A clown, a singer or a priest. Those were the careers that Marco Antonio Solis had in mind as a child growing up in Michoacan, Mexico, before becoming a superstar singer-songwriter.
The normally press-shy Solis revealed his creative process and approach to business during a rare sit-down Q&A today (Oct. 8) at the Billboard Regional Mexican Music Summit in Los Angeles.
Solis made it clear that while he was certainly glad he chose a singing career over clown or priest, he joked, “I’m a little of all three, aren’t I?”
With his traditional close-cropped beard and flowing locks (Solis revealed his mother’s terrible haircuts made him stop cutting his hair as a teenager) Solis said the church had always inspired him.
“I liked singing in church too, at Sunday Mass. I liked the mysticism of the church, all the silence. There was a seminary in my town, I wanted enroll, but I was too young.”
Solis, whose latest Fonovisa album “No Molestar” was released yesterday (Oct. 7), said the new album focused on “retaking my essence, my way of writing and arranging.”
He noticed on tour the way people reacted to old songs by his former band, Los Bukis.
“What I gave this project is a sound and lyrics more like Los Bukis’, with chords and trumpets,” he said. “I don’t like to force the sentences because then it isn’t authentic. You can’t think it; you have to feel it. If I think and I try to rhyme, it doesn’t feel authentic — the best [songs] come out the fastest.”
Solis called his writing style “totally undisciplined,” and said he carries a tape recorder with him everywhere, should he get inspired — in airports, public restrooms, restaurants or walking his French poodle, Rocky. “The melody comes first,” he said. “I think people discover music through melody.”
Solis discovered melodies as a child listening to broadcasts from Mexico City on an old RCA Victor radio. He was inspired by, and still keeps on his iPod, with old school artists like Leo Dan and Los Angeles Negros. “I was curious and I got close to the radio thinking they were in there,” he recalled.
Solis played in bars and small clubs, and eventually scored his first hit with Los Bukis, “Falso Amor.”
“The first royalties we got, we invested in our sound equipment and instruments,” Solis said. He later formed his own publishing company in order to make sure he received the royalties owed to him.
Asked whether he has ever thought to sell his catalog, Solid said that in recent years, “there have been offers to negotiate for my songs, but I haven’t felt the need. Maybe later. Maybe in these times,” he joked, referring to music industry malaise.
Solis, who during the interview showed off his good humor as well as his remarkable ability to imitate voices, said he even called up his old record label Melody, years ago to demand payments — doing so in the voice of another executive.
Solis’ icon status itself has been a prime source of inspiration for impersonators. A fan in the audience — who’d won a radio contest based on his ability to imitate the singer — took the opportunity to ask Solis to record a duet with him. Solis gamely agreed.
“I try to interpret songs with the most honesty possible,” he said of his style. “I don’t have the best vocal virtues, but I have an original way of saying what I feel.”