Berklee Artists Collaborate on Song for Grammy-Nominated Album
Numerous members of the Berklee community, both alumni and faculty, received 2024 Grammy nominations or were recognized for their contributions to Grammy-nominated projects. Among them, two standout artists received their first Grammy acknowledgments: student Marianna Matyja, a cellist, producer, DJ, songwriter, and composer; and Víctor Badillo B.M. ’22, a producer, songwriter, arranger, and artist.
The duo, who are frequent collaborators, contributed to Lupita Infante's Amor Como En Las Películas De Antes, which is up for Best Música Mexicana Album. Matyja played a cello solo on one of the album’s standout tracks, “El Amor Perfecto,” and Badillo produced and engineered the solo. Badillo also worked on the songs “Bailando Penas” and “Esta Ranchera,” on Flor de Tololoche’s album Motherflower, which is nominated in the same category.
Matyja, from Poznan, Poland, is a contemporary writing and production major whose first album is set for release this spring. Badillo is an independent producer and songwriter originally from Mexico City who earned his degree in music production and engineering. He's worked alongside many notable Latin artists in his young career, including Mon Laferte, Grupo Duelo, Manú Jalil, and Áureo Baqueiro.
We talked to Matyja and Badillo to hear how a small recording project produced a much bigger moment.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
How did each of you get involved in these Grammy-nominated projects?
Marianna Matyja: I got involved in the spring of 2022 during my second semester at Berklee. We were in Víctor’s apartment recording cello parts for different projects, and he asked me to record for “El Amor Perfecto.” At the time, I didn’t realize who it was for or how big a project it would be.
Víctor Badillo: I was invited to participate in Lupita’s album by producer Carlos Alvarez. He was producing some mariachi tracks on the album, and he wanted another perspective to give the traditional genre a modern pop twist. I introduced steel-string guitars and cello to the arrangement, and that’s where I got Marianna to record strings for me. I played and recorded all the guitars on the track. With Flor De Tololoche’s album, I have a friend in Mexico City who asked me for a writing session to specifically create a cumbia and a ranchera. We managed to merge the traditional aspects of both genres and the more catchy R&B melodies from the band.
What were your initial thoughts when you heard the albums were nominated for a Grammy?
Badillo: It was a surprise, but both albums were done by hardworking people and talented creators. It was an honor and a well-deserved recognition for the whole team that participated.
Matyja: I never expected my first Grammy would be for cello on a Mexican music album! The way that it happened was unusual. Last May, Victor told me the album might be nominated for a Latin Grammy, but then in September, he let me know we didn’t get any nominations. I told him it was okay, and I felt like there was a bigger thing coming, but at the time I didn't even think about the American Grammys. Recently, I was having a Zoom meeting when Victor called me. He said to go look at Instagram—I couldn’t believe it. I started screaming into the phone! I am still shocked and am so grateful. I feel very satisfied because cello is the first thing I touched with music, and I’ve been playing since I was 6 years old.
Can each of you talk about your mindset as you approached these projects?
Badillo: In every creative process I’ve been involved in, I always keep in mind the artistic vision of the project and the essence of the artists. We want to do something different and creative, but without losing the essence of the original vision.
Matyja: Of course it depends on the person I’m working with. With Victor, he knows that I know what to do when it comes to recording a song. For “El Amor Perfecto,” at first I was analyzing the feeling and what I could add to make it more colorful. I remember thinking I had to put a lot of expression and energy into it because it’s a love song. It’s hard to describe the emotions when you’re giving your heart to it; you feel the playing, emotion, and music all happening together—it came naturally as I worked on the emotional aspect of it. I usually like to work fast, but I took my time with this part. I remember saying, “No, another one.” I was determined to play every note perfectly from the technical side and to make sure that it reflected how I imagined it emotionally.
Can you talk about the personal impact this nomination has had on your life and career, particularly for you, Matyja, as an international student?
Matyja: It’s hard to put into words what this means for me. Poland is a very important country with a beautiful history, and I’m glad that I’m from a country like this because it taught me a lot about life. As a classically trained musician for 12 years, I experienced mental and verbal abuse from when I started playing at 6 years old. Very often I was told I am bad at my instrument and I had to work more. I was away from home for over 13 hours a day. It felt like my life was my music and I was a machine in a box. It put me in a cycle of thoughts that I was never enough. My parents asked me many times if I wanted to change schools, but I never agreed to it because music education was important to me. I was fortunate to have parents who were extremely supportive and believed in my plan.
When I was still in high school, I decided I would go to Berklee, which was an extreme decision for someone in my position. I worked to get the scholarship I needed to attend. At Berklee, I’ve experienced an incredible change in the educational system. It has changed me not only as a player but more importantly as a person. I found the connection to music and people that I loved. My incredible professor Eugene Friesen and my other mentors and peers believed in my talent and encouraged me to play how I feel. I hope my story will help others experiencing a similar thing, especially in my country. If I can do it, anyone can do it.
Badillo: As creators, we do what we do because we enjoy every aspect of the process, but it is always good to be recognized for something you do with passion and dedication. It has a great impact on me and motivates me to keep doing what I do and to keep the hard work I’ve been putting into every project.
This achievement has provided added motivation for a distribution, production, and publishing company I am creating named Calu Music Group, alongside label manager and A&R executive Andrea Perez. My goal is to help spread Mexican music all over the world.