Exclusive interview with Puerto Rican singer-song writer, and producer, JEAN
Puerto Rican, singer-song writer, and producer, JEAN is a multitalented, versatile artist with a spontaneous outlook on music. His unique and distinctive style, based on his Puerto Rican roots and experiences, is a blend of Alternative pop, Urban, R&B, and Topical rhythms. He has written and produced songs for numerous popular artists including Wisin y Yandel, Ednita Nazario, Juan Luis Guerra, Ha-Ash, Don Omar, Olga Tañon, Daddy Yankee, Prince Royce, and his brother, Luis Fonsi, among others.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing JEAN, and he told me some about his musical experiences, challenges he’s had to overcome, as well as some upcoming projects he’s been working on. I found him to be extremely personable and laid back. Talking to JEAN was like talking to an old friend.
When did you know that you wanted to have a career in music?
JEAN: I’ve always liked music and singing since I was very young, but around the age of 14, but I think I knew when I recorded my first demo, using a neighbor’s karaoke machine, and actually got good feedback from it. I didn’t think I had it. I was shy and more into sports back then, so I started to get more confident with it, and took it a little more seriously.
Who are your biggest influences in the music world?
JEAN: I’m kind of all over the place…I have so many. Right of the bat, I’d have to say Michael Jackson to Stevie Wonder to Bob Marley to Coldplay and Juan Luis Guerra.
What artists would you most like to collaborate with?
JEAN: Drako, Calle 13, some of the Anglo artists like Frank Ocean to Miguel.
I see that you’ve already worked with several big name artists...Can you tell me about one of your most memorable experiences?
JEAN: There was a session I did with Trey Songs that was very interesting…it was about a song he had “I Can’t Help but Wait” (“Te Esperaré). I recorded it in Spanish, and somehow it got to him. He wanted to do it, and flew me out to record him singing it in Spanish. It was an interesting session because I was new in the game and new to directing people in vocals, and I was getting him to sound as authentic as possible without being too picky...he was such a hot item, and still is. It was a fun session, it was kind of tough, in that in the beginning, there was a bit of tough love..when he was in the booth, and I was in the control room and we had to do it the song over and over, there was some tension, but then at the end it was all worth it, and he was glad I pushed him so hard. It was an unforgettable session.
What has been one of your greatest accomplishments?
JEAN: Aside from my kids, who are my greatest accomplishments, I got to work with one of my idols, Juan Luis Guerra, and that was when I worked on the Juanes MTV Unplugged. I was brought on as a background singer/vocal director. It was an intense two months of working every day in the studio and rehearsal room with Juan Luis Guerra. It was an amazing time for me.This year I got to vocally direct and produce the Prince Royce alum, “Soy el Mismo”, which got 4 Grammy nominations.
Do you have a favorite out of your songs?
JEAN: One of my favorite songs that I’ve ever written is “Porque Te Tengo a Ti”, a song I wrote for Ednita Nazario this year. The song just always gets me. It’s probably one of the songs I’ve played the most in the car. From the melody to the lyrics, I’m just very proud of it.
What have been some of your biggest challenges?
JEAN: Getting my type of music out there to the masses, in the sense that musically, my music tends to be a lot of fusion between the Latin and the Anglo world, alternative, and spanglish...it goes from tropical to alternative R&B. It’s a good sound now a days, I think it’s more receptive, but back when I had my first record out in ’06, it was almost ahead of its time. It was a challenge, me being born in Puerto Rico, but being raised in the States, trying to work my type of music and staying true to it in the market.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
JEAN: It’s kind of cliché but, be yourself... and that’s gotten me through it, and has been worth more than anything. Early in my career, just trying to get myself out there, I was between labels, and being swayed different ways stylistically, just to do what’s hot at the moment. I always stayed true to doing what I love, and it’s been more fulfilling from an emotional point of view, than a financial point of view, and I’m content that I’ve followed that path.
What advice would you give to other artists?
JEAN: Staying true to yourself and being honest is really what art is. You can’t fabricate and do something fake, not even in music. It’s a gift that comes within, that God gave you so you have to do it with all honesty.
What would we most likely find on your iphone/ipod?
JEAN: I just got the new Cris Cab album, Dane Suarez, Kim Cesarion, and Danny Fornaris.
What’s something readers may not know about you?
JEAN: I’m just a regular dude, a super laidback guy, neutral and easygoing. It takes a lot to get me out of my neutral zone. I also love to cook!
What can people expect from your third album?
JEAN: I’ve been working on my third album for quite a while now. This album is definitely different from my second album which was more electronic and programmed, this one is more organic, and it’s got more of a tropical-alternative fusion to it. It’s a more mature record. I’m somewhere else in my life right now, from all aspects. Definitely still a very fun record.
Jean is currently on tour promoting his third album, and will be making a stop in NYC on December 22nd. He also told me that he is planning on doing a show in the DMV, although the details have not been finalized yet. For more information about JEAN or to stay up to date on current shows, visit jeanmusica.com