Alvaro Soler Tells the Story Behind 'El Mismo Sol,' His Chart-Topping Hit With Jennifer Lopez: Exclusive
"It actually all came together naturally," Soler tells Billboard.
Alvaro Soler was born in Spain, raised in Japan and signed to a label deal in Germany after meeting his manager at a songwriting camp in Austria.
It’s been a winding road for Soler, who was actually making music in English in Spain when he was signed in Germany.
“It actually all came together naturally,” laughs the 24-year-old Soler, who started his career in music playing with his siblings in a band called Urban Lights.
“It was this friend’s group that developed into something more than we expected,” he says. “When I left the band I feel like I jumped into the professional world. Because with Urban Lights, I wasn't living from music.”
But things were starting to happen. Urban Lights had signed a publishing deal, with Sony ATV, who invited one of the members to a songwriter’s camp in Austria.
“It was three of us, and they said one could go. And everybody thought it should be me,” recalls Soler.
It was a pivotal decision. At the camp, Soler met Benjamin Budde of Budde Music, the German indie publishing company. Budde had been thinking about starting a Spanish-language project, and Soler popped up. He spoke English and Spanish perfectly, and he had a great voice.
“Everything clicked and we said, 'Let’s just try this,'” recalls Budde, who flew Soler to Germany and had him write Simon Triebel and Alexander Zuckowski.
Together, they wrote several demos, including “El mismo sol.”
The song, an uplifting anthem that celebrates diversity and shared values, “under the same sun.” “The lyrics in that song come from my experience living in Japan and going to a German school,” says Soler. “You always had new people. It’s very transient. That’s what made it so much fun,” says Soler.
“El mismo sol” also boasted a very organic sound. The recording was done with hardly any plug-ins, and it allowed for experimenting with different sounds, like the spoon hitting against the glass.
Budde took Soler’s demos to Universal Germany, with the condition that they work him in other territories.
The tipping point was Soler’s performance on The Voice Italy, which propelled “El mismo sol” to No. 1 in that country. The track, in its original Spanish-language version, rose to No. 1 on iTunes in Switzerland, Russia, France, Austria, Denmark, Holand, Belgium and France.
Eventually, Jennifer Lopez stumbled upon it. “Monte, Charlie, Benny and I were having dinner and we started playing and listening to music," says Lopez. "This fun infectious song came on and then we all started dancing and singing! I loved the sprit and message of the song, Alvaro's voice and the flamenco clap. [Eddie O'Loughlin and Republic secured US rights via Universal Germany]...We decided that night to call Alvaro and see if he would like to do it as a duet. He loved the idea and the rest is the record you hear.”
Soler took news of Lopez’s interest with caution -- who knew what would happen? -- until he got the finished version of the remix.
“I was in my bed and I started dancing in my bed,” he says. “I didn’t say anything to my parents because they get very excited. Once I got the vocals I said, ‘Look, I’m doing a collaboration with someone.’ I sent it and my brother said, ‘Is this Jennifer Lopez?’ At that point, everything was going so well, so having Jennifer Lopez on top of that was just crazy.”
Soler and Lopez didn’t actually meet until they shot the video together in New York.
“She made it very natural,” he recalls. “We met, we hugged, it was very funny. Her manager is called Benny, and so is mine. She said, ‘Everybody needs a Benny in their life.’”