GLORIA ESTEFAN gets back to basics on her new album, The Standards.In the years following her family’s escape from communist Cuba, Gloria Estefan’s mother would regularly receive packages from Havana, the contents of which included baby food and vintage vinyl records. A young Gloria was enthralled by the songs her mother played her: tracks by Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Johnny Mathis. Now, a lifetime later and three decades removed from Eyes of Innocence, her 1984 breakout album with Miami Sound Machine, the Latin pop icon revisits the classic songs of her youth for The Standards (Sony Masterworks, $15), due this month. Estefan talked excitedly to American Way about her longtime love of timeless music and her new role as a grandmother.
American Way: Why release an album of standards at this point in your career?
Gloria Estefan: I now have enough life under my belt and enough understanding about emotions and the complex things that created these songs. I could have done this album before, but I don’t think that it would have been as rich vocally and emotionally as it is now. I love this music. It’s my heart.
AW: The album contains “Good Morning Heartache,” a song you sang 30 years ago for your first appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. I imagine it feels quite different to sing it now.
GE: It feels completely different. It is by no means the same thing now because you just have gone through a lot of things. All that becomes a part of the music. People know if you’re honest and you’re really singing something that you know. To be able to communicate emotion, you have to have felt things. [Listeners] can spot that a mile away.
AW: You’ve also recorded the first English version of the iconic Argentinian tango “El Día Que Me Quieras,” which I hear was also your wedding song.
GE: Yes! It’s a killer wedding song. I just got so inspired one night thinking about this song. It just poured out of me. It’s kind of tough to translate things sometimes, though; the hooks may not flow as well. But I tried to recreate the same feeling and intention in a new language.
AW: And I understand congratulations are in order, Grandma Estefan!
GE: Thank you! It’s a beautiful thing. At the same time, it’s a bit daunting because it’s a new phase. It throws you into a completely new part of life. But it’s really something so special.