"Growing up listening to the radio, the main thing for me was always respecting good music. Once my career got going, I've always felt, whether or not I wrote it, a song that touches my heart hopefully will touch other people's hearts, as well."
That's the way Jon Secada feels about "I'm Never Too Far Away," his new single that enters Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart at No. 29. The ballad marks his first debut on the ranking in more than six years. Secada first impacted the chart 20 years ago, when the No. 2-peaking "Just Another Day" became his first of nine AC top 10s. He had first arrived as a co-writer of Gloria Estefan's 1991 Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 "Coming Out of the Dark."
Throughout much of the '90s, Secada's sensual songs defined AC radio, as such smashes as "Do You Believe in Us," "Angel," "If You Go" and "Mental Picture" (his favorite single, he says) shared airwaves with the likes of Phil Collins, Richard Marx and other male pop vocalists. (He also co-wrote Ricky Martin's 1999 No. 2 Hot 100 hit "She's All I Ever Had.")
While the 2000s have seen AC radio ride the wave of such adult-friendly female artists as Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and P!nk, surely women listeners still swoon for love songs sung by soulful male singers, right? "I think the industry has cycles," Secada says. And/or, perhaps, in recent years, "Not as many male artists have made a connection. But, my heroes have always been male singer/songwriters: Billy Joel, Elton John, Stevie Wonder. Those guys' ballads are the things that attracted me to want to do what I do."
Secada, whose self-titled 1992 debut album has sold 2.7 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, marvels at his string of hits when looking back on his two-decade span on Billboard charts. "It seems like yesterday. I've been so lucky, so blessed. The same way that, when I listen to my favorite songs on the radio, they're still relevant to me, and still have meaning, hopefully my songs still give meaning to and have that connection with my fans."
Time has brought changes beyond his music: Secada has grown into quite the cool dad, as the video for "Never" features his children in a cameo role. "They wanted to be in it, so we found a place," Secada says with a chuckle. The clip presents a military theme, highlighting how the physical distance between troops serving abroad and loved ones at home is hopefully no match for emotional bonds. "I wanted to represent the connection of loss and love that so many of our military are going through these days."
"Never" (promoted by Pyramid/Fontana) ushers in Secada's as-yet-unfinished next album, the Cuban-born, Florida-raised artist's first English-language pop set since 2005's "Same Dream." A difference not only between now and 1992 but also since just seven years ago: the explosion of social media, a development that Secada happily embraces. "I can be in contact with my fans in a way I never had before. It's a huge part of what I do. My first piece of advice to any new artist is to love and work with social media circles as much as you can.
"The beautiful thing is you get all kinds of stories attached to your career, and your life," Secada says about the online messages he receives. "You feel a connective spirit with people that have enjoyed your music for 20 years ... and people who discovered you yesterday. And, I've found out that, for some of my fans, certain album tracks are their favorite songs, some that I wouldn't have thought they liked that much."
Not just the name of his newest hit, "I'm Never Too Far Away" also aptly sums up the ties to Secada that those who love his music continue to feel.
"I get stories about how my music has changed people's lives. For me, after 20 years, that kind of connection with fans is priceless."