Ask anyone in Spain who Pablo Alborán is and they’ll come up with all sorts of adjectives describing his looks, his talent or a mixture of both. Then there’s the fact that he’s among his country’s top-selling acts, carrying the torch for Spanish pop. But when the soulful, swoon-worthy singer embarks on his first U.S. tour starting Nov. 5 in support of his latest album Terral, he’ll have to, in a sense, start from scratch and prove his worth onstage. While that may intimidate some, the Málaga native is thrilled.
“I can’t wait to bring my show to the U.S. for the first time,” he tells Billboard excitedly from Los Angeles, where he’s doing promo for the tour. “My intention is to allow people here to really get to know me. I think a lot of times as artists, on our first tour, we’ll have one light, then on the second tour, we’ll want three lights, then on the next one, we’ll want a huge screen, then we want fireworks — it’s always more, more, more, and you tend to forget where you came from. So for this first U.S. tour I want to go back to basics. For a lot of the songs it will just be me and my guitar, or my piano, and of course, I’m also bringing my band so we can offer the same experience we’ve been giving in Spain and Latin America. But I really crave going back to that sort of simplicity, the nakedness of it all, from when I started five years ago.”
During the U.S. leg of his Terral world tour, Alborán will bring his signature flamenco-infused pop balladry to New York, Orlando, Miami, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and other major cities. “I’ll be doing a little bit of everything, you’ll even see me play the cajón flamenco,” he teases.
To prep for his first stateside tour, Alborán is bringing his whole family along for the ride. “They’ll probably be sightseeing while I’m working but that’s ok,” says with a laugh. “This is a big moment and I can’t wait to share it with them.”
In the midst of his tour, Alborán will make a stop in Las Vegas for the Latin Grammys Nov. 19. An awards show darling, he’s nominated for three Latin Grammys this year — song of the year (“Por Fin”), best long-form music video (“Terral”), and best contemporary pop vocal album (Terral). Maybe it’s because he hasn’t been in the game for decades, but the novelty of awards still hasn’t worn off. “I’m the one whose face you see, who’s in front of the cameras, but when you get recognition like that, it’s also recognition for your team,” he says. “So I always think of them, I thank them. It’s about the people you don’t see. I definitely don’t do this alone.”
Alborán’s entrance into the international music scene was a grand one. In 2012, he was up for a best new artist at the Latin Grammys and even got a chance to perform a duet with Demi Lovato during the telecast of his breakthrough Spanish-language song “Solamente Tú.” Today, he wants to offer some heartfelt advice to his peers. “I want to congratulate everyone who is nominated for this year’s awards, but especially those who are up for best new artist,” offers the 26-year-old, sounding wise beyond his years. “My advice would be to enjoy it because it’s something that you know for sure will never come again — that specific nomination. For people to think of you in that way right after your debut, that’s huge. I still remember the craziness of that first nomination. If I could go back, I would probably take the time to breathe and enjoy it a bit more. It was my first trip to Las Vegas, first trip to the Latin Grammys, first red carpet. It was just nuts.”
Alborán acknowledges that he wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for his loyal fanbase, the vast female majority of which proudly calls itself Alboristas. One of the more social media savvy artists within Latin music, he checks in with them often and warmly, while still guarding his image and protecting his privacy. “The greatest reward is being able to do what you love because they’re betting on you,” he says.
Admittedly, he puts an immense amount of pressure on himself. This, he says, runs in the family. “My mother and brother are like that. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned since I’ve started it’s to not be so hard on myself and grow a little bit thicker skin. Things used to affect me very deeply and now I try to say to myself, ‘there’s still so much to learn; let’s just work harder’.”
But for all of his whirlwind success, Alborán is still, at his core, that young kid who dreamed of making it outside of Málaga but had no idea how, if, or when it would all happen. “A lot has changed in five years,” he says, “and it’s still hard to wrap my head around it, but the simple things that made me happy before — spending quality time with friends and family, having fun while I work, being with the people that I love — those are still the things that make me genuinely happy. Much more than anything else.”