“I wanted to do this music my way,” says Juanes, chatting during a listening session in his home studio. “These are songs that marked my childhood, my teen years and my early adulthood. This was curated to show my life. Mis Planes Son Amarte was an experiment that took me to the limit of where I can go [musically]. I wanted to return to a place where I felt I was myself.”
Juanes has long worn his musical influences on his sleeve. Traditional Colombian music, heavy metal and '80s and '90s rock -- and of course, his signature guitar playing -- have been the hallmarks of his sound, along with often deeply personal lyrics. In Origen, he gives up the words to others for the first time (although he’s played covers before, this is his first covers album), but the music is entirely his own.
When I ask him if the word to describe some of these new arrangements is “subversive,” Juanes laughs. “All of it is subversive, in fact. When you take on such iconic songs and artists, the only way to do it is being subversive. We weren’t afraid; we were eager and respectful,” he says. “Deconstructing a song like Gardel’s ‘Volver’ and understanding it from the inside out is very cool.”
Producing with Sebastian Krys, Juanes tackled Joaquín Sabina’s “Y Nos Dieron las 10,” for example, in a ranchera versión. Juan Luis Guerra’s classic, up tempo merengue “La Bilirrubina,” kicks off with his oft-used acoustic Colombian guitars. Everything sounds live.
“From the moment we started producing, Sebastian and I wanted to get away from what I’d done recently with beats and urban sounds," he explains. We wanted to return to that more vintage sound of the '70s. All the instruments you hear were played live.”
It takes some serious geeking out to get to the heart of an album like Origen. Here, in his own words, Juanes walks us through the essentials for the project.
The Recording Studio: We recorded all guitars and voices in my home studio [in Miami]. Technology has advanced so much you don’t need a big recording studio anymore. We did drums in Los Angeles with Pete Thomas. Carlitos del Puerto played bass.