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Interview with Julio Iglesias

Aired January 23, 2014 - 03:30   ET




MONITA RAJPAL, CNN HOST (voice-over): The first time America met Julio Iglesias he was singing this song. It was a single that hit number five on the Billboard Top 100 and helped him earn more than $1 million for a week's worth of concerts in less than a day.

Europe, though, had already discovered this Spanish star, the former Real Madrid footballer had already scored a number one hit in the U.K. with Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine." Some three decades, 80 albums and more than 2,600 gold and platinum titles later, Julio Iglesias is still wooing multigenerational crowds of thousands, staying power underlined by the 300 million albums he's sold in 14 languages and the Guinness world record for best-selling male Latin artist in history.

This week on TALK ASIA, Julio Iglesias returns to Hong Kong and opens up about his family, letting go of his first love and why he has no intention of giving up the mike just yet.



RAJPAL: Julio Iglesias, welcome to TALK ASIA.

JULIO IGLESIAS, SINGER AND FOOTBALLER: This is exciting to me. First, talking with Asia and after being in Hong Kong.

RAJPAL: You've been to this region many times over the --


IGLESIAS: Many times.

RAJPAL: And it seems as though Asia loves you.

IGLESIAS: Well, it seems that I love Asia because I came so many times, too. I was in Hong Kong the first time in 1971, since '71 I've been in Asia, all over China, (INAUDIBLE) generations of it.

RAJPAL: Yes. What is it about this region that you thought way back then was also so important for you to have a presence, for you to be here?

IGLESIAS: You know, first I was married with an Asian girl. We had three kids. We had three kids. And that was the first time that I really understood my passion for the Asian people, no?

And for that moment I develop a very much interest in what happened in Asia. I follow up every year. And it's exciting because I always had thought that the communications between Asia and the Western countries was not enough. And suddenly, I feel that it's in chaos, happened today between Asia and the rest of the world.

RAJPAL: You also sing in various Asian languages, Japanese, Mandarin --

IGLESIAS: Mandarin, very bad.


RAJPAL: But you do sing.

IGLESIAS: I sing. I sing the (INAUDIBLE). I sing in Mandarin. I sing in Japanese because I try. You know, when (INAUDIBLE) to do (INAUDIBLE) with that beautiful artist in Asia, would you do it? And it was a great, great experience because you had to communicate a passion in the language I didn't speak.

I was attracted. I like it very much.

RAJPAL: You've been in this business, in performing for so long now.

What would you attribute your longevity and (INAUDIBLE) in this career?

IGLESIAS: You should have a ball.


RAJPAL: No, but you've been able to hold people's attention for a very long --

IGLESIAS: No, no; I told you before, you know, my need is the passion. I know then there is not another way for me to survive.


IGLESIAS (voice-over): There is something I discovered in its way, an incredible accident that I had in. So that moment, life came back with a light and since that time, I start to understand the music and the passion for music was my life.

RAJPAL: Have you always been in control of your career? Because this is an industry where an artist doesn't always have the control.

Have you always been in control over what it is you want to do, how you want to sing?

IGLESIAS: I would like to control more, because control, in a way, is a -- shows (INAUDIBLE) for a profession. I can't control what I like. I can't control what the people like, you know. And which is a great match, you know, to (INAUDIBLE) what you're doing is really correct, because it took much more emphasis in what you're doing. But to be in control is not very much correct in arts.

I think that vulnerability, to be vulnerable in front of the people, it's much more an attractive to anything. I think that is the most attractive thing that an artist can have.

RAJPAL: Do you feel nervous?

IGLESIAS: No, I feel excited. No more names. I feel something, you know, I feel entirely secure. Sometimes most of the time. But --


IGLESIAS (voice-over): -- once the lights comes and the music starts, something change. And I -- you can have it into your head like you can have a bad summer. You can have any pain and after you go into states with being chased. You go back from the lights. You go to the dressing room and the pain starts again. They tried --


IGLESIAS: -- whatever happens.

RAJPAL: When you look at the songs that are being played out today, you've sung some of the most, you know, strong and powerful ballads, love songs there are.

Do you think music today has changed, that those kind of strong ballads aren't there anymore?

IGLESIAS: Oh, it's difficult to say that because there is great young artists all over the world. And the time today is different. And it is great artists like the world great artists 50 years ago. It's been progressing. You know, you go to Van Gogh and you go to Basilo (ph) or you go to Rio (ph) or either you go to Picasso. And you cannot say who's better, Van Gogh, Rembrandt or Picasso. So music is exactly the same.


RAJPAL (voice-over): Tell me about that road that led you to play for one of the best teams out there, Real Madrid.

IGLESIAS: I was good in that day because I play an England team. But I was not (INAUDIBLE), you know.



RAJPAL (voice-over): You've had some incredible duets with some of the biggest names in music, whether it's Dolly Parton, whether it's Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson.

IGLESIAS: Willie Nelson, yes.

RAJPAL: "To All the Girls I've Loved Before," which is the song that catapulted you into the United States.

IGLESIAS: I think it is all -- was very different situation, you know, to play with a guy like Willie, natural, with the long hair and short pants and go to Austin and found him. And I said to my producer, I remember, I don't think I can make it. The whole thing -- and you know, it was such an unusual duet that the people reacted wonderfully. And also Willie, he's a natural. He's an incredible guy.

So the song works very much. So in order to catch (INAUDIBLE) every place in the world, I say, how many girlfriends you have? And I said, a lot, a lot.

RAJPAL: Is that what people always ask you?

IGLESIAS: Well, the girls is something that (INAUDIBLE) very interesting because they know I love and I respect women since I was very young. But to all the girls I loved before, it has an attractive word, all the girls I loved before.

RAJPAL: Is it true that when you were younger, you couldn't get into your school choir, but the priest at your school said, don't think about singing. You should do football instead.

Is that true?

IGLESIAS: Yes. But it's you know, every time in the school when you're very young and you go to the chorus line to see if the priest take you there, and I remember the piano the priest was playing the piano, said, Julio, come here. And --


IGLESIAS: -- and ah, come on. You go -- you go play football.


RAJPAL: What did you say when you did make it, when you actually became so successful and he was the one that said, no, forget it, go play football?

IGLESIAS: There is something which is a reality which is you don't need to be the first in the school to be the president of the country. You don't need to be the best, most (INAUDIBLE) voice in the world to be the one who connects with the people.

You don't need to be the best in anything, to prove yourself and to (INAUDIBLE).

RAJPAL: So how do you connect with people? How did you find that connection back then, when you were just starting?

IGLESIAS: I think that still today, I mean, talking to you or talking when I'm in my own life, thinking, I think the passion command my life. Without passion, nothing relates to the others, because passion is an expression who doesn't have any frontier. That's why even singing in Spanish I sing in the first time when I came to China, and the people didn't understand the words, but maybe they understood what I wanted to tell them.

RAJPAL: The emotion?

IGLESIAS: More than that. Emotionally, you can cry and you can laugh. But the passion overpowered the emotion for sure.

RAJPAL: So before singing, the passion that you had was football.

IGLESIAS: Football.

RAJPAL: Tell me about that road that led you to playing for one of the best teams out there, Real Madrid.

IGLESIAS: I was not good, I tell you, I was young, first. I was 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19. I played juniors amateurs and I was good in that day because I play an England team, bad -- I was not really a super crack, you know, (INAUDIBLE) I play goalkeeper. But I was very enthusiastic, a sport guy. And I was strong and disciplined. So I knew that I would never be in the A grade player because grade play, I was the time with the (INAUDIBLE) the most (INAUDIBLE) Real Madrid at that time was a legend, you know, and the years that the '62, '63, '61, the best team in the world at that time.

RAJPAL: What do you think it was about the game of football that you loved?

IGLESIAS: You know, you feel 50,000 people in the stadium, and something that when you go in the grass is the magic start. And you feel like you are something else, you know. You are in all the dreams that you have for years, come back in reality and you are in front of so many people playing a match. I cannot compare now because the question will be for you maybe, what you will be prefer, what you would like to be if you were a player or a singer, a singer. Why? Because I can sing until the end. I will not be able to play until the end.


RAJPAL (voice-over): What kind of a father do you think you are?

IGLESIAS (voice-over): If you ask me straight, I think I'm a good father for (INAUDIBLE). I would say no, no.



IGLESIAS: What a pleasure to be in (INAUDIBLE).


RAJPAL (voice-over): How do you feel when you're onstage?

IGLESIAS (voice-over): When I am on stage, the impression -- the question what I'm in my dressing room just dressing and looking in the mirror for the first time maybe all day in that (INAUDIBLE) and I ask how are the people, no, and when I start to dress, it feels like I change completely my system and I realize I'm going to be with an audience. I go to make love to them.

They going to read back to me and (INAUDIBLE) is to be correct, to be perfect.

RAJPAL: It came to you singing in a very dramatic way. You had a car accident. Tell me about how that happened. Tell me about that day when your football career comes to an end.

IGLESIAS: I was 19, 20 years old. And my father gave me a little car and I was coming with two friends of mine in September from a little party. I be not drinking at all; I was not drinking. And now I drink at either one, but that time I couldn't drink nothing.

But I was a little in a hurry maybe. And it was in a curve. We jumped around and we almost kill ourselves. I was -- I get paralyzed completely in a compression in my nerve system. And I start for two years and a half serious recuperation.

So I did (INAUDIBLE) guitar and suddenly I discover an attraction to music. My voice was a little voice. My voice changed through the years so many different ways. And I think, now I (INAUDIBLE). But I have interests into law, how will be to discover another (INAUDIBLE). So I went to a contest. I won that contest. I was lucky. And until that moment when I won the contest, I realized and maybe life was going to give me another opportunity.

RAJPAL: So you, through discipline, through hard work, you regain your strength. You win a major competition, a singing competition. What did your father and mother say?

You were studying to be a lawyer.

IGLESIAS: Yes, I am a lawyer. Yes, I finished my (INAUDIBLE). My father, my father was a very special man. My father was a liberal, all life. And he believes, he believes in me. He saw me as a doctor in medical practice; he saw me walking hours, swimming hours. He saw something that he didn't even realize before what I was, because I was very normal in liking everybody. But I had the accident. I became in power little by little. So I showed to my father, of course my mother, but as a doctor, my father doctor, that I could really reach my normal life again. So my father believes -- my father said, "He wants to be a singer." So be a singer.

RAJPAL: You have eight children.


RAJPAL: What are the.


RAJPAL: What are the traits characteristics of you would you hope to have passed on to them and what do you hope they don't get from you?

IGLESIAS: (INAUDIBLE). You know, when you have eight children, I know they're going to see this program, you know, and it will be sitting, they will say, what is Papi talking about, OK? I have in a generation, which is Enrique, Julio and Elizabeth (INAUDIBLE), very incredible, half Asian. Maybe today people (INAUDIBLE) half Asian and half European.

The other generation had more time to strain that. There are five kids 16, 14, twins 12, and 6 years old. The 6 years old is a magician because he put together life. It's accommodate the others. It's an angel. (INAUDIBLE) person.

RAJPAL: What kind of a father do you think you are to them? When you look at the first -- the -- from your first marriage, the three children from your first marriage, to the ones that you are -- that you have now as well, is there a difference to the kind of presence?

IGLESIAS: Yes, I was a baby when I had my first three kids, you know. In reality, it's -- you are in the show business, you are traveling. If you ask me straight, have you been a good father for the first generation, I would say no, no. No, a good father is -- he goes to many things. He goes to the school. He take the kids to the school. He asks for the lessons. And I never did that in my life with them.

RAJPAL: Do you regret that?

IGLESIAS: No, because it was my time -- it was my life. And thanks that time, they have the time for them, because the lights of a kid, I share with them. And I don't think that Julio and Enrique in that moment will have that chances. And that opportunities without my absent in the House.

So I don't feel guilty.

RAJPAL: When your sons, your first two sons wanted to get into this industry that you're in, the music industry, how did you feel about them perhaps wanting to follow in your footsteps?

IGLESIAS: That's a good question because I never expect Enrique or Julio to be in show business, never. Never, because it doesn't happen. As you know very well in the life of an artist to have kids who follow the steps so strong, Enrique's superstar all over the world.


IGLESIAS (voice-over): Now when I talk to my kids, when I see the kids, it's not very frequently because they are all over the world. I don't even know -- you asked me where is Enrique or Julio now, I don't have any idea between tomorrow, yes, I have any idea. So now is different. When I talk to them, the conversation is -- goes to father and kid, nothing related with show business.

RAJPAL: When you look at your career now, do you think about -- because the audience has grown with you.

IGLESIAS: It's getting old.


RAJPAL: Some. But do you think about younger audiences, too? Is that something that you -- that you (INAUDIBLE)?

IGLESIAS: The rest of the country, you know, because when I play Brazil, when I play Europe, I have 20 years old. I play 20,000 people in the (INAUDIBLE) generations in that world. I have the generations. It's another world, it's another life. You know, I can play for 20-30 years old people in the 60-70 years old, the grandfathers, the mommies. They think (INAUDIBLE) because it's a lot of passion in that generations. When I saw Frank Sinatra, when I see Tony Bennett, when I see even Mick Jagger (INAUDIBLE), 70 years old, 80 years old, go on the stage, you had to have a passion of goes over the range and the body. Even if you cannot make it.

RAJPAL: So maybe in 20 years we'll see you still performing?

IGLESIAS: I hope to see you again in TALK ASIA. I love to be here.

RAJPAL: It's been an honor for us, Julio Iglesias, thank you so much.