Christian Nodal: Photos From the Billboard SXSW Cover Shoot

It’s the tattoos that really make Christian Nodal stick out like a sore thumb. With his inked-up body — and face — he looks more like a rapper or rock star than the exploding regional Mexican artist he is.

“I didn’t want to be anyone’s shadow,” Nodal declares. “I felt that the genre was stigmatized under all these stereotypes, and I wanted to break all of that because I was unsatisfied to see that our genre wasn’t going far enough.”


Since launching his career in 2017, Nodal, now 25, has made a name for himself (sometimes with sharp elbows) as a maverick in a genre long bound by tradition. From the time he started at age 18, he has revolutionized regional Mexican music by pioneering mariacheño, a subgenre fusing mariachi’s strings and horns with the norteño accordion.

“I didn’t want to disrespect anyone, much less the mentality of some of these [regional Mexican] legends who think the genre should sound and look a very specific way,” he explains. “But that wasn’t me. I didn’t feel part of it. I wanted to make it my own.”

When we meet in mid-December at Lienzo Zermeño ­— where charreadas, or Mexican rodeos, take place in the middle of Jalisco’s bustling city of Guadalajara ­— Nodal beams with pride as he recounts the arc he has followed to become one of Latin music’s biggest stars in a few short years. He may look like a malote (bad guy) — he jokes about the role he would probably get cast for in a movie because of his tattoos — but he’s far from it, offering friendly hellos to the ranch’s workers and flashing a shy smile to the bystanders who recognize him but are too timid to introduce themselves.

Read the full cover story here.

Griselda Flores