The legendary Spanish balladeerreturns to Dubai on Thursday. He speaks to Saeed Saeed about turning to music, being an international artist and the state of pop music
Julio Iglesias on the universal language of music
On performing in Dubai
"I feel exactly the same performing here as in China or Africa. I also realise that everyone, around the world, is the same. They all cry, laugh and love. These are universal things. When I am on stage, I can feel that the people are beautiful and they are happy. But every time when I speak to people they say they want to go to Dubai. Enrique (Iglesias) told me the last time he came here he wanted to stay more. I told him I know more about Dubai than him. I remember being in the Dubai airport about 43 years ago. I used to live in Hong Kong and I used to fly through Dubai about 100 times on the way to Europe. That was a very different time and I remember I used to love the fish shop in Dubai airport.
On interpreting classic songs
"To sing Mona Lisa after Nat King Cole and Can't Help Falling in Love after Elvis is not so easy. But in a way, you are an artist and your identity as an artist comes from your style. You cannot survive in music today without your own unique sound. So, when I tackle these classics I don't imitate the artists, I just do myself. I just add my own colours. When it comes to re-recording some of my own music from 40 years ago, it really changes the song because my voice has changed so much. It is more mature and I feel more myself and when I sing now I feel my brain and my heart is all together. The difference is like flying in a new plane rather than one 40 years ago.
On singing in different languages
"I sing in English, German, French, Portuguese and many other languages so I can reach other cultures. If you look at my tour calendar, I am travelling everywhere, from Finland to Europe, Dubai, America and South America and Asia. When I sing in other languages, this helps me feel like home wherever I go. But also, at the same time when I sing a song, let's say in Arabic, it will not just be any song. First I have to learn about the song and understand its meaning. Once the song's passion is in my blood, I can sing it better. This is because I don't think I am an excellent singer, there are lots of better singers out there. But if you look at the great singers, from Nat King Cole and Elvis, you will know that they sing with feeling. An artist is someone who sings with passion.
On the football injury that pushed him to music
"It was a difficult period for me. I was young, wanted to be a football player and travel the world and play for Real Madrid. Then you have an accident and you are stuck at home for nearly two years and you are told you are never going to be a player anymore. I felt like my life was over and I didn't have any passion to survive and I felt like I had no opportunities. Then I picked up a guitar and I built it little by little and years later I am travelling the world and reaching people and performing in a place like China to thousands of people every night. It feels like a dream.
On pop music today
"There is more strength in the rhythm in music today and this makes the song sound too straight. There are no curves any more, it's just a straight line from start to finish, so there is no surprise. There is a lot of talent, but there is fewer than before. To write a magnificent song is a combination of the perfect timing, mood, situation and your heart and your soul is full. This doesn't happen very often and in each generation maybe three, four or five times.
On performing in the Middle East
"I am a typical Mediterranean singer. The sound of the ocean, the character of my people, the food, the conversation and the sound and the voice - it is all in my genes. This is also why I feel at home in Arab countries, because they come from the same latitude of my life. Arabs have been living in our country for over eight centuries and many things in our genes comes from the Arab people."
Julio Iglesias is performing at the Dubai World Trade Center's Sheikh Rashid Hall on Thursday. Doors open at 7pm with the concert beginning at 10pm. Ticket prices start at Dh320
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