Though he’s inching his way towards his 20th year, Ivan Cornejo is taking anything but baby steps. Having wrapped up his sold-out 2023 Terapia tour (which set off a bidding war between two major record labels) and with 2 consecutive Billboard Latin Music Award wins for Best Regional Mexican album under his belt, Cornejo now has a comfortable seat at the big kids’ table.

Ivan wears all clothing GIVENCHY / durag talent’s own

For an artist who has only been performing live for about two years, Cornejo’s 2023 touring solidified him as a major player within the Latin music scene. At his sold-out show in Ontario’s Toyota Arena, the crooner’s fans—mostly young girls and boys and their equally enamored parents—scream-sang his lyrics so blaringly loud that the singer’s voice could not be heard for stretches of time throughout the show. “Fans were covering their ears. It was really loud,” Cornejo recounts.

Though he was originally planning to speak with me on the phone at a local mall, Cornejo’s driver mistakenly dropped him off at a Target in Burbank (a hotspot hangout for suburban teens), where he found himself wandering lesser traversed aisles (think that nondescript back corner with command hooks and power strips, adjacent to a myriad of insecticides) to find some privacy. Cornejo was nonetheless stopped and greeted by fans whom he, in between answering questions and apologizing to me, took the moment to greet and take photos with. After all, these fans are the figures who pushed him to start singing and performing years ago.

When he was 16, Cornejo started posting TikToks of himself playing a requinto guitar (a small guitar used in traditional Mexican ballads, which he taught himself to play), with his face usually cut just out of frame. “I was like, maybe my voice isn’t ready to record and, you know, post covers of me singing,” Cornejo says, aware of his newcomer status. “But I can do this in the meantime and once I’m ready, I’ll have a bit of a following from my guitar covers.” His videos were met with comments like “Why don’t you sing?” and “Oh I bet he sings good!” from fellow youngsters. This laudatory feedback emboldened Cornejo to add and post vocal accompaniments to his already sickly sweet strumming.

Cornejo grew up in Riverside, California, a predominantly Mexican-American enclave outside of Los Angeles. He was introduced to regional Mexican sounds by his school friends, playing instruments and singing alongside them at the ripe age of 7. This early ritual nourished his love for Sierreño music, a sub-genre of regional Northern Mexican music originating in the ‘90s, which celebrates sadness, wherein the singer and the guitar compete to see who can whimper more beautifully.

Though English is Cornejo’s first language, the singer prefers to sing exclusively in Spanish, feigning ease for the concisely complex and romantic storytelling that can only be conveyed through Ñ’s and rolled R’s. “I love how things work with the Spanish language. It’s more of a challenge for me at the same time, but that’s what makes it fun.” The singer also touts authenticity and the celebration of his own cultural identity as motives for singing in Latin America’s lingua franca. “For example, with the song ‘Tatuajes’, I thought of the idea in English, but [the writing] came out in Spanish. [With other songs] I try to flip certain lyrics from English to Spanish, and if it works, I write it down.”

Ivan wears all clothing EMPORIO ARMANI / Watch OMEGA / Tank top HANRO

Not only does the singer play piano, guitar, violin, and ukulele, and sing with the voice of a man with decades of life experience, but Cornejo also writes all of his songs. “My past two albums were all written by me,” he confirms. “The way I write is, I’ll go to my studio and close myself off. I try my best to be alone; I think that’s where I really get in my zone.”

We asked about his plans for 2024 and he al- luded to an album release, something that embodies electronic and house music influences while remain- ing true to the traditional Sierreño identity his music has so proudly claimed. For goals and resolutions otherwise, Cornejo stated, “I want to grow as an artist musically. On the more personal side, I want to gain 10 pounds.”

This story appears in the pages of VMAN 52: now available for purchase!

Photography Daniel Sachon

Fashion Soki Mak

Makeup Melissa Rodgers (The Only) using DIOR Forever Foundation

Hair Yiotis Panayiotou using DYSON Haircare 

Executive producer Dan Cingari

Photo assistant Ryan Hacket

Stylist assistant Jack Wilson

Location Smashbox Studios

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