Iconic Salsa Singer Rubén Blades Eyes New Label, Talks New Music, Brad Pitt Project

Ruben Blades onstage during Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Michael Seto

Rubén Blades, the venerable salsa singer/songwriter/actor, is eyeing the Los Angeles-based Nacional Records as a possible home for his new music, according to a source familiar with the ongoing conversations.

Blades, who spoke this week at the Latin Alternative Music Conference (LAMC) in New York, said he was still unsigned as several musical projects are on the way. The singer also confirmed he has two upcoming feature films in the works including "The Counselor" with Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz and John Leguizamo.

"I'm not signed to a label," Blades said during an interview with Gabriel Abaroa, present and CEO of the Latin Recording Academy, adding that he has been working on several projects including the re-recording of his music from his time at Fania, the salsa label which was co-founded in the mid '60s by Dominican-born composer Johnny Pacheco.

Tomas Cookman, who founded the LAMC, owns Nacional Records and confirmed that he had a weekend meeting with Blades about working with Blades.

"We had an amazing time together," Cookman said. "The coming weeks will get us closer to potential next steps. I can't wait."

The LAMC, now in it's 14th installment, has become a major event in the Latin alternative music scene as acts have been introduced to wider audiences through the conference which now boasts five days and includes panels on the music business, showcases and exhibits.

"It's become a jumping pad for many artists," Cookman said earlier this week. "We try to be extremely welcoming to everybody. We're very aware that artists are investing a lot to be here."

Blades, who is also attached to the feature "Hands of Stone" with Robert De Niro, advised to LAMC attendees this week that they should think twice before signing a contract to a label that wants to take everything.

"Executives have told me that I'm crazy," Blades said, referring to his talks with major labels. “It's important not to get sidetracked by other people's [negative] opinions.”

On Friday, as the LAMC organizers wrapped up the conference at the New Yorker Hotel before the final showcases on Saturday, Cookman said he was pleased that an iconic musician such as Blades took the time to attend the LAMC as many artists have done so, including Julieta Venegas, who is scheduled to perform Saturday (July 13) in Central Park as part of the conference.

"We're going to look forward [to meeting with Blades in the upcoming weeks]," Cookman said. “He's so beloved. It's an exciting time for Nacional Records. We have plans to expand in 2014."

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