Colombian singer Juanes is one of Latin pop-rock’s greatest stars, a multi-multi-platinum artist whose social activism, (he’s a noted crusader against land mines, among many other causes), has earned him the nickname the Bono of Latin America .
Though he fills arenas around the country, (he’s playing the Patriot Center Sunday), mainstream American success has thus far eluded Juanes, whose insistence on singing in Spanish, something he considers a point of pride, has made crossover, Shakira-style megastardom unlikely.
Click Track talked to Juanes, in town to promote his 2010 disc “P.A.R.C.E.,” about his youth in Medellín, his early years in the metal band Ekhymosis, and what he thinks of all those Bono comparisons.
Are you careful about the number of socially conscious songs you put on a record?
Sometimes I would like to put on more social songs but what I do is no more than two songs [per record], because otherwise fans, they don’t feel — how can I say this? I don’t want to abuse, you know? I just want to share my feelings of love, family and sometimes serious stuff because that’s something that I really believe and I’d like people to understand that’s part of my life.
They call you the Latin American Bono. Is that funny? Flattering?
It never was funny, you know? I really respect U2, they’re one of my favorite bands of all time…but I just want to write my own destiny my own way. To be honest, I don’t know if there is any similarity between us…coming from Medellín, my background is completely different.
(Juanes on Sepultura and Pablo Escobar, after the jump)
Coming from [Columbia], does it seem like the first thing people ask you about is Pablo Escobar?
Yeah, it’s so hard sometimes, because he died like, thirty years ago and people still mention his name. Colombia still has a lot of problems with drugs but now it’s in a different way. Now are the [highway bandits]. But Colombia has been changing a lot in the past thirty years in a positive way, so sometimes it’s hard for us.
When you were growing up Medellín you were listening to heavy metal, isn’t that right?
Oh yeah, when I was a little kid I used to listen to folk music… And then when I was 13 years old, I get crazy with rock music. I was a big fan of Metallica, Slayer, Sepultura, Megadeth, all those guys. It was part of my life for ten years, and then I was part of a metal band for a moment and then the band broke up and I moved to Los Angeles and started my career. Even if it doesn’t have anything to do with metal music, there is always a little bit of those years in my music, always a little piece of attitude that I try to combine with the folk side.
Even when you’re doing folk songs they seem very muscular.
Definitely. When I’m onstage, even if I’m playing a happy song, when I’m playing the guitar sometimes I see myself as a metal musician. It’s something quite funny and weird [laughs].
Did you have leather pants and a mullet?
I never had leather pants, but I was always with the black t-shirt, black boots.
Do you feel a pressure to sing in English?
Not really. Sometimes I feel kind of frustrated because I’d like to share my lyrics with people who don’t speak Spanish, and I think about how it would be to record in English, but [when I try] it’s weird for me. I’ve done [English] versions of three of my songs that I’ve already recorded but I don’t know if I’m going to release them or not.
There are probably a lot of people who really want you to, and a lot of people who would be let down if you did.
Yeah. It’s just the way I feel. For me to sing in Spanish, that has to do with my essence and my concept of music. I think in Spanish, I dream in Spanish. The fact that I speak in Spanish is a beautiful thing. So it depends, you know?