Gloria Estefan has managed to do something incredibly special with her new album, Miss Little Havana. She’s managed to sound just as fresh as any of today’s pop tarts with a sound that literally makes you want to get up and dance.
I’m fully behind the release of her new single Wepa and was thrilled to speak to the lady herself this week from her Miami home.
Despite never having met her face to face, I’ve spoken to Gloria, 53, a couple of times on the phone.
As a journalist I love nothing more than getting a brilliant vibe from an artist. With Gloria you can feel the good vibes floating out the phone. One day we’ll meet….
Anyway, on this new project she’s hooked up with N.E.R.D frontman (and all round genius) Pharrell Williams. The results are awesome.
I could write a load of baloney about Gloria’s previous work and past success but with somebody embarking upon a new phase in their career I would be annoyed as a reader having to sit through the facts and figures before you here from the horses mouth. We all know what Gloria has achieved. So I give you the interview pretty much word for word.
So what did we discuss? When she met Pharrell, why they worked together so well, our mutual love of Adele, touring and how her 16-year-old daughter Emily is so important to this new record.
Enjoy the interview….
How did you get together with Pharrell Williams (above) for Miss Little Havana?
Well to start with we have the same trainer and we were always sending messages to each other through the trainer. He had worked with Shakira and Pharrell sent a message through to me that he had some ideas to talk through about working with me. We got together over a year and a half ago and he prepared some songs for me to look at.
I wasn’t even thinking of doing anything because I didn’t have a particular creative idea that I wanted to share and I don’t do an album unless that’s the case. But what he played me ended up being the first three tracks on the album – I loved it all and immediately knew we had something special. This is something that I could find interesting and we brought something cool to the market. He’s organic and real and an amazing musician. I’d go to the bathroom and come back and he had a new song started. It was constant surprises. It took a year after that initial meeting to coordinate our schedules and then we got back in the studio and wrote the rest of it. Within a couple of months we had wrote and recorded it. We just clicked.
Was it easy to write with him?
Totally. I mean, to me writing with someone is such an intimate thing. It really is a sexless baby. Very intimate. It either works or it doesn’t and it worked way beyond anything I could ever have imagined. We clicked in the creative department and it flowed so easily. We both got something that is definitely from each of us. But with any baby from each parent, each one is different.
It’s great to hear Pharrell taking Gloria Estefan on board. It sounds like typical Gloria Estefan music but Pharrell is there.
Totally. Wepa is very much a summer record and represents us having fun. The rest of the album is a little more us. This tune is about the people. We made music for everyone to really feel a part of it and to let go. Nowadays it doesn’t matter if I make a million dollars or ten bucks. This is about the music. I want people to get their party on and get a release.
The last thing you want to do is force a union when you work with somebody?
Oh God yeah, you can’t force those things. When we first got in to start writing with him it was hard. I’m an interior process kinda person – very insular. When you sit with somebody there and you’re creating you have to have a major spark for that to work. There needs to be a major connection. He’s just so talented. I gotta tell you, we hit it off great.
Now tell me about the fantastic Keisha Mai Ash Remix – who is this person?
Ah, I was wondering if you would ask about this. I love Keisha Mai Ash. The truth is she is my daughter, Emily. My 16 year old daughter. Nobody knows about this yet. The single was mixed and we went out to LA to do this Hollywood Bowl event where we were inducted into the Hall of Fame and Emily had the song and she was messing around with it. I said: “What are you doing?” And she said she was messing. But the truth was it was better than any of the other remixes.
So I told her to go into the studio and do what she wanted. And she came in to the studio. Tony Mardini wanted her to get in. I offered her any of the guys but she had everything already done. She’s 17 in December. In such an amazing position. She’s probably one of the best in this family. She shreds on her electric guitar.
The album has nine Pharrell tracks that we worked on together and then we have a bonus track section that Emilio produced with Dada – this amazing Haitian artist – that did a remix too. There’s one with Tony Mardini too that will be out soon. It’s all about dance now and to have Emily involved is amazing.
Is Emily self taught?
She’s been studying music since she was little and she asked me for piano lessons when she was five. She started taking them and from a baby she was making drum sets out of trash cans and garbage tins. At nine she wanted a drum set and was playing within a week. Then came the guitar. She asked for teacher and blew through them quickly. She’s started with some new teachers now.
How does she want to take her life in music forwards then?
She is like I was. She’s a clone of me. It took me a good ten years to get used to performing infront of people and being comfortable as the centre of attention. We don’t particularly enjoy that but we love music so much we eventually end up being happy infront of a crowd. I just want her to have fun and for her to be happy. She performed on my last tour when I was changing. It was just enough for her to handle. I don’t want her to do something she doesn’t want to or feel uncomfortable. I knew she was heading that way. She may be 16 but she’s a musician all the way. She prepares, she’s disciplined and she’s got the package so all I can do is support her. She’ll study music probably at university.
Where is it all heading now? Are we going to see you back on the road?
Well, we have to wait and see. You Brits can dance. I’ve seen you lot move. I did my last world tour with Unwrapped. People keep thinking I’m retiring or that I said I was retiring. But I’m not. I never said that. Why would I?
I’m all about the one off events here and there and things for my fans to see. But I’d love to do the Royal Albert Hall. It’s been a real dream of mine. I want to do some gigs. Why not? I’ve got an album that needs to be shown off. I haven’t gone back to Japan or done the Orient, a couple of years ago I went to Latin America and did Argentina and Buenos Aires. Unbelievably I still haven’t been to Brazil – so I’d love to get there.
But I’ll never tour like the old days. I’d go out for 16 months at a time and it just didn’t work. I will do some stuff – but not a big world tour. It’s too hard on me these days. I don’t want to miss my kids growing up and my mum is a lot older. I’ll always do some concerts but not gruelling like the old days. Everybody needs to know I’m not going anywhere.
Are you still as ambitious as the old days?
I wasn’t even ambitious in the old days – let alone now. I worked hard. But that was a time where I had to put in effort and make a relationship with my fans. Being on the road was hard – like bootcamp – and the fans I made back then are amazing. They’re still with me. They’re my Glo-Heads.
Are you glad to be reaching out to a whole new audience with the new record?
Completely. I mean the music industry is just dashed and things are going to backwards. But things like Twitter are making the industry is interesting. Pharrell got me onto twitter. For me it’s all about establishing a relationship, knowing the commitment I make and keeping in touch. My followers know I don’t tweet all the time but I will ask them questions and be interested. I will always talk to them once a week at least.
I hear you’re a huge fan of Adele?
Oh my God. I’ve got the three albums and I play them back to back. 19,21 and I think a live one from Soho. She’s just amazing. Out of this world. And she’s real and that personality comes through in her music. The writing is so real and honest. You can’t screw with that or make that up. We need real music and we need people like Adele.
You can produce tracks, make some dance music but you need to connect with the soul when it comes to young people. Music is their biggest escape and entertainment.
GLORIA’S QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS
Favourite track you’ve recorded ever?
Oh God. That’s impossible. NO WAY! They all remind you of a time. There are too many to pick.
Favourite to perform live?
The Latin stuff. The Conga never gets old. It’s the signature tune that just keeps giving. Nothing really gets old for me. I like the Latin flavoured stuff.
What would your last supper be?
White rice with chicken fricassee that my grandma made – if it’s my last meal then she can come back from heaven to make it – avocado salad, fried sweet plantain and flan for dessert. Can you tell I’ve thought about this?
Your own personal favourite singer?
How can you do this to me? Sade, Adele, Norah Jones and anything from Brazil.
These are tricky. I would say the Denny’s turkey, cheese, tomato, bacon and grilled. Second favourite. Elena Ruz – a Cuban sandwich. It is turkey, cream cheese and strawberry preserve.
No, none. The only regret is I wish I’d come out of my shell emotionally earlier. I wish when my grandma was here I could have better expressed how special she was to me. But that’s all.