Regional Mexican star Roberto Tapia releases 11th album, moving from drug tales to more positive tunes.
Performing since the age of 9, regional Mexican singer/songwriter Roberto Tapia was born to be an entertainer. It's quite literally in his blood, since his grandfather, Guadalupe Tapia, was a musician who introduced him to a world of traditional sounds and rhythms.
"My grandfather's support, along with the rest of my family, made all the difference," says Tapia, now 33. "There were times that were frustrating and I'd cry wondering where my career was going. No matter what, my family stuck it out with me."
A lifetime of lessons in the music business ultimately paid off for Tapia, who recently released his 11th album, "El Muchacho" ("The Guy"). He wrote all 12 songs on the Fonovisa album, which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Top Latin Albums four weeks ago, spending two weeks atop the tally. Its single, "Mirando Al Cielo" (Looking to the Sky), is his biggest hit ever on the Hot Latin Songs chart, where it has thus far peaked at No. 4. Tapia's career total U.S. sales stand at 92,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
For Tapia, the recent success has a lot to do with his approach to creating music using more traditional sounds-such as the brass-based arrangements he writes known as banda. The lyrics, he says, are just as crucial to the song, because people pay close attention to each word.
As he promotes his new album, Tapia is preparing to open for Mexican music icons Joan Sebastian and Vicente Fernandez, the latter preparing for retirement. For Tapia, getting a chance to support these singers is a major career milestone. "Opening for Vicente is a chance of a lifetime," Tapia says. "I've learned a few things about the business through him," such as knowing when to tour, a move that has to be timed appropriately to avoid overplaying markets.
The secret to a long, successful career, Tapia says, is "knowing your audience well, writing for them and respecting what you do creatively. It's important to not just take a job for the money."
While Tapia is known for writing inspirational music with positive messages, he previously wrote narcocorridos, music about the drug wars of Mexico. Today, he prefers to write only music with messages of hope.
"Roberto has continued to grow, thanks to his music that resonates with people," says Carlos Perez, national publicity director at Universal Music Latin Entertainment. "He's proof that if you write good music with positive messages, people will support you."
For Tapia, who was born in San Diego but raised in the northwestern city of Culiacan in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, gaining fans as the music industry struggles during tough economic times is an achievement he doesn't take lightly.
"When I'm at a show, I feel lucky to be seeing people of all ages," Tapia says. "My fans range from children to people from a much older generation. That makes me one fortunate guy."