Puerto-Rican born singer Robert Avellanet started music at the early age of 13, and never really stopped since. His impressive musical and stage experience has shaped him into the singer, musician, songwriter and composer he is today. Robert's delightful music comes straight from his heart, running through his blood and travelling into his soul. And that's exactly where his latest album, 'Heart & Soul', comes from. Navigating between pop, soul and jazz, Robert delivers an uplifting and feel good piece. This album is Robert's first English effort: a new horizon for the career of this already accomplished artist.
- Hi Robert! First of all, would you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit more about your story, how you started making music and what you've already done on the musical plan?
I was born and raised in a very musical place; the island of Puerto Rico. I guess I had the talent in my blood because my uncle Chucho Avellanet was already a living legend by the time I was born. He was and still today a bolero and ballad singer who became very successful in Puerto Rico and Latin America around mid-late 1960’s. By the age of 13, I went to audition for one of the most popular latino boy bands of all times, Menudo. I guess luck was by my side when I was picked up to sing and dance with the band and touring across the world, mostly around America.
Since then I’ve done so many things. So far I’ve worked on 7 albums, 4 with Menudo, including one in Portuguese and 3 in Spanish. 1 under the salsa genre, 1 under the pop/rock genre (by the name of RoBA) and my recent one and first in English; Heart & Soul. As much as I’ve invested in the musical side I’ve also invested time in the acting world, my other passion. I’ve participated in several soap operas in the latin market and I’ve done 7 theatre plays, including 2 musicals.
- Can you describe yourself, from a strictly musical point of view: genres and influences, musical tastes, favorite artist or band, favorite instrument etc.
I was raised with two older brothers who introduced me to many artists and bands from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Listening to bands like Judas Priest, Foreigner, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Black Sabbath, Guns N’ Roses, Bon Jovi, U2, Aerosmith and many more I was attracted mostly to rock but I knew music was much more than that. I remember my mom playing some Lionel Richie, some Bee-Gees and Neil Diamond and of course Michael Jackson. My taste for music was pretty wide but my favorite band of all times is Journey. It’s ironic but today my musical taste goes even before those years. Right now I’m so much into Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Etta James.
My instrument has always been the guitar. By the age of 15 I started playing in my room and writing songs and still do the same today. I also play some piano but I’ve never really invested the time develop the craft more.
- You already have a rich musical experience. For instance, you've already performed with great artists such as Ricky Martin or Celia Cruz. If you had the opportunity to choose any artists on the planet to collaborate with or perform with, who would it be?
Wow that’s a hard question. If I had the opportunity to work a collaboration with an artist, that probably would be Norah Jones. Love her music and vibe.
- You have already released an album in Spanish, called JeT PriVado, released in 2009. Can you tell us more about this album?
Jet Privado was my first solo experiment after singing salsa music so I was hungry for a big change. When I moved from Puerto Rico to Miami in the year 2002 I started experimenting new sounds. I was experiencing an internal revolution that took me back to my roots. I was eager for rock and suddenly I put a band together and started touring clubs in Miami, while having meetings with new producers and musicians. The album was a trip through my life, my past and present and that time. Every song was a story related to a personal experience. Triumphs and dissapointments, achievements and failures. I even changed my name to RoBA which was a more aggressive approach and I felt had more accordance with the music. RoBA was no other thing that an abbreviation for Robert Avellanet. Songs like Laberinto, Miserable and No Te Arrepientas had a lot of support from the fans.
- Heart & Soul is your first English album. Like many Latin artists before you, you're crossing over. What is it like to embark on this new adventure?
Oh my God, it s truly a challenge but it’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole music career. In Puerto Rico we are extremely linked to the anglo music and the american culture so even when I started with Menudo I wanted to record in English but during my time in the group we never did. Now, years later, finally I was able to understand that things happen at the right time. You can never rely on others to make your dreams come true, you and only you are responsible for going after those dreams. That’s why I moved to Hollywood, because like my song “The Limit” says; “You gotta do what you gotta do. You’ve got to follow your heart and truth”.
- You write songs in Spanish and in English. What drove you towards songwriting, and what is the main theme of your songs? Also, what is the difference between writing a song in English and in Spanish?
As I said before I grabbed the guitar when I was 15, inspired by many artists and songs that I was raised with. So going on stage with Menudo woke up that desire. The fans, the faces smiling, singing, the love for the experience. A song was and is a ritual, a language of the soul. My songs are always inspired by an experience, a desire, a need for sharing a story that would connect with people, or simply a personal thought or perception of a certain situation. I don’t think there is a difference between writing in spanish and english because the thoughts are the same.
- The lyrics and the sounds that we can hear on Heart & Soul are very hopeful and positive. The result is an uplifting and feel-good album. Was it one of your goals when making this album?
Absolutely, it is an uplifting album, planned and expressed with that end. My transition to Los Angeles has not been an easy one. We all don’t share the same road and mine has been a tough one. I’ve failed many times and I’ve won others and the experiences had strengthen my spirit making me more positive. It was my divine calling to write an album to inspire, to motivate and easy some pain.
- If you had to choose one song from the album, which one would it be? (One of our personal favorite is Por Haberte Encontrado!)
Ha, I’m glad you like this one. I feel the opposite but I guess it’s because I’ve done music in spanish my whole life. Right now my favorite is “Shine Your Light”. I love how the groove came out. It brings back memories and feelings. It’s got some funky 70”s in there.
- You've already toured and performed on stage several times. How would you describe your best live experience to date? And are you going on the road with this new album soon?
I would say my best memorable live experience was at the Poliedro de Caracas in Venezuela back in 1990. That place was incredible, full of energy. Problably around 18 thousand people screaming like maniacs. I was just a kid so it was really an impact to see the hysteria that the group caused.
- For this last question, let's reverse the roles: you are the interviewer, and I am the artist. What would you ask me? And what would be your answer?
What do you want to leave written in the book of life for others to read and why?
My message is strong and clear; I believe in fighting for a dream, for a cause bigger that any failure, stronger than any culture, wider than any border. We all deserve to live and die for what we love, guided by the desire of seeing others fulfill the pure desires of their hearts.