As a child, Enrique Iglesias dreamed of being a soccer player, a professional surfer or a singer, but he made his career in the latter by playing to his strengths.

Iglesias told the stories behind his career moves Wednesday during a keynote Q&A at the Billboard Latin Music Conference in Hollywood, Fla., with Billboard's executive director of Latin content and programming Leila Cobo. Iglesias recalled the childhood thrill of going on tour with his father, Julio Iglesias. "I thought, if I'm in the audience and I'm this nervous, imagine how it would feel to be onstage."

He was rejected by major labels as a teenager because his demos were "too simple," so he happily accepted a recording contract from regional Mexican label Fonovisa, even though he was a pop artist. The label promoted his first album at small rural radio stations.

"It was the best decision I could have made," said Iglesias, who now releases through Interscope and Universal Latino, and recently came out with his Spanish-language greatest hits album, "95/08." "I wanted to work...If they wanted to put me on a nuns' radio station, I didn't care."

By the time his second album came out in 1998, his audience had gone from teenage girls to "those who are 18 or 20 or 40 who are looking for something a little deeper. I had to make that transition, and it wasn't easy," he said. "It comes with time and hits and you keep going past that barrier, and you come out with that song that takes you to another chapter in your career. I think for me that came with 'Bailamos,' and I was able to get new audiences with that song."

Those audiences included Europe, where Iglesias had promoted his work early in his career, but didn't get noticed on a massive scale until later. Buying back his masters "wasn't a business decision," said Iglesias. "It was for sentimental reasons, especially for my first album."

The singer revealed that it wasn't until about four years ago that he finally felt satisfied with his onstage performances, having begun his performing career in arenas rather than in small venues as most artists do. Iglesias plans to release another Spanish-language studio album late this year or early next year, and plans are in the works for him to tour stateside this fall.

Against the advice of promoters, Iglesias has resisted bringing smaller productions of his shows to Latin America to cut costs. He is looking for a tour sponsor, but on a recent swing of 26 countries, he and his manager "reviewed the numbers and we were losing money...but it's an investment in my career."

Also bucking conventional wisdom, he made sure not to make available for digital sale any tracks from "95/08" in advance, because he wanted people to buy the album.

But "people are still as interested in music as ever...selling 3 or 4 or 5 million less, isn't going to stop me."

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

Print