Behind the Score: Karina Magallon on composing and representing her Hispanic Heritage

Karina Magallon, producer and vocalist from Houston, Texas, spoke with ESPN Music about her work composing music selections for ESPN and representing her culture during Hispanic Heritage Month.

Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

ESPN Music: How did you get to a place where you were able to compose this?

Karina Magallon: I grew up with music. So, I've been doing music all my life. Then I went to Nashville and studied music there and started my artists project. I think that was like a big turn for me. Because I started to do more songwriting and vocal production and engineering. So, during the pandemic that's what I really focused on. From when I was little to my time in college to really honing in on my craft during the pandemic to now really got me into the mindset of figuring out how to write quickly and know what my processes are and how to go and be efficient with my time.

EM: What is it about music that drew you in?

Karina: I love the connection ‑ the human connection. You get to express stories, and you get to express emotions that can sometimes be really hard to put into words. And I feel like the art of creating something really drew me to it. And so, it continues to motivate me every time I see meaningful art. And I try to do that in my art as well.

EM: Were you excited about the ESPN project or was it a daunting task?

Karina: I think it was a mixed emotion, but mostly really exciting. I saw this project as something I resonated with too. I went to a WNBA game to get inspired. I have a Notes app and I'd write down anything that stood out to me or moves or words or things the players were doing. I really put myself in this project. So, I felt like I was also experiencing the things that I was writing about. It made things easier.

EM: What was the hardest part for you about working on this disc?

Karina: With postproduction, my team of producers, 4nalog, Mateo Barragan and Pierre Jamerson helped me with production and mix and master, which made things a little bit faster. It's good to have a good team around you. But with inspiration, there was a point where it got a little bit hard. But then, I put myself out to go see and experience things. So, I went to different events, and I started writing down things. And I felt like that inspired me. So, I just kept looking for things that kept inspiring my songs.

EM: With Hispanic Heritage Month coming up, we would love to hear about your experience within that community and how it's influenced your craft.

Karina: Being a first-generation Panamanian in the US, I've consistently lived within the intersection of two vibrant cultures. Growing up, Spanish was the melodic language of my home, and at school, English would be the language I’d use. Regular visits to Panama not only strengthened my bond with my extended family but deeply rooted me in the history and traditions of that culture too. This dance between cultures exposed me to an eclectic mix of music, ranging from Latin pop to R&B, reggae en Español, and more. Music mirrors culture, and in embracing both worlds, I've been privileged to see and craft music through multifaceted lenses. Instead of trying to fit myself into being solely Latina or American, I've celebrated and showcased the influence of both in my work. This bicultural mindset is like possessing a vast canvas where I can paint my stories, creating expressions that are meaningful in both tongues and in the music I create.

EM: How important is representation to you and your music?

Karina: Representation is not just crucial - it's transformative. Witnessing someone who mirrors my background break through challenges and ceilings sends a powerful message. Despite a history of limited representation of my culture in the media, we are now at a time where diverse voices are being heard, painting a fuller, richer portrait of our collective experiences as humans. Through my music and journey, I hope to be that bridge, allowing listeners to see themselves in my artistry and realize that they too can pursue their own personal ledgers.

EM: What does it mean to you to help represent your culture and be a part of ESPN's impact in creating space for representation?

Karina: To stand tall during Hispanic Heritage Month and to align with ESPN's efforts towards inclusivity is an honor. Growing up in Houston, a multicultural city, combined with my experiences in Panama, has always tethered me to my roots. My music celebrates the richness of my identity. By working with companies like ESPN, it's more than just about representation. It's signaling a shift towards a world where every story, every note, every beat is valued. We are moving from mere representation to heartfelt celebration, and it’s an honor to be a part of that.

EM: What did you learn in this experience that you can take with you for the music you're working on in the future?

Karina: It gave me a lot of confidence in my abilities. I did push myself out of my comfort zone. And just to see how I was able to do this was really inspiring. For me, I think what I would take the most is the way I planned it out so that I was writing at least two songs a week. And so, when I'd finished those two songs, I'd go into engineering and production the next week, and then it was kind of like a schedule. So, I think it's getting into that headspace. I think it is also a little bit psychological of just motivating yourself and believing that you can and that you will.