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Poker, George Michael and Travel: 20 Questions With Fonseca

The Colombian star recently released 'Viajante,' celebrating a 20-year career.

Fonseca‘s “Besos en la frente” is a contemporary lullaby imbued in tenderness, augmented by the veteran singer’s pathos-filled voice. It’s actually a song written after a tragedy — and perhaps an odd choice to kick off the 10-track set that celebrates Fonseca’s 20-year recording career.

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But Fonseca’s choices have always been driven by what works musically — and this, he says, was the best choice. Those musical choices have led to a commercially successful two-decade career is encapsulated in Viajante, an album of all original material that goes from melancholy to partying to romantic, seamlessly blending Fonseca’s many influences. It’s hard to find good melodies in Latin music today, but here, there’s 10 of them.

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The album’s title, Viajante (a derivation of traveler), explains it. “The difference between ‘Viajero’ and ‘Viajante’ […] is that a viajante stays the same as he travels from one place to the next,” says Fonseca. “In my case, the excitement and respect and love for music has remained intact all these years. Picking up a guitar still makes me anxious and excited.”

Other things have remained intact for Fonseca, including his love for the Beatles, a knack for poker and that George Michael concert he still wishes he’d gone to. Read more in our 20 Questions interview below.

1. What did you learn during quarantine?

I took advantage of the time to write, and it’s perhaps the album where I’ve written most. And between reflections, and time with friends and family, I feel my biggest reflection is that in life, no matter what we each do, we are here to serve. As musicians, we do that. With my music I’ve helped people party, and fall in love, but I’ve also helped people get over pain and loss.

2. Any new acquired skills?

I learned how to write décimas [poetic verses or song lyrics consisting of a single four-line stanza followed by four 10-line stanzas with eight syllables per line]. I took classes with a Cuban poet over Zoom.

3. Which person first believed in your musical talent?

Actually, two people: My parents. Since I was five years old, and they heard me sing, they started taking me to classes and concerts and everything related with music.

4. What is a before-and-after moment in your career?

“Te mando flores” [Fonseca’s hit song from 2005].

5. And on that subject, tell us about your new song “2005,” featuring fellow Colombians Greeicy and Cali y El Dandee, which riffs off “Te Mando Flores…”

I’ve wanted to do something with “Te Mando Flores” for a long time, but I didn’t want to simply do a new version. I sat with [producers] Andrés Torres and Mauricio Rengifo and we decided to write a new chapter about a relationship today that harks back to that 2005 chapter. I owe so much to the song that I wanted to thank it and pay homage to it and do it differently.

6. What was the first album you bought with your own money?

The Beatles’ Help!

7. What song makes you cry?

“Yesterday.” When I bought that Beatles album, Help!, I sat down in my parent’s studio to listen to it — and when I got to “Yesterday,” it brought tears to my eyes.

8. The first concert you went to?

[Rock bands] Prisioneros and Hombres G at Coliseo El Campín in Bogotá. I must have been 13 years old. It’s engraved in my mind. Especially the roar of the crowd when they turned on the lights. I remember the entire concert, but that moment really struck me.

9. What did your parents do when you were young?

My dad was working in the flower business. My mom was a psychologist, but she spent a lot of time with us.

10. What was the first gift you bought your mother with money earned from music?

It was a trip. I invited my parents to Africa.

11. Concert you’d like to see by any artist, dead or alive?

I would have loved to see George Michael. He’s one of my most favorite artists, especially in terms of his vocals.

12. If you could have dinner with any person, dead or alive who would it be?

I’d have dinner with Paul McCartney.

13. What’s your favorite karaoke track ?

Any Luis Miguel track.

14. Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us.

I love poker. And yes, I bet. Not huge sums of money, but I’ve played for years — and every time I’m in Las Vegas at an award show, I play!

15. What do you spend too much money on?

Traveling.

16. What are you afraid of?

Lack of inspiration in music.

17. What series did you binge watch during quarantine?

I just finished watching Pieces of Her. And one thing about it, literally, it scared the heck out of me.

18. If you hadn’t been a musician, what field would you have worked in?

Something music industry related. Maybe an A&R, or something in management. I was actually asked to be an A&R while I was already a recording artist. I felt very honored. But it wasn’t for me.

19. What advice would you give your younger self?

When I look back to when “Te mando flores” came out and amazing things began to happen and it was a very intense time. Nothing was happening and suddenly everything was happening. I didn’t pay attention to a lot of things I should have paid attention to. But you’re inexperienced, and you don’t understand the industry and all it entails. I would have liked if someone told me, Bro, you have to be patient and this is going to take time. That would have been good advice. Until I finally understood

20. What’s the first thing you eat when you go to Colombia?

I always want a good sancocho.