To appreciate that statement, you should consider the Smithers-based singer/songwriter has already racked up four Latin Grammy Awards and two Grammy nominations for the Best Latin Pop Album. No surprise the legendary Cuban vocalist Omara Portuondo (Buena Vista Social Club) and rising star Silvana Estrada make appearances on the John (Beetle) Bailey-engineered record.
They are the only other performers on the album recorded in Canada, Mexico, Cuba and Spain.
Alex handles every other instrumental duty on the disc and he’s never sounded better. As he readies for an extensive round of touring across North America and elsewhere, the musician discussed the realities of breaking into markets where his music is more readily consumed.
As an almost entirely Spanish language artist, his fame is far greater outside of this country than in it. He’s fine with that.
“Mexico has emerged as quite the place for me in the past few years,” said Cuba. “According to streams on Spotify and other sites, it is the place that listens to me the most and we are, obviously, paying attention to that. It’s the kind of place you can find any kind of music really and where they are quite open to a lot of variety in the music.”
That’s a good fit for the artist whose work can best be described as pop/rock. Owing to his understanding of Latin American genres ranging from bolero and bachata to rancheros to son, Cuba has always worked elements of these forms into his hook-laden material.
But there are considerable influences drawn from classic pop tunesmiths like the Beatles or funk masters like Stevie Wonder turning up in gems such as his hit Directo. On Sublime, he opens with a complex rhythmic romp titled Yo No Sé that could have been on an early Brazilian Tropicalismo release by Caetano Veloso or Gilberto Gil.
The artist loves the comparison, noting he still listens to a lot of recordings from that era because they are “so real, so honest, the music is pure and it keeps it sounding alive.” That he can write something which hearkens back to that creative hubbub is impressive. That the opening song on Sublime was an instant recording is amazing.
“Yo No Sé was the last song on the album, written on the spot on the last day in the studio, which came from a bass line I was jamming and loved and knew I had to use,” he said.
“So I was writing the lyrics while I was playing all the different parts, shouting them out and we were both rolling on the floor by the end of it blown away by the results. Essentially, the concept of the song became was Alex Cuba rehearsing with Alex Cuba, so I made this video for it that has me, in colour, and a bunch of black and white Alex Cubas playing the song.”