As a musician, Nina del Río does not want to be boxed in

Kailey Duran

BOSTON — The blue lights behind the Red Room’s stage at Cafe 939 in Berklee College gave the space a velvety feel, matching the softness of tonight’s singer: Nina Del Río. Her musical introductions in English were fused with Spanish lyrics that came to life with the soulful melodies produced by her band.

This is Del Río in her element.

Her music is a mix of R&B and neo-soul, but she said she does not want to be boxed into a single genre. 

“You don’t have to choose where you’re from if you feel like you’re from a lot of places,” Del Río shared in an interview.

Del Río’s musical exposure began with her dancing to The Beatles and attending concerts in Brooklyn—many of which centered around jazz—said the artist’s mother, Bibi Calderaro, in a phone interview. Her parents also made frequent trips to Argentina, her cultural origin, with Del Río “to give her the freedom to experience it on her own,” said Calderaro.

Del Río, currently 21 years old and living in Boston part-time, took the opportunity to experience Buenos Aires on her own when she took a gap year there during the first year of the pandemic. 

This time in her life inspired her second studio project, “What I Loved About You Es Lo Que Amo De Mi.”

“When I wrote the last album, I was in a situation where my world was in Spanish because I was living in Argentina, but I was going through a breakup with someone [in the US],” said Del Río.

In the album, the lyrics mirror what she describes as her “stream of consciousness,” in transitioning between English and Spanish.

“In that moment, it was the most natural way to explain how I was feeling because there are things that you can say in Spanish that you can’t say in English and vice versa.”

Nina Del Río

These two identities also mesh in her improvisational musical approach, influenced by the collective practice of practicing Argentinian folk music and being exposed to jazz artists in New York.

“I got really used to environments where you could kind of just show up with chords and not much else and just play songs,” said Del Río. She said she often heads into practice with the perspective of seeing where the music takes her, said Del Río.

“She had a very good way of letting the musicians add their own flavors to the music,” said her partner Alejandro Vilarrasa-Corriero, who played in a band with Del Río during their high school years. 

“We always got to participate in some way,” said Vilarrasa-Corriero.

Music has been the common thread sewn throughout Del Río’s life. When she was four, she declared that wanted to be a singer, Calderaro recalled.

“Nina has always wanted to sing,” said Calderaro. “It might have been a fantasy at the beginning, but then she kept at it and we encouraged it.”

She sang in choirs and began playing the piano at a very young age. Through enrichment programs, she became exposed to the way music can hold a variety of meanings. 

In the traditional school setting, she learned musical theory, classical composition, and the distinctive elements that made up the genres she pulls from today.

Del Río’s musical history impacts the way she thinks of her current higher education institution, Berklee College of Music.

“My goal is to make school feel like it’s just nourishing everything else that I’m doing,” said Del Río. “[Berklee is] a space that gives you the structure to [make music] and also gives you feedback and guidance.”

This report was published in collaboration with the Boston University School of Communications School of Journalism. The journalism student is a member of a Reporting in Depth class taught by former Boston Globe reporter Meghan Irons.