Marc Anthony's Salsa Revival: Exclusive Q&A

Marc Anthony

Alan Silfen

With his single "Vivir Mi Vida" topping the Hot Latin Songs chart for eight straight weeks, Marc Anthony may be sparking a salsa revival. How did it happen?

Summers are family time for Marc Anthony. After heavily promoting his upcoming salsa album, '3.0, 'during the Billboard Latin Music Conference & Awards last April, Anthony went to Los Angeles to spend time with his five kids before the set’s release July 23 on Sony Music Latin and before he this the road for his 40-date world tour in August. He spoke to Billboard from his Los Angeles home.

Billboard: You’ve been working on a pop English-language album with Red One which you say you’d like to release later this year. Tell me about that?

Marc Anthony: We’ve been working about a year and a half and we’re almost done. His sound is so big and so global, and just the fact that I can’t record anything that’s not live because of the instrumentation of my band, it ended up working out well. We got his sound—the Red One global radio pop sound, and then we went in with a band and played the parts live. And that’s what makes it interesting.

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As for '3.0,' that’s your first salsa album of new material in nearly a decade. You didn’t record it in an orthodox manner, did you?

I had waited so long and I had years and years of pondering my approach to the next album that when the time came is was like going through the notes in my mind and applying it. I don’t know how else to put it. I couldn’t wait to upload all that shit in my head. Me and Sergio would do three songs a day, live there with the band. Had we arranged these songs two hours later, two days later, it would have been totally different.

You’ve also been working on this English-language pop album for a long time. So why detour into salsa?

I’d done nothing since El Cantante [the soundtrack to the film by the same name] and nothing original. It came down to, I had this beautiful collection of songs I wanted to record. I contacted Sergio and once he decided to do it, we began. But it really came down to one song. They sent me this song from Mexico called “Espera.” And it was one of those moments where I said, I have to record this now. Now, now, now.

Your first single, “Vivir Mi Vida” is very feel-good, and very different from what you’ve done before…

It’s not a typical salsa track and it’s not a typical me track either. I thought it was the perfect punch to throw and it’s not the strongest song in the album. But I thought it’s the perfect track to espouse my philosophy. First of all, the viability after 10 years off the market, although I’m touring all year around. I wasn’t concerned about my core. I knew my fans where there, will always be there, but after 10 years, ‘can I be viable, what’s going to be the impact of the song?’ And then, I have to put myself in that space of “I don’t care.” I know it was risky. It could have given a false positive that that’s what the album was—because this was a baila baila song. But I was thinking of the long story. Go with your gut, it feels good, it sets the tone of where I’m at in my life, it’s a feel good song and I really wanted it to be part of my life.

So this wasn’t a time to record a heartbreak song?

I’ll record depressed, happy, sad. I don’t give a shit. Some of the happiest songs I’ve recorded when I’m all depressed. That doesn’t factor in at all for me. I can enjoy a depressing song when I’m happy and a happy song when I’m depressed. It doesn’t matter to me. It doesn’t influence me. Music is a one lane highway for me. I know it so well and it’s kept me company so many years. It’s my life. I don’t need any triggers to get me into some head space.

Salsa is kind of in the dumps now. What happened?

Salsa at its heigth there were a lot of artists who were viable and vibrant and had their sound and their following. I think when other people started jumping on the genre who really weren’t salseros and who did it just to do it, I think a lot changed. I think that people started recording shitty albums just to gig. People weren’t looking at it as a body of work. And I think that really diluted bodies of work or potential bodies of work. And you get what you give.

Are people still dancing salsa?

Yes. I do this every day. I’ve been pounding the pavement for the past 22 years. There’s hardly a week where I’m not performing in another country. There’s a lot of salsa. And even markets that you wouldn’t consider have salsa stations. There’s a lot of salsa clubs in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Panama, Venezuela. But you can’t give them shit to consume. I think it’s time for everybody to wake up and put the work in. Record the next album like your life depended on it. A relationship with an album is like everything else. If you give shit, you get shit. Slow and steady wins the race.

Why record again with producer Sergio George?

He’s my Quincy. We literally finish each other’s sentences. We defer to each other. There’s no such thing as a bad idea. You never run out of ideas when you have those two brains connected.

Last year, during the finale of 'American Idol,' you sang Aguanile, a classic, very improvisatory salsa song, instead, of one of your pop hits. Why?

It was an opportunity for people to see who I really was. When I do the Today Show I do salsa. The vehicles don’t really dictate who I am or what I sing. It’s that simple. And had they suggested hey we don’t want Spanish, I’d have said, get somebody else.

You’re embarking on this 40-date tour, including stops in Australia and you’re famous for being very physical onstage. How do you stay in shape -- do you run 5 miles a day or something?

I don’t have to do anything to stay in shape. The show makes me stay in shape. Run 5 miles? Hell no. Cigarette, beer. The most important thing to stay in shape is the frame of mind.

You just shot the pictures for the new season of your clothing line at Kohl’s. How’s that going?

It’s been one of the most successful brands at Kohl’s. What makes me proud of that is I honestly feel I’m affecting change. If anybody knows anything about what I wear, it’s that I have no problem buying an $800 Balenciaga shirt. But when you figure out how to do a shirt, same exact quality in its construction and fabric and sell it for $40, that tickles me. I’m extremely proud of how we’ve been able to lock down the quality.

You’re home with your kids. What’s the most fun thing you’re looking forward to doing with your kids this Summer?

I love going on tour with them. We put them all on the bus and we get off on really interesting locations. It’s busing across America. It’s actually priceless.