Carlos Vives Talks ‘Rough Times’ at Billboard Latin Music Conference

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You can take the boy out of Colombia, but you can’t take Colombia – or el vallenato – out of the boy. Carlos Vives has proven that with Corazon Profundo,his latest album and the first in eight years, which was released Tuesday during the 24th annual Billboard Latin Music Conference in Miami.

As “Volvi a Nacer” – which could be his current theme song – played in the background, Vives got on stage to sit for a Q&A with Leila Cobo, executive director of Latin content and programming for Billboard, who first told the audience how thrilled and relieved she was when she first heard a song of his on the radio.

“When I first came to this country, many years ago, there wasn’t Colombian music played in Miami. There was no Colombian music on the radio,” said Cobo, who is herself from Colombia. To hear Vives on the radio was special not because of his nationality, but because of his identity. “Not just because he was Colombian, but because he was Colombia. Because the music he played was Colombian. It was us,” Cobo said. “It was music that was so powerful that it went international.”

And then she asked the Latin Grammy winner with four No. 1 hits why he took a long break between his last album and Corazon Profundo. Vives, who was the best known artist from Colombia before Shakira shook the global music world, said his hiatus took even him by surprise.

“I didn’t understand a lot of things. I clearly didn’t understand the changes that happened in the industry. Like the change in the contract. We thought we could keep working, but it wasn’t what happened for us in that moment,” Vives explained. “Then we didn’t succeed in reconnecting with the industry immediately. These were rough times for me. But a true artist is not going to stop working. I worked many years in Colombia on projects, I worked for other artists. I wrote songs. I produced records. I wrote a musical for children,” Vives said. “I always stayed occupied and working with children with new songs.

“But, yes, I did miss it and thought the life I had come to know had come to an end. It was difficult to reconnect and find myself again with the audience I had.” But he says he feels encouraged by the reception of his re-entry into the business as a frontman.

In addition to his new album and two new singles, Vives will launch his first tour in nearly ten years this June. “I am terribly anxious because it has been very long since I performed in the U.S., and I need to reconnect with a public that I love very much. We start in June in Puerto Rico, which has a special significance for me,” said Vives, whose early acting career was on the island.

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