Alejandro Sanz -- the top-selling act in Spain's history -- has released "La Música No Se Toca" (Music Is Not To Be Touched), his 12th studio album and his first on Universal Music Latino. Release of the set, produced by Sanz with Julio Reyes-Copello, comes after Sanz's stint as a coach on "The Voice Mexico" last year. Sanz, a singer/songwriter who in recent years has recorded with Tony Bennett, The Corrs and Alicia Keyes, among others, spoke with Billboard during a lull of promotion in his Miami homebase.
Being a coach on "The Voice" was the last thing I thought you would ever do. Did your new label Universal -- which co-produces the show -- convince you to take on the position?
Not at all. In fact, I may have taken the decision even before signing with Universal. I saw The Voice here in New York and I really liked the format, beginning with the blind auditions. And I thought it could work very well in Mexico. Truth is, I had a great time. I was able to spend three months in Mexico and enjoy my friends. And one thing that really struck me was seeing myself reflected in [the contestants]. The eagerness they have at the beginning, every little accomplishment means a lot. And of course, of one my protégées won. He won singing a Spanish version of Billy Joel's "Piano Man." The guy is an anti-hero: He isn't tall or handsome. He's a school janitor. But he has a beautiful voice.
Do you feel the show brought you another type of popularity?
Definitely my popularity grew. You're in 30 million homes every week. I was a little surprised.
What did you discover about yourself during this coaching exercise?
I discovered I have more patience than I thought, and that people's dreams bring out in me a big feeling of respect and affection. I hadn't been in this situation for a long time -- having someone depend on you. I've never taught anything or practiced with anyone or prepared a song for them. I thought I would be far less patient. But these guys were very talented.
You've always been pretty private, and yet you have 7 million followers on Twitter. Are you an avid user?
Media use Twitter to report the news and that's not what it's there for. It's to laugh and sell and comment things. But we shouldn't take it so seriously. Artists after all are going to say what they want their fans to hear, but journalists are supposed to objectively tell the story. I think social networks are fantastic, but one of these days we'll laugh at them. This kind of information that travels so quickly loses its essence, like music. I think some of us were guinea pigs with Twitter. You thought you were talking with a friend. Today, it helps provide me with feedback.
Watch the Video for "Se Vende"
You say music has lost its essence because it can be consumed so quickly. So, what was your objective with this album?
Make music as if it were going to be consumed well. I wanted to do an album like before; an album that sounded big. [Universal Music Latin America Chairman] Jesús López spoke to me about producer Julio Reyes. And I was interested because I wanted somebody with a classical music background. I told him I wanted a monumental album of symphonic pop. We spoke for days about what I was looking for. I told him I wanted to mix these symphonic arrangements with modern programming and acoustic instruments, even some folk instruments.
Radio is so dance and rhythmic now. Are you worried it won't play the songs?
I think the biggest hits are always the biggest exceptions. There is no better example than "Corazón Partío." I never measure the length of songs, for example. I think songs have to last as long as they have to last.
Why did you sign with Universal after 20 years with Warner?
I'm very thankful to Warner. It's been 20 years of success and I have great friends there. But I needed a change. And Universal shows up and they have another attitude in facing the crisis of the industry. And starting again is like renovating your illusions. It's a challenge to make an album for a company that's so behind you.
At a time when albums sell so much less, what would you like to see happen?
I want for an album to be an important album, even for other musicians.
Is music losing its essence and just not as good anymore?
It's just that everyone can record an album. And albums are made like churros [fried pastries]. Everyone wants to be famous. Everybody wants to be like someone else. It's a crazy thing. Very few people are actually "recording an album."
Tell me about your new band and the tour, which kicks off next month in Mexico?
You'll love them. Half of the members are women: I have an amazing guitarist from Boston, a trumpet player, a bassist and a percussionist. I love having all these women on stage and they're great musicians. I'm working on an elastic repertoire that can change constantly, spur of the moment, during the actual show. I want to be able to change songs as the show progresses.