|Julio Iglesias. (HANDOUT)
Julio Iglesias hasn’t just gotten older; he’s gotten better.
“I sing now much better than I used to,” claims the 68-year-old balladeer. “You know, I was not a natural singer. I was not born a singer. But over the years I have learned. And crooners, at my age, it’s the best moment in their life. Tony Bennett is 86 and he sings like a bird. If I tell you the truth, now, on the stage, I’m 100 times better than I was.”
Trouble is, his old studio recordings aren’t. So Iglesias has become the latest artist to give himself a musical do-over by redoing the vocals on a score of his chart-topping signature songs for the just-released compilation 1. Recorded over the last few years in his home studio, the disc — which includes hits in English, Spanish and French, depending on your language of choice — includes both his solo recordings and his duets with everyone from Willie and Dolly to Sinatra and Paul Anka.
From his beachfront home in the Dominican Republic, the avuncular Iglesias called up to talk about singing all the songs he’s sung before, who he’d like to duet with next and what he plays to get in the mood. Some highlights:
Where did this idea come from? Was there a specific song you wanted to redo?
Let me tell you a story: I started to record music in 1969, when recordings were only four tracks and the sound was very primitive. Especially the songs that I did before 1982, when I came to America. The sound was not good. And when I was listening to that music more recently, I was thinking, ‘My God, it sounds horrible.’ I felt that I could do better. It’s not a question of ego, it’s a question of quality. So I recorded them again and now when I listen and compare, the sound is 100 times better.
Was it just the vocals or did you refurbish any of the music too?
All the basses are new. All the strings are new. Of course, you always respect the composition of songs that are No. 1 in half the world. It wasn’t like we made them more rock or pop or whatever. No. I was concerned that I could disappoint people in that way. But we did make much better sound in the music. It’s more deep, the bass.
Was it tough to reconnect with the original emotions in some of the songs?
No. Music, for me, is my life. I have a great family. But truly, the only moment in my life when the passion, the brains, the blood, the strength are together is when I’m singing. The only place I am genuine — when I feel alive and complete — is on the stage. And I would not have done this if I could not reach the passion that I had when I was young.
Are there young, contemporary singers today you admire and would like to sing with?
I don’t understand what contemporary means for me anymore. If you told me I would be able to do a song with Justin Timberlake, I would say yes. If you told me I could do a song with Bruno Mars, I would say yes. If you would tell me I could do a song with my son Enrique, I would say yes. But if you told me I could do a song with Lady Gaga, I would tell you, ‘I don’t know. What will the song be about?’ I don’t want to go to extremes that I cannot handle. I will not do something I cannot do good. I don’t want to be a comic. At my age, there is not too much time to lose.
What mountains would you still like to climb?
The goal I have now is to live as long as possible. Because you know, I am a very alive person. But I know I’m not on the top of the mountain. I know I’m going down. But I go slowly. I don’t want to go in a fast way. I know I cannot be the artist I was 25 years ago. But still the passion is alive. In my soul and my brain, I am much better than ever. Of course, physically I’m not a guy of 35 years old. I’m 68. But I want to be the best I can in front of the people. My life is to be on the stage until my last.
What about writing new songs or making a new album?
I will be making a new album next March or April. The idea is to do a global album — take an African singer, an Asian singer, a Canadian singer, a Latino singer, three or four Americans, and do an album that touches all the communities. It’s a very interesting idea. I don’t know yet who the Canadian singer will be. I would like to do it with Celine because she is my friend, but I don’t know. But if you ask me, ‘Julio why you don’t write new songs like you used to write 40 or 30 years ago?’ I will tell you that it is impossible. Even Paul McCartney — who is an incredible writer — or Billy Joel or Neil Diamond cannot write any more big songs.
Whose music do you put on when you’re trying to close the deal?
I make my babies without music.