Production(CL) -- Singing sensation Shalim gets up close and personal during an interview with ConTexto Latino during a taping of his new series of private AOL Latino concerts called "Sesiones @AOL."
ConTexto: What do you think is the main message of your new studio production, "Cuarto Sin Puerta?"
Shalim: "Cuarto Sin Puerta" has many different messages. I think that the main thing is for people to listen to the songs and see themselves in them. Those who listen can discover their own personal messages.
ConTexto: What do you hope people will take away from the album?
Shalim: This production, as opposed to my first album, is different particularly because there is a message of optimism. Whether the song talks about spite or lack of love, I always give it a positive touch -- be it rhythmically or through the melody -- so it doesn't sound depressing. I would say that love is the main message because everything is related to love.
ConTexto: Your first album was pop with African, Middle Eastern and Asian musical influences. This album includes more flamenco, batucada, cajun and other Latin American rhythms, including Puerto Rican ones. Why the change?
Shalim: I think that the change of influences from the first album to the second one emerged naturally. Obviously I spent a lot of time in Spain during the trip to promote my first album and tastes changes with new experiences. I started to listen to other singers and I discovered music from other regions of the world that had great influence to my songs' lyrics. On the other hand, I always wanted to give it a touch of my country -- of Puerto Rico -- including a touch of salsa, like the title song "Cuarto Sin Puerta".
ConTexto: Tell us about what inspired the songs "Donde corre la sangre" and "Se me olvido tu nombre."
Shalim: "Donde corre la sangre" was a song that I wrote in Spain, as a matter of fact. Its subject matter is one I'm especially fond of because it emerged from something I was experiencing and I was able to combine it with a couple's story so that public could see themselves in it. It's very civilian; an influence that I couldn't avoid in the album's songs. "Se me olvido tu nombre" was the first single in this album, which jumpstarted "Cuarto Sin Puertas." It's a song by Emilio Estefan and Garchi Pena.
ConTexto: What songs or groups have influenced you?
Shalim: I listen to a lot of English-language music and I was raised listening to U2 and now Coldplay. I love Caetano Veloso, Lila Downs and Rosario. I like flamenco music very much. I don't focus on a particular musical genre. I try to go a bit beyond pop, because I always try to seek influences from other musical genres, like alternative groups such as Nirvana. I've also grown through the evolution of artists such as Sting and the Beatles. Classical groups are also influences.
ConTexto: How did you get Emilio Estefan to record your debut album and now this, the second one?
Shalim: Emilio Estefan is a human being to whom I owe my gratitude for giving me a chance. It was simply a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Obviously, I knocked on doors for many years; I went to many record companies and producers, but there was never that spark, that chemistry you look for when you want to work with someone. When I met Emilio, we didn't know what kind of music we were going to produce, but we did know that we were going to work together.
ConTexto: Have you considered acting again? And if you had to choose between music and acting, which one would you stick to?
Shalim: I started my career as an actor and I had to put it aside to make music full time. But I have plans to resume my acting career very soon, but without sacrificing my musical side. I've been featured once or twice in "Lizzy Maguire" for the Disney Channel and in "Club 7" for the Fox network.
ConTexto: And how did you begin your singing career?
Shalim: I got my start in music when I was very young. I started out with a children's musical group called Los Angelitos, which lasted six years. Music has always been part of my life. Expressing myself by putting things in writing was always easy; it was just a matter of adding a melody to it. Then, there was the issue of going to college or getting up one day and saying: I must fully pursue this. I feel like I don't have enough time, considering I want to write and produce.
ConTexto: Did the fact that your parents are well-known in the entertainment industry open doors for you?
Shalim: It's not easy for anyone to get a start in this trade, even with well-known parents in the arts world. I have first-hand experience with closed doors. Having well-known parents didn't make it easier or hinder my success. I believe I've made a name for myself due to my own efforts. I was able to grab the attention of those who listened to me for the first time, which is very hard to do.
ConTexto: What did you do with your first big paycheck?
Shalim: I'm not one for luxury, but I went on a trip to Italy because I always dreamt about going to that country.
ConTexto: Do you have any romantic interests?
Shalim: I'm alone and I don't like to be alone.
ConTexto: What do you look for in a woman? Is age a factor?
Shalim: Well, love isn't limited by age. In fact, I wouldn't rule out love with a girl my age. It's just by chance that some of the women I've dated were older. But what I always look for in a woman is chemistry. When there is love, when it's truly there, you must work on that love. When there is no love, it's hard to create pure feelings. I just look for honesty and for her to love me.
ConTexto: What was your most embarrassing moment on stage?
Shalim: At one point, I went down to sing to a fan and she totally tore my shirt off. I almost looked like a stripper. That day I had to sing the two remaining songs shirtless.
ConTexto: Do you have any idiosyncrasies or habits?
Shalim: One habit I can't put aside -- but it's a good habit -- is that I always light up a candle for my saint and I always pray. I pray a lot through the Scriptures. I love to do it. In fact, it's part of my daily life. I don't let a day go by without praying.
ConTexto: How do you feel about the fact that millions of people will now be able to have access to you and your music through Sesiones@AOL ?
Shalim: Well, for me it's an amazing experience. Having the chance to take my music to places where I wouldn't be able to take it personally, because of lack of time or because it's impossible to be there, is wonderful.
To enjoy SesionesAOL, visit AOL Latino at: www.aollatino.com.