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He has worked with Karol G since 2017, when she opened for Luis Fonsi – Billboard

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In the new “The Stars Behind the Stars” franchise, Billboard Latin and Billboard Español editors share stories that have yet to be told, directly from those who aren’t often in front of the spotlight. Think “todo lo que no se ve detrás de cámaras” or “everything that happens behind the scenes.” These unsung heroes are essential to an artist’s team and its foundation. Today, we highlight, Rob Trujillo, musical director of Karol G.

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Every night Karol G gets onstage for her Mañana Será Bonito stadium tour, she embarks on a two-hour (approximately) musical journey that takes fans on a rollercoaster of emotions, highlighted by arrangements and sounds that they can’t hear on her recorded songs. It’s part of the magic of a live performance. And in Karol G’s tour, the person in charge of executing her musical vision is her musical director, multi-instrumentalist Rob Trujillo. 

A native of Chile with a family musical background (his grandfather is renowned pianist Valentin Trujillo), Trujillo’s duties as musical director include determining the show’s setlist, creating special moments, arranging the music and executing the flow of the show.

Trujillo began his career working 14 years with Myriam Hernández, one of the most beloved voices in Chile and Latin America.

Rob Trujillo

Daniel Portes

In 2016, he moved to the U.S. and began working with Karol G in 2017, when she was invited as the opening act for Luis Fonsi’s Love and Dance US Tour, which marked the beginning of a new chapter in her musical career. Trujillo has played a vital role in numerous Karol G performances, including her appearances at the Grammys and Coachella. He also recently led Karol G’s performance on Good Morning America and was in charge of Karol’s historic headlining set at Lollapalooza, where she was the first Latin female to headline the fest in its more than 30-year history. 

Within the world of live music performances, there are many pieces to the puzzle, and endless details are meticulously worked on behind each concert, tour and festival. Talking to Billboard in Miami, Trujillo took us through this fascinating musical creative process behind the scenes. 

What are your job responsibilities as music director?

The musical director is the person who is in charge of everything related to the music of a show. In soccer terms — soccer fan that I am — he’s like the technical director.

I am responsible for everything creative in terms of music, the setlist, the versions, the arc of the show… How to manage to [put together] something more intimate that they remember. I call that arc a trip… [the point is to take a fan on] a trip, that when the person goes to that show, they feel something different from what is heard on the digital music platforms.

I watch the videos, the charts, the lyrics. Why? Because by looking at the chart, I can know where to put [the song] in the checklist. I watch the video because I want to know what the artists creatively envisioned, what they wanted at the time. That is what I have to deal with in my version of communicating to you.

Can you take us step-by-step through the preparation before starting a tour with Karol G?

It all starts with the tour’s purpose: if it’s for an album, if it’s for a celebration of something special, etc. It all has to do with the concept of the tour.

We put together a set list and after that, the creative process begins. This involves working on songwriting and live adaptations of said songs. For the new musical arrangements, I make the aesthetic [concept]. I make a demo for each song so that the artist can first listen and tell me if he likes it; let’s change this, I don’t like it. 

Once I get the artist’s vision, I turn to creative inventing. In my studio or a hotel, I have two keyboards, a bass and several guitars, and another bass. And according to what they are asking me, I am building. I take the song — for example, I do the drums on the keyboard to show the musician what to play later.

And after that, I am very structured. So, with that mental structure, I know how everything sounds. 

At this moment, I am being reflective and creative, both musically and visually. I am envisioning what will resonate with crowds of 25,000 or even 70,000 people.

How much is improvised, or can you improvise in a live show?

In my case, I’m not much for improvising. I am very organized, and like to keep [it that way], because it is also good for the team. In a show, it is not only the music; the music is the matrix of everything. If there are no songs, there is no show, basically. So, everything that emerges — the lights, the stage, the screens, the fireworks, everything — is related to the music, and everything around the music is to enhance that, so there has to be synchrony.

And what is the challenge of leading a tour of stadiums versus the arena?

It’s different starting with the number of people who can live the experience. The infrastructure of an arena differs from that of a stadium and allows for unique creative opportunities based on the specific concepts being developed. I believe the stadium format is the largest format you can get as an artist to work.

It’s different. I like both, but the stadium excites me a lot.

I am excited about the fans; I aim to ensure that every person, whether seated in the front row or the last chair above, enjoys the music equally. My goal is to provide an experience that is fair and accessible to all. For me, they both have to live the same experience, without any difference. That is what helps me. That is my mission.

How is the setlist order determined?

The setlist is defined based on various criteria. There are criteria first that are emotional, which also have to do with the new material coming out, how big the song is, and what we want to give to the people at each show. We can make a hit like “Bichota,” and then we want to transport it to something like “El Barco,” where, for example, we made a bossa nova arrangement with a little bit of bachata. Then comes this very Mexican spectacular; she takes the shots, and the people are with her.

We are putting together the setlist around how we want to move people, and where we want to take them… it is like the script of a movie.



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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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