Abi Lindsay Clark Catches Up with Jon Secada
I had the huge pleasure of interviewing the highly renowned and extremely talented singer songwriter Jon Secada. He tells us everything from his latest projects to balancing his professional and personal life and his love of Spain.
Your mega hit ‘Just another day’ has rung in the souls and homes of people throughout the world. What do you think was the key to such success in reaching the hearts of so many different cultures?
That first song was the beginning of everything in my career. Something that I never expected in the way that it happened. The fusion of what I did with the very first CD of the different styles of music was something that I wanted to do but I never thought that the combination of the R&B and that little bit of the Latin flavour, that people from so many different countries would like it. But I got very lucky and I was very thankful and appreciated the fact that the record company at the time, felt that the song could be successful in different places and that CD could be successful and it was. But I guess it was because of the song and the vibe that the record had, this international type of personality that people felt they could relate to.
Did the English version of this song ‘Just another day’ come first or the Spanish version ‘Otro dia mas sin verte?’
Yes, the English version came first and then about six months later the Spanish version. I grew up completely bilingual here in Miami and so I was writing songs both in English and Spanish and the fact that my career took off in English was something that I did not expect so it was the idea of my manager at the time to do the record in Spanish as well and 6 months after the song was first released in English it became a very successful project in Spanish, but it was definitely an idea that came after the fact.
You were one of the first bilingual artists to have international recognition in both markets. What differences have you encountered between the Spanish and the English-speaking markets.
I never really felt that there was a difference except the fact that it’s just the difference in language. I think I was able to connect in both languages and the passion of that was able to translate and it was a blessing, one song for people to appreciate in two languages no matter where I went, for me that was really the magic of the whole thing. I couldn’t believe how one record in two languages everybody can relate to. I never felt there was a difference in how people took it whether it was a latin country or not, that’s the beauty of music.
The way that I always looked at my songs since the beginning of my career when I had to change from one language to the other, I didn’t look at it so much as a translation but more like an adaptation. So you take the song and you want to keep the basic idea of it but you are kind of thinking about the song differently in the other language because you want it to sound just as good without thinking that you want to keep the literal lyrics of the original version. I think that is the way these songs worked so good. The songs were really more adapted to the new language instead of being a direct translation.
Of all the awards that you have won which are you most proud of?
My 3rd grammy a couple of years ago was very exciting for me, it was a Spanish project based on a Cuban singer in the 50s and 60s so something that meant a lot to me as a kid and it was a project that was a labour of love, we did it very true to the time period when his music was popular. Benny moré was a very important artist and it was exciting to be able to do something like that and was a tribute to a great artist.
But my first grammy was definitely by far the most important for me and to get a grammy for my debut album was something that I really did not expect, so that first one will always be the most impactful for me.
Tell us more about you and where you came from and how you got where you are today.
I grew up musically here in Miami. I left Cuba between 8 and 9 years old and I lived in Spain first, for almost 2 years and then my father got a visa to go to Costa Rica. I didn’t come to the US until I was 13 years old so musically everything I have done has been here but I have loved the fact that I have been able to travel and enjoy success in my career in places that I lived when I was a kid, especially in Spain. But Miami was the place where everything started for me where I met everybody that I have ever worked with who was really important in my career and where I have recorded most of my hit songs. It also gave me the chance to be bilingual to have the best of both cultures. That has been a big part of who I am but luckily, I was able to have a lot of other experiences as a kid and those were a big part of life as well.
How did your latest project with Soraya come about?
That happened through our representatives I did a show in Seville last year and then with the production company we talked about maybe doing a brand new song and then through her people I heard the song that she worked as a duet. It got to my ears and I loved it from day one. I mean it’s a great song that she co-wrote with another writer from Spain a great writer and I fell in love with the song. So we got to know each other and then it turned into us recording the song and she came to Miami to record it and then eventually I made a wonderful couple trips to Spain to promote it. I am happy that the song was accepted so good and she is a great artist, great singer song writer and it has been wonderful working with her and making plans to hopefully do things later and maybe to perform together later on.
During your career you have always sung in both Spanish and English. Which language inspires you most when writing and singing a song?
No not really initially I have always been connected with Anglo music first but I grew up completely bilingual so going back and forth for me is very natural. But I would say that most of the inspirations at first, they start in English and then at the same time I’m always thinking in Spanish as well. So, it’s good for me to be able to bounce back and forth. But my musical influences were always from the Anglo side, singer songwriters in the American market.
You spent time living here in Spain. What made you move to Miami, professional reasons or personal ones too?
I was just a kid; I didn’t really get interested in music until well into my teens when I was here in the states and I decided to study music. I went to college and have a bachelors and a masters in music and jazz music. So, my true interest to be a professional happened much later. Probably I already had the idea deep down inside because I always enjoyed listening to the radio and many different artists but I never really actively thought about it til I was like maybe 15/16 years old.
You recently performed at the Divinity concert CADENA 100 Por Ellas (for women). How did you get involved with that project?
I was doing a promotion in Spain last month and visiting the radio station and the idea came up and I was very honoured to be asked and to be a part of such a wonderful cause needless to say benefiting the cancer foundation in Spain and especially that the show focused on breast cancer. So, it was an amazing show. So, it started with a visit to the radio station and it turned out to be a great thing that I was able to go back this month and do it and I’m glad that I did. It was an amazing night.
You have also written for other singers such as Ricky Martin and Jennifer Lopez. Do you often work on projects of that kind?
At the beginning of my career I spent so much time in the studio and I got the opportunity to meet so many great artists. I was always in the studio writing songs and even if I was writing songs for myself then other artists would hear some of them and so that’s how some of those opportunities came along. I’m always open minded to collaborate. I started as somebody working as a musician in the studio, writing, production work, doing background vocals, vocal production or whatever it was, but the song writing and production I have always enjoyed, that’s number one for me. And then the performing comes after that.
How did it make you feel when you wrote these songs for those other artists?
Amazing! Again I didn’t expect it to work out that way, but you know it’s what they do and these artists they enjoy your songs. It’s a blessing it’s a wonderful gift and I’m flattered that they enjoyed it so much that they wanted to record my songs that I was working on and so it was a wonderful time for me.
What was your experience on Broadway like? Do you enjoy the acting side of singing?
Well the theater work started with the idea of one show that was brought to me by my agent at the time and I loved it but at the same time it was the hardest work I’ve ever done. I did two more shows after that. I’ve always thought that my theater work has been the most challenging but at the same time the thing that’s given me a lot as a performer where I’ve kind of grown. One of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, those theatre shows and especially the ones in New York and in Broadway. So I will always appreciate the fact that I got the opportunity to do that. If the opportunity comes up, I would love to go back. It all depends on the opportunity and the kind of show that it is.
In 2016 you were acknowledged as humanitarian of the year by the Mohammed Ali foundation. Are you still actively involved with this foundation? And any other Foundations or organizations?
They approached me and I was very honoured. They approached me based on my career and the stuff that I’ve done attached to my efforts and with different charities. To be honoured by an organization that has the name of Muhammad Ali for me meant a lot especially with his career and his life and so I was very honoured that they came to me with it. It was a wonderful night and a wonderful opportunity to be a part of that awards ceremony.
Are there any other foundations or organisations which you are involved in today?
You know whenever I’m asked to do something that matters. If I can do it, I’m there. I’ve always felt that it was an attachment to who I am as an artist, it’s almost a responsibility if I am able to help with any organization or cause and whether it is through my art you know as a singer or financially or whatever, so no matter what the organization is if I if I have the time and the opportunity to lend my name.
You have also worked on Movie sound tracks for example Pocahontas or Dance with me. Can you tell us more about these projects?
Those projects were brought to a manager’s office to work with Disney. It was amazing especially those animated films and working in any movie project that has any type of great music attached to it for me was also amazing. I’ve done several movies and they’ve been great opportunities and the fact that people think about me and my music or me being involved is always very flattering.
Being such a busy and successful man; how do you balance the professional with the personal?
Yeah I mean it’s always a challenge. But that’s where you have to have a really good sense of communication and understanding. And that’s something that I guess was the reason that we’ve been able to work together (his wife Mari) through all these years and at the same time handle our personal life. A lot of communication a lot of understanding and it’s a constant thing to stay on top of and make sure that you’re always in tune with each other because that’s the only way you can actually in my opinion balance all things personal and professional.
You come to Spain quite often. Would you like to spend more time working on projects in this market?
I’m working on the next single which actually I recorded before I left this last time and so hopefully that single will come out at the beginning of 2020 and then after that we are preparing a tour for next summer. That’s really our next set of goals with my people in Spain and to work towards that. And the next thing that’s immediately important to us is the next song on the radio. So we’ll see.
Other than your passion for music. How do you enjoy spending your free time?
I spend a lot of time working out and staying fit, for me it’s really important. I’m 58 years old and for me it’s important as part of my lifestyle to be able to look as good as I can but also because it makes me feel good as a person and in my health and to have that balance in my life every day, whether it’s weight training or cardiovascular training it’s probably the number one thing that I do and I’m most committed to.
You have obviously achieved many goals and dreams already in your life but do you have any dreams pending?
You know if I can keep doing what I’m doing. I mean at this point I’ve tried and I’ve been a part of so many different opportunities. I have taken advantage of everything from theatre to television shows to everything that deals with working in the studio. I really have taken as many opportunities in my life as I can. I want to continue to do so. But nothing that I can pinpoint to say something that I haven’t done or not; just to enjoy when the opportunities come up and they make sense to me and to be able to take advantage of them if I can. That’s it.
Have you had to make any important sacrifices in your life to achieve your goals?
Yeah I mean there’s a lot of sacrifice, discipline and the balance of having to make hard choices and then sticking to them. The moment that my parents and me as an only child left Cuba and came to the States and started from the bottom up. To be able to put in the time and the energy and to rise above and make a commitment to myself and that’s something that is the most important thing when you try to make a commitment to what it is that you feel is what you want and you stay with it and you make the sacrifices and hopefully have the discipline to make it happen.
Is there anything in your life that you would like to rewrite?
You know even with the tough times I’ve always looked at them as positive because that’s the only way that you learn from your mistakes and you can pass on a piece of advice to somebody else that maybe is based on what you’ve been through. And that’s the way that I’ve always looked to my career and my life in general. And I think that kind of goes along in my personality as well actually.
Do you have any future projects which you are currently working on?
This next song for me in Spain is really important to me. There are some other projects that I’m going to be doing here in the States at the beginning of the year. But the truth is I’m really focused on the next single for next year and we are looking forward to what that’s going to be like and also the tour next summer and that’s something that means a lot to me. So, we focus on that and then see what happens. I´m looking forward to what’s coming over the next few months and I´m ready for whatever is coming my way.
Abi Lindsay Clark