Mon Laferte describes personal experiences behind ‘1940 Carmen’
One day, while living in Los Angeles earlier this year, Mon Laferte jumped into her car, rolled down the windows, and began to drive through Malibu. She had cranked up the music and felt, for the first time in a long time, courageous and completely free. She had dropped a lot of baggage in her personal life and had started undergoing fertility treatment to conceive her first child. She knew she was about to do something new – something better.
This record inspired “Algo Es Mejor”, a light track that embodies the spirit of his new intimate album, 1940 Carmen. The album is bursting with bright, acoustic sounds, inspired by delicate folk songs and sunny LA days. period of his life which was pivotal, intense and filled with emotion. “I wasn’t planning on making an album,” she said in Spanish on a recent Zoom call. “I went to LA for personal reasons, but when I got there, all of these situations that I was going through just overlapped. Music has always been an escape for me, and I just needed to get it all out.
The Chilean artist has always been deeply influenced by his environment. His latest album, Seis, was rooted in the traditions of Mexico, where she spent 14 years – including much of the pandemic. Released last spring, this album was full of layered arrangements; Mon shot mariachi and banda from Oaxaca and Sinaloa. “We recorded a ton of instruments, and because it was during the pandemic, it felt like we had all the time in the world,” she says.
She wanted a completely different approach to 1940 Carmen. She revived the acoustic guitar and chose not to go to a big studio to record. Instead, she wrote in her pajamas in the morning and reconnected with her acoustic guitar. Even when she started adding frills to the production, she kept everything pretty stripped down.
This simplicity underlines the weight of the lyrical content. Mon had been trying to get pregnant for a year and found that when she had radiation therapy for thyroid cancer in 2009, her ovaries had been affected. She was taking hormones as part of her fertility treatment and found herself writing about things she had never talked about before. “Hormones are brutal, they are crazy,” she says. “Write in this state [resulted] in some songs that come from a really honest place.
One of those songs is “A Crying Diamond”, a track so raw that Mon doesn’t bring it up in conversation, saying only that it is an experience that is explicitly described in the lyrics. It also happens to be in English, a language Mon doesn’t speak but wanted to write on this album. “A Crying Diamond” is a baroque guitar ballad that describes a 40-year-old man taking advantage of a 13-year-old girl: “He knows God understands him, for God is also a man,” she sings, his haunting voice.
Mon says she used Google Translate for the songs where she sings in English, which also includes “Good Boy” and “Beautiful Sadness”. “I wanted to say all of these things, and I feel like writing them in English I’m not really saying them, if that makes sense,” she says. “It was almost as if the language I can never understand somehow gave me permission to share these things.”
The album also captures the deep joy that Mon feels about motherhood. She is currently five months pregnant and dedicates songs like “Niña” to her unborn child. “My albums are always like a diary of my life, but this one comes from a really special time,” she says. “It’s like a musical photograph of such an important moment – not just because of motherhood, but because of so many things.”
Even though the album wasn’t in her plans, she says it means a lot to her: “I came to Los Angeles hoping to get pregnant, and left with a baby and an album.”