Since his 2000 solo debut, Fijate Bien, Colombian-born Juan Esteban Aristizábal Vásquez — Juanes, to his legion of fans — has crafted a globally appealing brand, relying solely on his native tongue and dark tales of wronged romance and societal grief. Unlike other crossover pop sensations, Juanes has sung only in Spanish, seamlessly blending elements of indigenous folk and crunching Anglo-brand hard rock. Two decades into his career, Juanes has expanded into a visual album — think what Beyoncé did with Lemonade — called Mis Planes Son Amarte (My Plans Are to Love You) that is ripe with optimistic messages; its accompanying film, The Juanes Effect: De Canciones y Transformactiones, features his first attempt at English-language lyricism (“Goodbye for Now”).
He’ll stop by the Fillmore on Tuesday with Mexican nü-music superstar Mon Laferte. Although this is far from the first time Juanes has played Philadelphia, it’s safe to say his previous audience here was a bit larger than the comparatively intimate Fillmore show: In 2016, he performed at the World Meeting of Families, attended by Pope Francis.
— JUANES (@juanes) September 27, 2015
You’ve lived in Miami for some time — a city rich with Latin American expatriates. How has your perspective changed about America since being here?
I’ve lived in Miami since 2003, but the first time I came to the States was 1996. For me, it was a totally different county than the one it is now. Everything seemed possible: a land of dreams and opportunity. I think that’s still true … though it’s a little bit different as things changed since 9/11. But I still see this as a special country that I love very much. My three kids were born here in Miami, a great place where the Latin community is huge and the cultural development is great.
It’s interesting you mention your children being born here. What do you tell them — what do you tell yourself — about the current administration?
We are trying to teach our kids to respect everybody; where they come from or those who speak a different language. It is still hard for us to handle the situation, because what they see on the news is very strong and sad. But they are disciplined. They know about our culture and its traditions. I do not know where we are headed with this current political situation, but I am happy, though, that they were born here. They have both nationalities: Colombian and American. They are learning.
Speaking of the current administration, when did you start the writing process for “Mis Planes Son Amarte?”
Two and a half years ago, with another year of doing demos, experimenting with rhythms and stuff. We finished it a year ago, came up with the idea of making it a visual album, and started the movie.
I ask because your albums have many emotions and moods, but your lyrical outlook is often dark or bleak or even caustic. This new one, though, is surprisingly optimistic. How’d that happen?
Yes, definitely, yes. The world is in a more difficult situation than ever before. The news is complicated and filled with bad energy and crazy people. Yet, I just want to give people happiness and hope. I want to be optimistic even if things aren’t going well. I want to have a good time performing my music and have people have the same good time. Look, I will probably in the future return to dark lyrical themes, but for now, what I want to do is this.
Your first album is 18 years old. What do you recall about the Juanes who made that?
I remember that when I started, I had no pressure to do anything. I had no clue what was going to happen with my career. I didn’t even have a record label deal. I made those songs experimenting with my computer, my guitar, and my melodies. It was all very innocent — and, yes, a little bit dark. It was a nice time for me. I was enjoying trying to make it happen. I had no fame. No money. Just music.
What were your initial inspirations and how have they changed with time?
I came up in Colombia with folk music, singing with my parents and sisters. There were the rhythms of tango and bolero and cumbia. Those were my strongest influences. But when I was 13, I went crazy with rock music and became the biggest fan of Metallica, Slayer, and Sepultura. I still love Metallica. Today, I listen to many new artists and learn while staying connected to my roots. For instance, I love reeggaton. I hear that stuff from my kids. They teach new music all the time.
Speaking of new artists, why did you choose to tour with Mon Laferte? She’s amazing.
She is. When I was in Mexico two years ago, I listened to the radio and she was all over it. I met her months after, saw one of her shows, and I almost died. She was the most incredible and assured artist I have witnessed in the last 10 years — her style and her sound. We became friends, recorded songs together, and I’m excited to have her tour with me. I want my audience to know her and her audience to know me.
You recorded most of your new album in Colombia — why? Does going home bring about another feeling?
Much of it, yes, and I do sense the difference. For me, it’s important to come back home, to work with people from my hometown and reconnect with who I really am. There is something about that that makes me feel so … healed. No matter where I am, I believe it is important to go back.
You have always staunchly written and sung in Spanish. That’s your thing. Why change up with “Goodbye for Now?” Why was it important that that song was sung in English?
I was always trying to record in English. I just had to find the right one. I always wondered if I would even be able to find that song.
There would certainly be pressure and expectation associated with that move.
I experimented all the time and nothing worked until this one. I love the lyrics and how they sound in English. I still wish to, and will sing, in Spanish. I just figured this would break the ice.
Do you have an idea how American audiences see you, as you don’t fall into the pop star trope?
I may sing in Spanish, but I play universally. I make something unique. I know I’m sometimes too soft for the rockers and too hard for the poppers, but if they all listen, they will find my true essence.
- 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, The Fillmore, 29 E. Allen St., $59.50, 215-309-0150, www.thefillmorephilly.com