Marc Anthony at the Billboard 2014 Latin Music Conference

Billboard cover star Marc Anthony does interviews on day 3 of the Billboard 2014 Latin Music Conference on April 23, 2014.

Arnold Turner

Marc Anthony couldn’t help it. He was born to sing.

But he dabbled in a few different genres before he found the niche he created with a whole brand of salsa. And he may sort of owe it to Mexican balladeer Juan Gabriel.

Anthony says he had been dabbling in freestyle and house music, not considering recording anything in Spanish – until he heard "Hasta Que Te Conoci" on the radio.

“I saw lights. I saw clarity. I knew this song was going to change my life,” he told Latin Billboard Director of Latin Programming Leila Cobo at the 25th Annual Latin Billboard Conference in Miami Wednesday.

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He couldn’t just do it again. It had been done by Juan Gabriel, of all people. A recording executive asked him, why not do it in salsa for his debut album. “Then I’ll record it in salsa,” Anthony said.

And the rest is musical history. 

He credits his more Motown influences – Luther Vandross, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight – with giving him an edge that made his salsa sound new.

“I had those sensibilities and that’s what made it different.”

He has never looked back, he told Cobo.

“I have never doubted it at all. I was surprised my Spanish was decent,” joked the New York native.

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When he first started, he said, he “hated being on stage.” His manager had a prediction: “The day you feel comfortable on stage, nobody can stop you.”

Said Anthony: “Once I started singing salsa, the fear went away.”

Cobo reminded him that he still gets emotional on stage, but that, Anthony said, is because of the music and because he still can’t believe that he is lucky enough to have such success.

“It’s personal for me,” he told her. “Sometimes you don’t want to go on stage…but life doesn’t stop because you have to go on stage.”

But he is an emotionally open person. After a visit to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic, where the children were living in unacceptable conditions, Anthony was moved to do something.

“They were sleeping on the floor and it impacted me as a father.”

He founded the Maestro Cares organization that recently built an orphanage in the Dominican Republic and plans more in Colombia and in Mexico. 

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He is also a budding entrepeneur, with a tequila brand, a clothes line and an antioxidant so far in his inventory.

So what about the music? Don’t worry. Anthony was born to sing. And he remains focused on that.

Anthony has been busy recording for the last two years, but he wouldn’t give a sneak peak into what he would release. He rubbed his hands together and uttered a wicked Little laugh. “Tee hee hee.”

“I’m inventing. I don’t think its time to talk about it… I’m in the laboratory still.”