Behnam : Hi fans, I am planning to do some interviews with Jon’s team, who have been always great support of his career. One of the biggest names since his debut album has been “Willy Perez-Feria”. “Time Heals” was one of the greatest songs of Jon with beautiful rhythms, which was written by Willy. Now “Same Dream“, which is another great job by Jon and Willy. Here we have Willy to reply to some of our questions :
Hi Willy, thanks for accepting this interview.
Willy : It’s my pleasure, Behnam! I’ve always appreciated what you and Mark do for Jon Secada fans around the globe and I’m happy to help in any way.
B: I myself haven’t read about your biography. Can you please tell us about yourself, education and family?
W: Sure. I’ve been working as a songwriter for many, many years many of them (14) with Emilio Estefan’s company Foreign Imported, Inc. (FIPP) and for the last 3 years I’ve been with the largest and best music publishing company on the planet, Universal Music Publishing under the leadership of VP IVAN ALVAREZ. I am very proud to be associated with them and it’s a real honor and distinction for me to be counted as one of their writers, especially with the support of my Creative Director AMY ROLAND who is a godsend! She’s the person on Ivan Alvarez’s behalf that helps get my songs placed with artists from all over the world! It’s a tough job and she’s the best in the business! As for education I have a Bachelor of Music (Studio Music & Jazz – Vocal) from the University of Miami where I learned from the very best, Professor LARRY LAPIN. He’s the reason I went to college at UM! He got me a full scholarship at a time when those things just didn’t happen and mentored me through 4 years of music training that shaped and formed who I am today as not only a musician, but as a man. I can’t thank Larry enough for his friendship and scholarship, he’s the best! As for family, I have one fraternal twin brother and two older sisters and I am single and no kids and never married (too busy writing love songs, I guess) but certainly not opposed to it!
B: When did you meet Jon?
W: I met Jon briefly when both of our high schools along with others got together for HONOR CHOIR. Different college choir directors worked with selected students from many, many high schools where the students had passed certain music proficiency tests (Singing, sight reading, etc…) in order to have the honor to be there. It was the best of the best from Miami’s high schools at that time and believe me, that room was packed with talent!I was asked to represent my school (Southwest Senior High) by performing an original song in front of all of the kids (there were a lot!) at the evening concert (a real honor for a Tenth Grader) and I grabbed my guitar and knocked them dead with a song called LOVELY LADY. I thought I pretty much owned the place until this guy is walking past me getting ready to go on after me and he’s a Senior from Hialeah High. All he said to me as we passed was “That was great, Man” and I said thanks in a slightly cocky, “yeah I know” way (Hey, I was 15! What did I know?) Well, this guy goes on stage and starts to sing and well… Let’s just say it was a humbling experience, to say the least! Suddenly my stupid little song with my silly little guitar didn’t seem all that “hot” to me anymore! Man, he was amazing, literally bringing all of these kids to their feet in a huge ovation! And the high notes, I mean, I just didn’t know anyone could DO that, y’know! I was STUNNED! Meanwhile, he was as humble and unassuming a person as you could ever meet, graciously thanking everyone as he left the stage and smiling broadly at everyone’s applause.
So naturally, I hated him. (Once again, I was 15!)
Well, on his second night of the camp he caught my roommate Bill Duncan and I with two girls in our room WAY after curfew. Way, way, way after curfew!! The rules were clear, if that happened you were sent home, no exceptions. I was in a helpless position, the guy who had stole my thunder at Honor Choir, my rival (in my eyes, once again I WAS 15!) had the ability to send me home in disgrace. It would DEFINITELY affect my chances to get into UM and obliterate my hopes of a scholarship! Like I said, I was in a helpless position with my rival about to “put me away” for good!Well, Jon looked at me and then Bill (we were frozen with that “DEER CAUGHT IN THE HEADLIGHTS” look) and then Jon checked on the girls (they were terrified and embarrassed to death) and then Jon just smiled. He just smiled! He suggested the girls go back to THEIR dorms quietly and told me and Bill to get some sleep and all with a wink and smile. THAT WAS IT! WHEW!!!!! Well, after that Bill and I didn’t see Jon as a “RIVAL” anymore, we pretty much thought he was the coolest guy on Earth! Turns out I was right! Even at 15!
B: and what was the first song that you guys composed?
W: That’s actually a great question! I remember the first song he wrote (in college) called WISHES which was just amazing. I remember asking him, “Are you SURE you’ve NEVER written a song before?!?” Yeah, the song was that good! I think, but I could be wrong, that it was a song I wrote with Jon and coincidentally enough my old friend Bill Duncan! It was called THIS COULD BE THE MOMENT. I think that’s right but if Jon remembers it differently then he’s right!!
B: Can you please name the songs that so far you have done with Jon for his albums?
W: Hope I don’t forget one but so far I’ve done TIME HEALS, TIEMPO AL TIEMPO, ENSEÑAME, ME ENGAÑASTE, ME WITHOUT YOU, THE CHRISTMAS GIFT I WANT, WHEN I MISS YOU MOST and SAME DREAM with a few more coming in an upcoming Spanish album! I feel very lucky to have been given the opportunity to write for Jon. His support for me and my career has really meant the world to me. I’m proud to be one of his writers and now, one of his producers.
B: “Better Part Of Me” was a great album. It is still a question, why it couldn’t sell well.
W: I suppose that I could answer this question for about ten minutes straight! But let me first say that the success of that album wasn’t about the music. The music was great as was the singer. But unfortunately, Jon’s label at the time was in turmoil, quickly on it’s way to non-existence so, the project was never promoted properly (or at all) and Jon was kind of left out to dry there. But that’s not what he would say! He’d be a lot more diplomatic and philosophical about it! But now that Jon has signed with BIG 3 and I’ve had an opportunity to work with those guys I can tell you that the enthusiasm and energy towards SAME DREAM is night and day different compared to BETTER PART OF ME. BIG 3 is 100% committed to Jon Secada and that’s all anyone can ask for. The album is a huge triumph and I hope that JON SECADA FANS everywhere love it as much as we loved making for you. We love you guys and really appreciate you! I hope that answered your question!
B: As a friend and colleague, what are the best points of characteristics of Mr. Secada?
W: There’s too many to list. He’s loyal and savvy and picks his battles better than anyone I’ve ever known. He holds no grudges and feels no ill will for any person on this Earth. He genuinely wants everyone to be happy and will bend over backwards to make it so, regardless of what an imposition it is on him. He’s a great guy and my best friend. However, he’s not a particularly good golfer (you need health insurance if you stand too close) but his tennis game is coming along nicely! He’s in amazing physical shape and can run full speed on a treadmill forever. I worked out with him once in a public gym and almost passed out! Man, was that embarrassing! He’s a great guy, generous and warm with a great sense of humor and a winning, positive outlook on life that’s very contagious. He inspires everyone around him. He really does.
B: How do you and Jon decide to compose a song? and how do you bring up the idea?
W: Well, there isn’t one set way. Sometimes he has a lyric or a melody and sometimes I have a lyric or a melody. When we were working on the Christmas album THE GIFT for instance, he showed me this beautiful melody he had written. In fact, he never played it for me on a piano cuz he was traveling and it was crazy and there was a deadline! He sang it for me and left it on my answering machine! So I transcribed it and pretty much figured out the implied chords and along with our other co-writer, the lovely and mega-talented RACHEL PERRY wrote the lyrics to THE CHRISTMAS GIFT I WANT and WHEN I MISS YOU MOST. Once Jon was ready to sing the song in the studio we tweaked the melodies a little bit and talked a bit about phrasing and then he sang it, live in the studio, in one amazing take. Just talking about today still gives me goose bumps! One take! All of the musicians in the room, all of the engineers, Rachel and myself… We knew we had just witnessed something truly magical and special. Whenever someone asks me how much talent do I think Jon Secada has, I think about that moment, and the answer is always “INFINITE”.
B: I know that you guys did some songs, but sang by somebody else. Can you mention few of those projects?
W: Once again, too many to mention! A long time ago we worked on a project for a Japanese Instrumentalist that was the “KENNY G” of Japan! Very popular and a guitar player, his name is MASAYOSHI TAKANAKA and we wrote and recorded a bunch of songs for him that did quite well internationally! Japan loves English language music just as well as Japanese language music so it was a fun project for all of us. That summer, Jon was invited to sing background vocals on TAKANAKA’S WORLD TOUR called THE PARTY’S JUST BEGUN TOUR (which was the name of one of our songs!) and also to play percussion (don’t ask) and that was Jon’s first huge gig! He was just amazing at it and it made me feel good knowing that he was out there singing our songs every night and doing them and us proud! And by the way, he rocked on percussion too!
B: Jon is back with the new album “Same Dream”. It was great to see that you co-wrote the title track with Jon. What a great song.What was the inspiration for this song? I feel that it is a personal song, maybe Jon himself!
W: First of all, thank you for your kind words on SAME DREAM! I’ve always loved that song and so has Jon. We actually wrote it 10 years ago for another project and just decided that it was time for it now. The song IS autobiographical and it IS about a particularly tough break-up that Jon went through at that time, long before he met the lovely Maritere, or as I like to think, on his WAY to her!! That song is raw and addresses a break up with an unflinching and uncompromising lyric that shows a guy fully taking the blame for his mistakes and yet still not losing hope for the future. We’re proud of it and we hope that you guys will love it too! I’m hoping that it becomes Jon’s next single so any thoughts and prayers are ALWAYS welcome! I personally think SAME DREAM could be a huge success as a single but I’d love to hear what the fans think!
B: How do you see Jon’s new label , Big 3?
W: As I said earlier, I think they’re great! Bill is 100% committed to Jon Secada and so far they’ve done everything right! As a Jon Secada fan myself and as his friend, I just wanted Jon to find a HOME again. Some place that recognized and appreciated just what kind of monster talent he really is because frankly, there simply aren’t very many Jon Secada’s in this world!! I believe that BIG 3 does indeed appreciate Jon and their vision, commitment, energy and drive to make SAME DREAM a huge success reflects that in spades! Jon is very happy with BIG 3 and so should all Secada fans everywhere, because it’s their intention to bring Jon back into the Number one position on the charts! That’s all I can ask for as Jon’s friend and colleague, so yeah, I think BIG 3 is great!
B: Tell us more about “Same Dream” album. Many fans and music critics are calling it as his best album ever. I am a big fan of this album and enjoying all of the tracks.
W: It’s a great album featuring great stylistic balance while maintaining an extremely high level of artistry. Like I said, I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to write for and co-produce (along with my buddy, the multi-talented ZACH ZISKIN) a song on an album of such obvious high caliber that sometimes I just can’t believe my luck! It was wonderful to work with Jon and the other producers and musicians on this project and yeah, it may very well be his best album ever!
B: From Jon’s previous musicians, I may can only see your name and Miguel Morejon. Was it because of not being with Estefans anymore?
W: No, not really! There are many ex-Estefan guys on there like multi-talented producer RANDY BARLOW for instance and the list goes on! Every album is about the music for Jon so whoever had the hot hand writing gets a shot on the album. Jon has dozens and dozens of hugely talented co-writers and the competition is fierce to get a song on the album, believe me I know! But ultimately that kind of atmosphere leads to the best album because everyone works so hard to write a great song. So while you may not recognize ALL of the names on the album, believe me, their songs speak for themselves and I’m proud to have worked with everyone on this project. It was a real honor.
B: Are you going to participate for upcoming Spanish album?W: Yes, I’m hoping to have 2 songs on it but that could change! Like I said, competition is fierce, which is good!
B: Let’s now ask some questions related to yourself. What do you do beside song writing?
W: I”m a full time SONGWRITER / PRODUCER and thankfully I make a great living doing that! Since I have my degree in singing in college I’ve been singing professionally for a long time and still sing National Jingles or album background vocals and live gigs (I love singing Jazz with a big band and do that every chance I get)!
B: what kind of musical instruments can you play?
W: I play guitar and keyboards but thanks to the magic of synthesizers I pretty much can play ANY instrument, badly! But I do ok!
B: Do you have any project in hand to do again with Jon or any othersinger?
W: Now that SAME DREAM is done I’m currently working on the debut album of mexican soap opera star RAUL OLIVO (People En Español’s 25 Sexiest Men – 2005) where I’m writing and producing 3 songs for him (hopefully more!) and I’m also working on new songs for CELINE DION and KELLY CLARKSON. After that it’s Jon’s Spanish album and then I’m going to sleep late for a month!
B: Ok Willy, Thanks for your time. Fans have always liked to hear from you. You are a great artist. Do you have anything to say for fans?
W: Yes! Thank you for your support over the years and thank you, thank you for supporting my good friend JON SECADA. Believe me, he loves you guys so much! I hope that you’ll go out and buy SAME DREAM and that you’ll love it as much as we do! Thank you Behnam for your unwavering support and thanks for the opportunity to discuss my wonderful friend Jon! It’s been an honor and privilege to speak to you guys and I would be happy to communicate with you and the fans any time you’d like in the future. Stay positive and happy people because you never know what tomorrow brings! Have an amazing day, everyone and once again, thank you for supporting SAME DREAM and my great friend, Jon Secada!! Love, Willy Perez-Feria