The Genius Behind Lady Gaga: Fernando Garibay

The Way Lady Gaga first met Fernando Garibay, four-and-a-half years ago, still makes him smile. “She was pretty much in her underwear waiting outside the door to my studio,” the Mexican American producer and songwriter remembers. “It was love at first sight.”

The feeling was mutual, as the Mother Monster invited Garibay to write songs with her at almost every stop on her 18-month world tour, which wrapped in May 2011—and tapped him as musical director for her album, Born This Way. “Overseeing the album for the biggest artist on the planet? No problem!” he says.

But who is Garibay? For starters, despite his baby face, he’s “definitely old enough to drink,” he jokes (while declining to reveal his age). Born and raised in Los Angeles, Garibay was still underage, though, when he found his calling.

“In a Mexican upbringing, you go to  a lot of parties,” says Garibay, who has three brothers. “I just remember hearing my neighbors having these ridiculously loud parties with techno music.  I figured out that music was what I wanted to do really young, and I knew it had to be an extremely high-energy sound.”

His passion was also fueled by his father, who is from Michoacán, Mexico. “He was a huge ABBA fan so I would hear it like every day,” says Garibay. “That and mariachi music.”

After going to school to learn how to DJ and play “every instrument,” Garibay got his first major break in 1999, remixing some of Enrique Iglesias’s first crossover hits, like “Bailamos” and “Rhythm Divine.”

“I grew up in the hood of L.A. so jumping from that into working with a really well-known artist in the Latin community was huge,” Garibay says. “I could show the family, ‘Hey you know who he is?’ and prove I was actually doing it, living my dream.” Now Garibay has the new queen of pop dabbling in Latin influences on Born This Way, particularly on songs like “Americano.”

“We describe ‘Americano’ as a Mariachi techno-house record about immigration law, gay marriage and the disenfranchised, as told through a Mexican woman from East L.A.,” Garibay says of the love song, which is sung partly in Spanish by Gaga. “We chose East L.A. because it’s one of the most prominent and historic Mexican communities  in the U.S., and part of where I grew up.”

Way to represent!