He’s matured a bit anyway, says Cro. A conversation with one of the most successful musicians in Germany about bumblebees in the butt, hasty decisions and how he finds peace in Bali
Cro doesn’t take it too seriously when it comes to punctuality. The musician, whose real name is Carlo Waibel, is a good 45 minutes late for the interview at his Berlin record company. You can’t really be mad at him, he’s too nice for that. The 32-year-old decides to lie down on the sofa in a conference room – like on a therapy couch. While a wind chime gently jingles in the background, the native Swabian talks about himself and his career in a relaxed manner. With the aim of promoting his fifth album “11:11”. It combines pop with groovy beats, sometimes a Pink Floyd riff cheats under the music. Most of the songs are about love. Some are thoughtful, others sound delightfully light-hearted.
Cro, a song on your album 11:11 is called Freedom. Does the line “I’m free, but somehow small” reflect your attitude towards life?
Sometimes I feel huge, sometimes very small – although I actually have everything. After a flight of fancy, I realize: Basically, I’m just little Carlito.
… who has already achieved a lot?
Full. I finished the game in Germany, I think. I’ve won all the awards and done everything there is to do in music. Now either something completely new should come, or I would have to take my career to the next level and start internationally.
Despite your success, your fans don’t know your face. Why did you decide to wear a mask?
The mask gives me freedom. A lot of people ask me: why don’t you show yourself? Why do you have to mask yourself, be someone else? I always think to myself that because of the mask I’m actually the only one in the room who can be who he is. Because I don’t have to pretend. The mask also takes the gossip out a bit. I draw a line through them to my private life. Everyone knows that it’s about art – that’s important to me.
You must have earned quite a lot with your art by now. Do you spend your money again immediately?
I’ve been very frugal for quite a while. After being on the road as a Cro in Germany for a year or two, I had my base again with my mum for twelve months. During this time I had practically no expenses at all. But then I started to invest properly and to think about it properly.
Have you become a good businessman now?
Figures and contracts are not really my thing – I trust my team for that. After all, I’m much more involved now than I used to be. Early in my career I once signed a contract with Chimperator without reading it. Because I thought: I’ll stay with this label anyway. Of course that wasn’t very wise, you can improve every contract… But I was 19, had zero money and thought: Let’s go! Luckily, when I look at where I stand now, I can say that my hasty action was basically the right decision.
Were you naive as a young musician?
Total. I knew next to nothing. I came from Stuttgart and haven’t left this cosmos for a long time. At first I only traveled in Germany, but now I’ve traveled halfway around the world. I somehow got faster and smarter.
Cro’s new album is called “11:11” and has been on the market since August 12th.
Do you feel grown up now?
I think I missed growing up. Nevertheless, my mindset is much more mature than it was ten years ago. At 22 I was still a baby.
And a workaholic?
Yes. I worked practically day and night for seven or eight years. People asked themselves: how does he do it? The answer is very simple: if you enjoy something, you don’t think twice, you just do it. During the pandemic, however, I learned to chill a bit.
You retired to Bali during this time. Did you often relax on the beach?
Very rarely. I have bumblebees in my butt. Even when I’m chilling with my homies, we’re doing something. I also built a studio in Bali. Everything has to be right, every wiring has to be right.
Did you also start painting in Indonesia?
I’ve always painted. My pictures just went straight to the warehouse. Until I was encouraged to get more out of my art. I painted and painted. What was amazing: before my first exhibition in Düsseldorf, I sold three pictures before they even hung on the wall. I had asked for such a large sum that I thought: Nobody is going to pay that anyway…
Her very first picture, on the other hand, is said to have cost only 99 cents.
Exactly. An art consultant suggested I sell a painting. He also recommended me to propose a specific price for it. But somehow that just didn’t feel right to me. So I said, “I’m selling the painting for 99 cents.” The gallery actually agreed and even took care of the shipping. Cool move!
Why do you call yourself Carlito as a painter and not Cro?
It doesn’t matter whether I’m painting or making music: Basically, Carlo is behind everything. If I shoot a Cro video, I’m still Carlo. Sometimes Carlito things also flow into it. I’m completely one, but I want to separate that on the outside. So that people don’t get confused. Sure, I could market myself as Cro, the all-rounder. That way I would probably have a much larger following for my art. But I’m looking for a challenge. I’m excited to start fresh again as Carlito.
Do you constantly need new challenges?
I have now discovered the work-life balance for myself. I have a garden with palm trees and orchids in Bali, and I like planting new plants there. Next I want to have a palo santo tree.
Interview: Dagmar Leischow