin is not only a passionate watch collector himself but also has a strong affection for the world of fashion. His unique style is always based on being himself, and we are likely to see much of this in future collaborations with TAG Heuer.
Another passion J Balvin shares with TAG Heuer is giving back. Even at the announcement of J Balvin as new TAG Heuer ambassador, the two joined forces to host a fundraising gala to benefit the Give to Colombia organization. Despite the trailblazing success of both, they know that #DontCrackUnderPressure also means giving back to those in less-fortunate situations.
Despite by taking the music world by storm, when Haute Time’s Violet Camacho sat down with him for an exclusive interview, she found a modest, down-to-earth artist, with a deep-rooted passion for music and watches.
What are you working on now?
I’m super-focused on making my current music three times more successful than the previous year. I’m looking to shatter those barriers that limit Latin music, and I think we are accomplishing that with a new, broader vision of my music.
Tell me about your journey as a singer and performer. How did you get to where you are today?
I obviously work really hard. But I also have the capacity to dream really big and have the discipline to materialize those dreams.
What was it like to pick up and move to the U.S. at a young age? It must’ve been a big cultural shock moving to Oklahoma. What
challenges did you face?
I moved to Oklahoma to learn English when I was 16 years old from Colombia for six months, then I moved to New York. It was a very
positive move, and maybe back then I didn’t see it so positively, but I do now. I believe that we are a result of our past. Had I not had that experience, I wouldn’t have forged ahead the way I have to attain my dreams.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
There are many, but I will begin with Daddy Yankee, who excels at another genre of music and Pharrell Williams, who I’ve worked with and admire—not as much in music, but what [Pharrell] translates in terms of lifestyle, culture, fashion, accessories, etc.
What is your most memorable moment?
That’s a hard question to answer, as there are important moments in your personal life, as well as in your professional. I think that my first Grammy was the most memorable. It was the culmination of my biggest dream accomplished. It made me feel that anything is possible.
Describe what it’s like when you’re onstage performing. Take us through a day on tour where you’re prepping to perform.
Every performance has provided a learning experience, and as we go, we keep fine-tuning the shows. If we decide to do a tour, we rehearse until we perfect. One thing that I do prior to every show is that we huddle the band and pray. We thank more than we ask. And I always place the right foot first when I step on stage. But prayer is primordial for me—it’s how I capture my stillness.
Tell us about your love for Colombia.
I live in Medellín [Colombia]. I haven’t found the need to live anywhere else. I am very happy there and I feel like I maintain a closeness to my essence and my origins. Great music has originated in Colombia.
Reggaeton was born in Puerto Rico…
Yes, it was born in Puerto Rico, but its origins are from Panama ragga. It was in Panama that they began to translate Jamaican reggae into Spanish and it was Puerto Rico’s reggaeton festival that gave this music its name. Puerto Rico gave reggaeton international acclaim, and now in Columbia we are also enriching the culture.
Tell me about your personal watch collection. What do you look for when choosing a timepiece?
I look for something that makes me happy—for me to look at it and feel happiness. Obviously, happiness is not the material. But with time, you are like: I feel comfortable, I feel like I deserve it so that I can enjoy it without remorse… that is the most important.
You seem like a very sensitive person
That’s what they say. It’s true
How did your partnership with TAG Heuer transpire?
That happened in a very organic, natural manner. I had the opportunity to do an event with TAG Heuer in Bogota and I met Mr. [Jean-Claude] Biver. He was taken aback by the reaction of the people to my music, the affection. We had a conversation, and it turned out that we share the same vision and almost think, 100 percent, the same way—there was instant chemistry. Generally, these types of deals take years, but this only took months. I feel like this is the way success should be carried… with happiness, without ego, with sincerity, with gratitude, with smiles and the desire to learn something every single day instead of feeling like you know everything—and of course, to be willing to learn. I’m learning so much.
What do you have to look forward to as TAG Heuer’s newest ambassador?
A lot. First, I think it’s a very interesting collaboration, as it is the first time that they have someone from Latin America working with the brand, so naturally, it’s history in the making and that’s significant. For me, it’s very important to arrive at places where no Latino has ever been, not because the doors were closed, but because it validates your dreams, because if you’ve dreamed about it, maybe you thought it wasn’t possible. Many leave their dreams as thoughts and they never knock on the door. I want to demonstrate to the world and the youth and those who follow me that anything is possible. All you have to do is work with discipline, have a clear vision, and the world is at your hands. It’s irrelevant in you are Latino, European or Asian—this world belongs to human beings, and we have a duty to represent that in the most positive way. We should transmit something to make the world better.
What will be the final product of this collaboration?
A timeless piece; a watch that you don’t only wear on a special occasion, but forever. Sometimes you fall into the current hype—it’s normal in this marketplace. However, the more I learn about design, the more I come to the realization that what endures are the classics with a touch of modernism, produced with restraint.
What are your plans for the upcoming year?
I’m working hard to multiply last year’s success threefold in the music arena and doing a collaboration that has never been done before in Latin music.
What collaborations are you planning?
You will have to wait and see.
What’s your idea of the perfect day?
Every day is perfect if you are really grateful—it’s important to enjoy every moment. Not every day can you be at the sea or at the beach in Miami. But to be grateful in the present moment is what makes every day perfect.