Luis Enrique On New Album 'Soy y Sere': "I Want to Make My Own Sound"

Salsa legend-in-the-making Luis Enrique struck gold with his last album Ciclos (it won two Latin Grammys, and a Grammy for Best Latin Tropical Album), so the pressure is on for his follow-up Soy y Sere, out July 19. This time, Enrique enlisted the help of two scorching hot up-and-comers—Latin Grammy’s Best New Artist Alex Cuba and breakthrough bachatero Prince Royce—to create a record that he calls “more danceable” than the last. We asked the king of salsa romantica a few questions about the new album, and pried into his personal life as well:

Tell us about your new album! How long have you been working on it?

The recording process took about three months. But the writing process…that took three years! I co-wrote about thirty songs and we put ten songs on the record. It’s basically a continuation of my previous album in some ways, but it’s not exactly like my previous album. I think it’s a little bit more danceable than the last one, without compromising lyrics and melody. But there’s a way I want to present myself and my music to my audience.

It’s called Soy Y Sere, “I am and I will be…” What does that mean? What are you, and what will you be?

Essentially, I am music. I can honestly say that from the bottom of my heart, from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed, I am music. I’ve known that since I was very, very little. I didn’t hesitate, and I never wanted to be anything else, even though a lot of times most people thought I was insane. So, I’m music. As far was what I will be, that has to do with the support that I get from my fans. They will determine what I will be. So it’s almost like an affirmation. I’m here to stay. I am music, and I am moving forward.

How do you manage to put your own voice (no pun intended) into salsa?

You have to find a way to express yourself with in it, first of all. I try to express myself in every way I could. But everything has to keep moving forward. I was never into this thing about revolutionizing the genre itself, but I did want to make my own sound. I studied a lot of different styles of music, so that helps me say what I want to say within salsa.

Talk to us about collaborating with these two young guns, Alex Cuba and Prince Royce.

With Alex, I found that we had a lot of things in common musically. We could share music, have fun and write. It felt like we were doing something good. We connected extremely well as songwriters. We co-wrote about ten songs, and five of those made it to the album. With Prince Royce, I called my record label and my producer and said, “I want to work with him. Do whatever you have to do.” I just really think he’s great. He has a really cool voice.  So he agreed and did a salsa song, which he’s never done before.

It’s great to be able to work with other people. You have fun and it’s great to see how a song change when it passes through other people. With Alex, I would say, “this is what I want this song to say,” and he would come back and show me how to say it in another way. When I sit down and write with Alex, I know exactly what we are trying to do. It takes a minute, but when you find someone you really click with it’s great.

You said over two-thirds of the songs you wrote for this album never made it on. What happens to those songs?

I’m sure that they will find their own voice. Sometimes they find their way onto another album. This time, I’m trying something I’ve never done before, which is give them away to other artists. But it’s a challenge, because when you write, you’re writing about things that have to do with you, but it’s going to be sung by somebody else.

There aren't a whole lot of Nicaraguans in salsa. How do you stay connected to your roots?

When you get out of your country when you’re fifteen years old, and you start meeting people from other cultures, you start to get the feeling like you are from the world. But yes, I do try to keep up with my Nicaraguan roots—I have a lot of Nicaraguan friends in Miami, a lot of restaurants, and my family is in Nicaragua.