JON SECADA’S OFFICIAL WEBMASTER FROM JONSECADA.NET
MARK: 1) Jon has mentioned in previous interviews with the fans that a new Spanish pop record is being planned, as we speak. Are you once again involved in this project?
WILLY PEREZ-FERIA: Hey Mark! First of all, let me thank you for the invitation to speak with you and the fans of jonsecada.net! Hello out there! LOL! ! How’s everyone doing? 😉
I really enjoy talking to you, Mark and interacting with all of the wonderful Jon Secada fans all over the world! I know first hand how much Jon loves his fans and it’s so cool to see how much they love him right back! So right off the bat, THANK YOU so much for the opportunity, I’m honored to be here! Ok, where’s my Grey Goose and Sugar -Free Red Bull cuz I’m starving… HAHAHA!!
To answer your question… yes, Jon is planning a new Spanish language pop album, at least that’s the latest news as of last week! LOL!
Jon is a really busy guy (he’s always doing ten things at once and doing them all extremely well) and while it’s possible that plans could change at the last moment, as of right now… the last I heard is that he’s working on writing Spanish language pop songs for a new, all-original album!
Isn’t that great?
We had a great conversation where we brainstormed a few ideas as to which direction he was leaning toward with this new project and all I can say is that I’m extremely excited to get started on it! I love writing with Jon!
You know, as I’ve said before, Jon isn’t just my favorite co-writer, he is in my opinion one of the best pop songwriters in the music industry! Just look at how many hits he’s written!! He’s just as good a lyricist as he is a melody/harmony guy and believe me… That’s a rare thing in songwriters! Usually, a writer is stronger in one area than another, but Jon writes these hauntingly beautiful and completely catchy melodies and then pairs them with these truly insightful and knowing lyrics… Man, he’s really so, so good!
Sometimes when we’re writing a song together I’ll be struck by how polished even his BASIC ideas sound! Even when he comes in with just a lyric or a melody, right away it has that “air” about it… You know, that “thing” all writers look for that says HIT!
He’s captured that “it” factor many, many times in his career and believe me when I tell you, it just keeps happening over and over again! Creatively, Jon is at the peak of his powers and the passion that he brings into the room during a writing, recording or mixing session brings out the very best in the people he works with! It’s an exciting process and it’s always a lot of fun for us Secada Mafia guys! LOL! I’m always so excited that I get to call myself a writer/producer for Jon Secada, it always has and always will be great source of pride for me! I guess because first and foremost, I’m a fan just like you guys!
MARK: 2) In the recording process, and all that is involved in making a record, how do you feel if a song you help write or produce does not make it on the track listing? Or those that do make it do not take off on the charts?
WILLY: Wow, so much for the softball questions, eh Mark? HAHAHA!! Ummm… I guess the first thing that I should stress is that writers love their songs. They really do. Those songs are your children! You nurture them from the first inkling of a thought in your brain to the final mix and like a child, you marvel at what they become because you remember that they were (at one time) just this little baby idea you had rustling around in your head! So writers passionately LOVE their songs like parents love their kids and just like a parent… Sometimes a writer can’t see the negative elements of their songs, all they can see are the positives! LOL! It happens to each and every one of us, even Jon!
However, part of the problem with having THAT much passion about a song is that you lose perspective and objectivity when it comes to gauging just how GOOD the song is! Writers are like stage moms in the sense that they’re CONVINCED their kid is the best one! They are COMPLETELY biased! LOL! We’re all dead sure our songs are the best ones! So it’s important to have a creative business/advisory team around an artist helping them pick songs and it’s CRUCIAL that the team have nothing to do with the writing process! That’s the “key” to the whole thing!
That business/advisory team has to remain impartial (to keep it as real as possible) so that they can listen to a song and accurately predict how the average fan will feel about it when they hear it! Everybody on the advisory team will have 1 or 2 favorites that few others liked, but when the team reaches a consensus on about 10 – 12 of the songs that absolutely EVERYONE has said they loved, then you have the album! It’s a tough, completely subjective process and it’s painful for us writer/producer types because we so badly want our songs to get picked! LOL! It’s also tough for Jon because like anyone else, he has his favorites as well! But he has to balance his own tastes with what the team is telling him…. It’s challenging! Sometimes it’s infuriating! It really is! So to answer your question, how do I “feel” if one of my songs doesn’t make it onto the album?
Obviously, it’s disappointing if my songs aren’t selected! Actually, it really sucks! HAHAHA!! (Now I need another drink… Bartender! HAHAHA!!)
But I know that in the case of Jon Secada albums, the one thing that I can always count on is that Jon doesn’t care who wrote the song, who produced it or any of the other typical industry crap that other artists fall victim to. With Jon, THE BEST SONG WINS.
That’s easy to say but hard to do. But it’s true.
He’s told me many, many times… he owes it to his fans and to his true self to ALWAYS put out the very best album that he can, setting ego and executive hand-holding aside… and that means that the best song wins! That’s why Jon’s name carries with it so much INTEGRITY with the writers. Jon has never sold himself or his fans out by recording something just to make money or because some president of a label wanted him to.
He records the best song, period.
He gives the best to his fans and to himself. As a long-time Secada collaborator and content contributor, I can’t TELL you how much that means to me. It means the world to me! And that’s only one of MANY reasons why Jon has so much of my admiration and respect. On the winding road to making an album, all kinds of pressures are put on an artist’s plate. But Jon has never lost sight of who he is, both as an artist and individually. So I can say that when a song I’ve done doesn’t make the cut, I always know that it’s for all of the right and for none of the WRONG reasons! That’s really important to me. It’s more than just comforting, it’s fair, honest and the way things SHOULD be! It’s why I’m always THRILLED to get a chance to write with Jon! It’s why all of the co-writers feel that way, beause we know that with Jon our songs have a fair shot at being heard by the world!
The journey to get a song onto Jon’s albums is incredibly challenging and competitive! It leads to a lot of great songwriting by different individuals and co-writers and some tough decisions for Jon’s creative/advisory team, but really it’s a GREAT problem to have! If you have 20 AMAZING songs and you have to narrow it down to just 11 0r 12… That’s a good problem to have!
Obviously I want my songs to get selected! But more than that, I want Jon to have the best album that he can possibly have! I really and truly feel that way and I’ve ALWAYS felt that way right from the beginning. I want to be part of something great! I felt that way most recently with Jon’s last English language abum SAME DREAM!
I was honored that Jon named his album after the song we co-wrote and I co-produced with the amazingly great Zach Ziskin! I was proud of that song and that album! I believe it represented the very best of Jon and it was a true labor of love! As long Jon’s album songs are selected that way, with transparent integrity, then whatever personal disappointments I may feel in not getting a song on an album or not being selected as a SINGLE aren’t anywhere near as important to me as my desire to support, nurture and contribute to Jon’s unbelievably successful career. Now more than ever, I’m just happy that I still have a chance to write with him and feel lucky to know him and call him my friend! I just want my shot, my “at bat” to try and get him a hit! LOL! I know that with Jon my songs will be treated with respect and seriously considered! What more can you hope for as a writer/producer?
As for the songs that don’t make it onto the charts… You know, getting a song onto a big star’s album like Jon Secada is a little like finding that one true love in your life! The odds are really tough and completely stacked against you, you’ll probably come up short a bunch of times but eventually, if you’re really, really lucky you get there! And it’s the greatest feeling on Earth! You feel like you’re on top of the world!
But getting that song on the album AND having it be a single… Well, that’s like finding your one true love (who is the reigning Miss Universe) as you’re buying the winning powerball lottery ticket! LOL!!! The odds are ASTRONOMICAL but oh, wow… How cool would THAT be? HAHAHA!! Let’s see what if I can pull it off! (Geez, Mark… Now I’m nervous! LOL!)
MARK: 3) Is songwriting something that is always in motion, or do you write only as the need is there.?
WILLY: Alan Jackson has a great country song called Chattahoochee where he wants to tell the listeners what it was like hanging out with his high school friends during the summers of his youth. His lyrics could’ve gone in a million directions trying to capture the spirit of those wild and crazy teenage times and certainly, if it had been ME trying to write that song I would have found it a HUGE challenge! I mean, where do you start? Most of my junior high and high school summer memories begin and end with waiting in line to see STAR WARS 80 times! HAHAHA!!
But what Alan Jackson did was draw the most vivid picture I’ve ever heard by just saying
“Down by the river on a friday night, a pyramid of cans in the pale moonlight. Talking bout cars and dreaming bout women, never had a plan just a livin for the minute.”
How good is that? LOL!!!
I love that line, a pyramid of cans in the pale moon light! That just says it all, doesn’t it? You feel like you’re THERE.
Lyric writing is basically THAT and I believe that in my mind (can’t speak for others) that desire to observe, distill, encapsulate and share is always on for me. I’m constantly writing SOMETHING (I think my Facebook friends know that for sure! LOL!) and it’s not something I have to work hard at, it’s very much a part of who I am. It’s not always musical or lyrics, but I’m constantly expressing myself. It’s my true self.
Musically, the desire and inspiration to write comes and goes and it’s kind of a mystery as to when that crazy-ass muse is gonna decide to show up! Sometimes the inspiration comes to me in a dream and I have to wake up and run over to a keyboard or grab a guitar right away before I forget the idea! Other times it shows up only after I’ve been TRYING to write for an hour or so without any luck! Then suddenly BOOM! And still other times it doesn’t show up for months on end…
I don’t know… It’s a mystery! But I’ve got to tell you, writing a song… As challenging as that blank page is… It’s probably one of the coolest things you’ll ever do! It’s an AMAZING feeling! I love it so much, I’ve made it my whole life and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else in the world! Well, Miss Universe AND the winning powerball ticket would be a tempting trade… LOL!
MARK: 4) Where do you look for inspiration for songs that you write? Are personal experiences involved?
WILLY: I was just joking with someone about this…. All of my songs are autobiographical! I’m constantly writing about me and frankly, after all of these years writing songs I’m getting a little bored… Turns out, I’m really not all that interesting! LOL!! (Who knew?) Maybe if I went on a crime spree? HAHAHA!!
But Jon… I know Jon SO well that when I write for him or with him I can express myself in “his” voice. I know that sounds weird, but I really can! At least I “think” I can! HAHAHA!! It’s an amazing thing to me but I feel I know exactly how he’d feel about this thing or the other and so it’s easy to write lyrics that reflect his thought process and values! It’s always refreshing for me to write for/with Jon because I get to not me be me for a change! LOL! I find that when I’m writing from Jon’s point of view… I’m a HECK of a lot nicer! HAHAHA!!
So yeah, for me personal experiences are almost always the trigger for song! On Jon’s first album, the song TIME HEALS (TIEMPO AL TIEMPO) was written in just about 15 minutes using almost EXACTLY a word by word transcription of my breakup conversation with my girlfriend at the time! LOL!
I wrote it in 15 minutes and saw Jon 30 minutes later and played it for him on a piano and sang it live, my eyes still all teary and everything from the breakup! I was hurting pretty bad…
I’m convinced that one of the reasons Jon loved that song (and man, he sang it GREAT didn’t he?) and recorded it was because as my close friend he really felt that song very close to his own heart! He knew I suffered that split and that pain made the song alive and intense and beautiful for him. In the end, it’s the personal experiences that we faithfully capture in song that all writers are the most proud of. I know that’s how I feel. If I were to sing TIME HEALS today, that melody and lyric would take me back to that time in my life and I just know that part of my heart would still feel a twinge of that old, familiar ache. That beautiful sadness of lost, true love. Those are the songs that move me and those are the songs all of us endeavor to compose! I don’t always quite “get” there but that’s my goal every time. To be completely (even painfully) truthful and capture the actual moment… To make you feel you’re THERE.
MARK: 5) With all the advances in technology, mainly with digital downloads/mp3’s, how do you think the music industry is today because of it, and are physical CD’s and big record labels just about dead?
WILLY: Things are different now. Content creators (Producers, Songwriters, Artists…etc) are having a tougher time earning a living because the old music business model is broken! Back in the day, labels spent about $3 per CD (using 500,000 copies as a start point) sold that CD to retailers for $11 and then the retailers woud sell to the public for $16.99. If something cost you $3 and you’re making almost 300% profit with every sale you make then all you care about is selling the cd. You’re not trying to get them to buy the songs, you need them to buy the songs from the CD because that’s where your profit is. The more cd’s you sell, the more money you make. So you spend millions on tours and videos just to PROMOTE the sale of cd’s… which is where you make ALL of your big money. The labels would find only one good song and pair it with 11 lousy ones… just to make you BUY the cd. Consumers were getting angrier and angrier and eventually karma took over! LOL! Gone are the days when you’d have to buy an entire album just to own the song you liked!
Now with downloading, people buy the individual song they like and the profit margin is WAY lower! iTunes keeps 11 cents per 99 cent song and after everything the label has to pay they keep about 65 cents per song. Back in the day it would cost them $3 per album to make a 12 song project and today, even with cost-cutting it still cost them about $2.50. So if their cost is about 21 cents per song and their profit is only 88 cents then their net profit after EVERYTHING is roughly 40 cents a song. That’s a BIG difference from before! Gone are the million dollar videos and now, they powers that be make the ALBUM to promote the TOUR which is where they make their BIG money! LOL!! The business is completely different now! If you don’t have a profitable tour you don’t make ANY money because no one is buying cd’s any more!
The major labels are struggling to survive right now and may not be with us much longer. I DO know that the OLD music business, as we used to know and understand it, is gone forever. I see everyone shifting into a pay for streaming service or some form of internet radio. I do think it makes sense that the future “record labels” investing in artist cd’s might be the very music portals we know today. I would not be surprised by an iTunes Music Label or iTunes Streaming Radio service in the near future, it makes sense. Apple understands it has to compete with Spotify and Pandora and since they are the “hub” of digital music, it makes sense that they would attempt to compete. Where they should never compete is in social media, like launching a Facebook type of experience. I think that would fail miserably because we already have too many portals for social media, the only way a new one will emerge is if it does something the others simply cannot and the public can’t live without, That;s how Facebook supplanted MySpace and that’s how the next Facebook will be established. Don’t be surprised if the next Facebook is Facebook itself after investing in emerging technologies and promising startups. Zuckerberg is a student of Bill Gates and that’s how Microsoft has stayed relevant! They don’t invent or design ANYTHING of note any more, but when someone DOES design something cool they BUY it. Look for Facebook to buy up whatever they think the future is.
As for the music industry, physical CD’s will soon be as much of a novelty as Vinyl and the idea of a “record store” being something other than ONLINE and DIGITAL will seem absurd. We content creators have to find a way to keep making great music and yet still earn a living in this constantly evolving atmosphere! However, I will say that MOST people these days are bypassing major, midsize and indie labels and simply bankrolling their own projects that they themselves own and distribute. Even big acts are doing it this way.
With online distribution, artists (or their investors) can THEMSELVES be the label and therefore reap all of the profits the label would claim (but without the big overhead). If you’re an artist, you’re better off owning your own product than trying to find a “label” to come along and sign you. Those days are over. You can either invest in yourself or find someone to invest in your career for a sizeable share of the future profits… But doing it yourself is the only way to get it done these days. Because otherwise you’re just dreaming and wasting time thinking that a label is gonna drop millions on anyone right now! That’s just crazy talk these days! LOL!
Most labels are just trying to pay the rent! If you meet a label A&R guy after 7:00 PM for a business conversation, be prepared to buy HIM dinner and drinks cuz he’s broke! LOL!! HAHAHA!!
With fewer and fewer people buying albums, the labels are simply going belly up. The old business model no longer can sustain itself! It’s why all these labels can DO these days is merge and feed on themselves… Eventually there’ll be just ONE label and it’ll be called iTUNES! LOL! STEVE JOBS IS A GENIUS! LOL!
New music is alive and well and just as exciting as ever! However, the way we GET that music has now evolved completely from the 20th Century into something brand new. Luckily, there are content creators like me who can deliver LABEL quality product to the independent artist. 90% of my productions these days are for independent artists and I’ve got to tell you, it’s actually way cooler sounding without the labels interfering in the creative process! I’m excited for the future and look forward to riding the colossal wave that is the industry’s ever-shifting paradigm. We’ve just got to keep our feet on the board, our backs straight and our eyes on the horizon!
MARK: 6) So…what does Willy like to do in his spare time? What do you enjoy doing other than songwriting?
HAHAHA!! No seriously…
I have a large group of friends that I really enjoy spending time with in Miami and I also love getting out to NY and LA every chance I get! My famous brother Richard Perez-Feria (Former Editor of People En Español) is in NEW YORK and that’s always a legendary excursion! I measure how much fun I had by how many days it takes me to recover afterward and Manhattan is a whole week! LOL!
I really like hanging with friends, clubbing, fine dining, listening to live music and commiserating with my fellow musicians checking out new talent! Anytime I get blown away by some new song some local artist of sings in some club or bar then that’s an exciting night for me! Discovery is the alchemy that makes a person LOVE a song. It’s my favorite thing ever! Aside from that, golf, tennis, working out…. Did I say dating already? 😉
MARK: 7) Fans noticed that a new website was created, and a new company you formed (WillyPop) is open for business….how is that going?
WILLY: Great, thanks for asking Mark! WillyPop has actually been in existence since I signed with Universal in 2002! But now, since I’m not getting as many labels calling as before because they are hurting, I decided to advertise and work directly with the artists and people who fund them.
WillyPop Music+Production (www.willypop.com) is my music production company and my website lists my biography (I just copied the one Universal Music wrote for me! LOL!) and discusses the music creation services I provide and also has a music page that has examples of my work as a writer/producer! There’s lots of songs up so come on by and listen!
From time to time, with Jon’s permission, I’ll post a demo from back in the day of a co-write with Jon that never made a final album so that you can hear some of the really cool (in my opinion… Hey, I told you all writers are biased!) songs that ALMOST made it onto Jon’s albums over the years!
It’s fun for the fans and fun for me! Maybe we can talk Jon into bringing one of those old songs back on some future live album or something! LOL!!
Lately, I’ve had the pleasure of working for some really great artists and currently I just finished a 6 song EP for actress/singer Liliana Marquez, a 3 song EP for actor/singer Raul Olivo, 2 new pop (yes, pop!!!) songs for the legendary (Salsa Sensei) Roberto Blades and some really cool pop songs for an independent Miami based artist named Orson Whitfield!
Even with all of that going on, I’m always looking for great projects and albums to work on so if you’re an independent artist looking to make a 3 – 6 song EP or a full 10 – 14 song album, feel free to go to the website, check out the songs and contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) so that I can discuss in detail with you what it is you want to do and how much doing that would cost. There’s talented people all over the world but only a small percentage of them have the combination of talent and funding necessary to successfully impact the music industry in it’s current state. If you feel you’re one of these artists, I’d love to hear from you!
Well Mark, thank you SO much for allowing me to visit with you and Jon Secada fans all over the world! I’ve loved every minute of it and God willing, we’ll soon be talking about Jon’s new Spanish language pop album’s release date!
Thanks again and take great care!
Your Favorite Producer,
Willy Perez-Feria 😉