MUSIC

Sebastián Yatra is on his way to heartthrob status: 'It's completely surreal'

Pamela Avila
USA TODAY
Before performing "Ojos Marrones" with Lasso, Sebastián Yatra gave a shoutout to all the Colombians, Venezuelans, American and Mexican fans in the crowd at his Los Angeles show.

You may know Sebastián Yatra as the angelic voice behind the Oscar-nominated song "Dos Oruguitas" from Disney's "Encanto." But onstage, the Colombian singer is ripping his shirt off on his way to heartthrob status. 

On one of the hottest weekends in Los Angeles in September, the 28-year-old had the crowd – even the señoras – all hot and bothered inside the YouTube theater in Inglewood, California, as he lobbed his sweaty shirt at screaming admirers eager to take some Yatra memorabilia home. And toward the end of his 24-song set, during "Robarte Un Beso," the singer did as the song said and stole a kiss from a fan. 

Yatra knows he's the one putting on the show "but my fans are giving me a show as well," he says. "It's just magical to be onstage with them, we're all exchanging energy."

The North American leg of his Dharma world tour, through November, marks the first time he's performed solo on this side of the globe. But with a stage presence like that, you wouldn't be able to tell. Perhaps it helped that Latin music powerhouses Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias took Yatra under their wing for their co-headlining U.S. arena tour in 2021

"I learned a lot from them," Yatra says. "You'll definitely see a beautiful evolution." 

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Sebastián Yatra slows it down for fans midset and performs his soulful ballads with guitarist Toby Tobon.

Yatra's 2022 has been full of career milestones. In January, he released "Dharma," his third studio album, and in March, he hit the Oscars, "the biggest stage in the world," to perform the Lin-Manuel Miranda-written ballad "Dos Oruguitas," which was up for best original song. Yatra calls it "life-changing." 

Now, he's basking it all in as he crosses state lines in a lavish tour bus. 

Question: How do you take care of yourself mentally and physically while you're on tour? 

Answer: I lead a pretty healthy lifestyle … I train every day, I'm eating healthy, and my mind is in a good place. I read and I also talk to my psychologist once a week. I give my personal well-being and my emotions a very important place. I give them that priority that is necessary – not only as a singer but in general. 

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You don't box yourself in within a genre and your discography – pop, reggaeton, ballads and flamenco – is proof. Have you ever felt pressured to change your sound? 

I have at some points done things that aren’t really my essence. But then I realize it's not the way to go because people don’t believe it too much when I have done the type of songs that just don't flow with (my style). It’s important for it to happen, too, because it’s a reminder, "Hey, man, just follow your heart." 

In a competitive industry, how do you stay true to yourself and follow your heart? 

I try to not go as fast as the rest of the world or look side to side (to what others are doing). It's about focusing on your own things, enjoying them and having fun.

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For his fourth fit change of the night, Sebastián Yatra walked out onstage to perform his hit song "Pareja Del Año" featuring Myke Towers and closed out his show.

If you’re living like you're lacking something, it’s because you’re doing your tours and you’re seeing your songs having great success but then you’re (checking) what other artists are having more success than you. Then you’re like, "Why is this person achieving more than me?" That’s not good, that’s when you can get consumed by this industry or by life in general. 

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Sebastián Yatra says it was "completely surreal" to perform "Dos Oruguitas" from "Encanto" on the Oscars stage in March.

Despite growing up in Miami and being fluent in English, you mainly sing in Spanish. Why? 

I always knew I wanted to sing in Spanish. It was my calling. It’s where I’m from. I think and sleep in Spanish. I grew up listening to a lot of Spanish music and I wanted to write (music) in Spanish and so I decided to leave the U.S., go back to Colombia and start there. It’s been the best decision I’ve made in my life. It’s connected me with my Colombian culture and with so many other cultures of Latin America. I feel like I have a lot to offer. 

Now, if I decide to sing in English, it’ll have a lot of that culture, passion, love and spark from Latin America. I am bicultural (and it's) a huge blessing.

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How did it feel to perform "Dos Oruguitas" at the Oscars earlier this year? 

It's completely surreal. It's like one of those dreams you have that you wake up from thinking, "How was that a dream?" This was literally that dream. Everything I could have wished for happened that night.

In such a magical way (I was) representing the 600 million Spanish-speaking people in the world, our culture, our way of feeling, our way of thinking, and representing my country. And our land, our customs, our food and our love – "Encanto" has done such a beautiful job of painting a beautiful picture of Colombia for the world.