Olga Tañón has always been willing to step out of her comfort zone.
As a Puerto Rican artist, she broke ground by singing merengue, an eminently Dominican genre, and won two Grammy Awards in the process. Once entrenched in the tropical world, she made waves by moving successfully into pop, including both ballads and dance tracks in many of her releases.
She began writing her own material, in her own studio, in 2005. And now, she's releasing her new album, "Ni Una Lagrima Mas," on her own Mia Musa label on April 26.
Video: Olga Tanon performs "You Need to Know"
The album is distributed by Sony Music Latin, Tañón's only nod to the major-label structure that supported her for nearly two decades.
Tañón launched Mia Musa with her husband/manager, Billy Denizard, who now refers to physical albums as "promotional fliers." The label's first releases were two digital singles, put out in 2009, followed by "4/13," an EP and DVD that was released in November 2009 and featured five tracks and three videos.
"Technology had so much to do with it," Denizard says. "The labels, and us, were in a comfort zone. But technology changed the way people listened to music, and the label structures and the mind-set of many artists that grew under those structures suffered."
By 2009, Tañón parted ways with her last label -- Universal Music Latino -- and branched out on her own. Now, "Ni Una Lagrima Mas" is her coming-out of sorts, in more ways than one. The album features nine tracks, eight of them co-written by Tañón, including the title track, a duet with Samo of Mexican trio Camila.
The current single, "You Need to Know," jumps 25-13 on Billboard's Tropical Airplay chart, in its fifth week on the tally. The song is a hard-hitting cumbia, rather than Tañón's more traditional merengue.
"With this album, I want people to know I'm alive, that I have a new company, a new label, and that this is an album that was chosen by fans," Tañón says. "With all these Web resources, I took it upon myself to ask people what they wanted to hear. It's important to give fans what they want, because they are the ones who clap at the end of a show. Many artists don't think about that."
Tañón herself didn't think about such things until labels began going into crisis mode and she started getting increasingly involved in her musical and business decisions. It was a natural evolution that went hand in hand with her writing, which she began doing in earnest after she was diagnosed with dyslexia, churning out hits like "Bandolero" and "Flaca o Gordita" for her own publishing company, Mia Musa Music, administered by Sony/ATV.
"In her first 16 years in the business, Olga knew nothing about publishing or its importance," Denizard says. "We've been working on this for the past six years and we've slowly but surely made inroads. And it's a great advantage because if Olga ever wants to stop performing she has another income stream."
Tañón, as it happens, has many income streams that have grown rapidly in the years since her husband started managing her. They include touring -- her biggest income source -- which is taking her to an increasing number of countries. Her Ni Una Lagrima Mas tour, for example, kicked off in Peru in January and has already taken her to Guatemala and Ecuador and soon to Colombia, a country Tañón hasn't visited in 15 years.
Tañón is also vested in branding, using her image as an artist and as a mother for several campaigns, including one to be launched in Puerto Rico by pharmaceutical company Merck to educate the public on asthma. Tañón also has her own clothing line, Fuego, which is sold in Peru and Puerto Rico.
Denizard oversees all aspects of Tañón's career, including touring, and supervises media efforts (handled by Bonnet Media) and promotion (LP Marketing and Promotions).
Together with Tañón, he also hopes to grow Mia Musa as a label and a publishing house.
"We're looking at two artists, but frankly their writing abilities are more important at this point than their singing abilities," Denizard says.
In the meantime, Tañón has recorded enough material to release a second album by year's end, as part of a strategy to release more albums, more often. "I won't be in the industry forever," she says. "And I want to perform less and devote more time to my children. I won't stop entirely, but I'll be writing and producing much more. But I'm happy. I have to accept I've had a great career. It'd be unforgivable of me to complain."