Interview with Michael Stuart

Angel Ortiz

Angel: Michael, you now have a new CD called “Retratos”. It’s available to the public and it’s selling extremely well. Could you tell us about your latest release?

Michael: Well, this is my second production and it’s called Retratos. The song that is currently playing on the airwaves is called Nina Bella. It’s a composition by Yoel Enriquez, and arranged by Juan Gonzalez who is the current pianist for Marc Anthony. The musical director of my first CD and this latest one is Angel Fernandez who is also Marc Anthony’s current musical director. Comparing this CD to my first, well, they are both exciting and sabroso. This latest CD has both romantic and social themes yet it is very danceable. One of the songs called Hasta Cuando, by Yoel Enriquez, focuses on our youth that always seems to stray from the correct path in life. We all try to help but sometimes they don’t listen. I also have songs composed by Domingo Quinonez, Omar Alfano, and others. In two weeks time, the CD has sold over 60, 000 units and now I’m waiting for news of over 100,000 units sold!!!

Angel: When did your latest CD hit the market?

Michael: About a month ago. Nina Bella is playing well and it’s within the top 20’s according to Billboard Magazine. Nina Bella has been the number one song on all the radio stations in Puerto Rico. The next song we are promoting is called Destino. My hope is that it will reach the number one spot as well.

Angel: Michael, do you have any travel plans this year? Promotional tours, etc.?

Michael: Well, at the moment I’m here in New York promoting this latest CD. I was just over in Puerto Rico in a concert yesterday. The singer Carlos Ponce was performing for the first time to a live audience and I was also there with my orchestra. It was a wonderful experience for me. I also recently opened a concert for Marc Anthony in Puerto Rico. Last week I was in Boston and I will be visiting the Northeast part of the U.S. as well as the South. Now I will be going to Philadelphia, New Jersey, Los Angeles, Dominican Republic, Martinique, Japan, Italy and one venue that is extremely close to my heart, Bellas Artes in Puerto Rico (in May). Also, the upcoming “Concierto del Amor 99” is at the Meadowlands Arena in New Jersey Sunday, February 14 – 8:30pm!

Angel: When did you first start singing? Where were you?

Michael: It started for me in Puerto Rico and I was singing backup (coro) for a singer by the name of Wichy Camacho. He was a corista for Luis Enriquez. Then he went solo. For me it was an education because I acquired incredible experience. I learned a lot while there. From there I met Johnny Rivera and sang for his orchestra and then some occasionS with Marc Anthony. I was 20 years old at the time. I’m 24 years old now (I just had a birthday in January).

Angel: Looking back, how long was it between the time you did your first demo (song) until it was recorded with a major label?

Michael: It didn’t take long at all. Everything has been so fast for me. It has been a total and pleasant surprise. Normally it’s a slow process, but thank God I started with some excellent people like Wichy Camacho and Johnny Rivera. Everyone in Puerto Rico respects Wichy Camacho and I was honored to have started with him. People on occasions would tell me, “Wow, you started with Wichy Camacho, that’s good”. So I felt proud and honored. But my demo was called “Tu y Yo”. It was a ballad that I did in Salsa. That song and a few photographs (when I had hair) was the only thing I had and I was fortunate because a few labels such as RMM, Sony, WEA, and TH Rodven showed interest. Finally, as you can see RMM signed me. So I have been very fortunate.

Angel: Who would you say are some of your influences in music? Did your parents have any influence as well?

Michael: Yes. My father and my uncle were tremendous influences because when I was very young, they would bring the instruments into my grandmother’s room and play music. I would go in and listen and play the maracas because that’s all I knew at the time. I used to listen to hip-hop and rock. I didn’t pay too much attention to Salsa music until one day I really started to listen. I first started listening to Ismael Rivera, Pellin, Hector Lavoe, Gran Combo, Andy Montanez, Sonora Poncena and that’s when I began listening more to the music. It was Domingo Quinonez at the time that really made a difference for me. I would say it was his voice that called my attention. I was at the first live performance by Domingo Quinonez . It was in Quebradillas at the fiesta patronales. Domingo Quinonez has been my biggest influence.

Angel: Is singing natural to you or have you studied or trained?

Michael: I have never studied singing. It has come natural for me. It’s something that God has given me and now is when I have to put it to work. I think I will eventually take classes because it’s always good to study. I have a tight schedule now but I will eventually get around to it.

Angel: Do you listen to any other forms of music?

Michael: Yes. I listen to all kinds of music. I listen to R&B, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Boyz 2 Men, Rock, Merengue, Rap. When you listen to my latest CD, you might ask yourself, “Is this Salsa?” because I mix a little bit of everything in some of the songs.

Angel: Do you play any instruments?

Michael: Not in the professional sense. Yes, I can play congas, timbales, bongos but while I’m having fun. For example, if the conga player can’t make it to the gig, I can step in and play but normally it’s not what I do. I can certainly defend myself though. I did study the trumpet and I do own a trombone.

Angel: Michael, tell us about your name. The public has asked me to inquire about your name.

Michael: Well that’s my real name. I was born here in the US, but raised in Puerto Rico. My father was also born in the US and raised in Puerto Rico. My father’s parents are Puerto Rican. My mother’s parents are also Puerto Rican. I really don’t know how they arrived at my name. I guess there was a mixture somewhere in the past (Michael is laughing out loud) My full name is Michael Stuart Carrion.

Angel: Who would you like to work with in the future and who have you worked with in the past?

Michael: My dream would be to sing a song with Boyz 2 Men. In the past, I’ve worked with Marc Anthony, Carlos Ponce, La India, Tony Vega, Tito Nieves, Jose Alberto, Gilberto Santa Rosa and Victor Manuelle. I feel very emotional and honored to have worked with all of these great artists. I have learned a lot and continue to learn from them. The majority of them support me and tell me that they are my fans. I say one of the most important things to remember is to remain humble and true to yourself. You have to treat the public as you would want them to treat you.

Angel: Not so long ago, Miles Pena was performing at Cafe Remy (New York) and you were part of the audience. At one point, he asked you to come up on stage to join him. Also in the audience was our very own Eileen Torres, publisher of SalsaCentro You began to improvise and did it so naturally that you impressed her a great deal. So Eileen Torres has sent the following questions to you: What could you tell us about the soneros of today? Are you a sonero? Who do you admire as being on top these days?

Michael: If I consider myself a sonero it’s because God has given me that talent. I think some of best today are Gilberto Santa Rosa, Victor Manuelle, Cano Estremera, Domingo Quinonez, Oscar D’Leon, El Canario, and Tony Vega. I listen to them and I learn from them. When I listen to a theme, I just continue from there. There are very few young soneros but I think you will see more of us eventually because we listen to the professionals and continue to learn from them. So in essence, a sonero for me is someone that takes a theme, any theme, and begins to improvise but with rhythm, with feeling. I don’t know how I do it but I believe that it’s something God gave to me because there are people who try very hard to do it but it doesn’t come out the same.

Angel: Michael, on occasions you imitate other artists during your performances. I think you are the only one that does that. You do a great job at it. Tell us a little about that.

Michael: I started that in Puerto Rico. People in the crowd used to shout out for me to imitate someone so I began to do it and now it’s part of my show. Usually it’s a nice surprise because we’ll announce artists’ names and the audience believes that the actual artist will be showing up on stage and then I turn around and begin imitating that artist and sing one of his or her songs. The audience enjoys it and gets a kick out of it. I imitate Domingo Quinonez, DLG, Salvando Florentino, Tito Nieves and others. I have a lot of fun with it. The people enjoy it. That’s important for me that the people enjoy my music and performance.

Angel: Michael, some closing comments please. For those individuals who are eager to break into the recording field, what advice would you give them?

Michael: The streets are bad and I always advocate that you stay away from drugs and try to follow a correct path, whatever that path maybe for you. I try to repeat the same message so that the public will hear it. It really is up to the individual to follow their dream and be persistent. There are only two people who can help you make it and they are yourself and God. The business I’m in requires a lot of energy and time. It’s not all easy but it can be very rewarding. I work like everyone else except my job is singing. My advice is to strive to be the best you can be andstay positive.

Well Michael, it’s been a tremendous pleasure having met you. Myself, Eileen Torres, and SalsaCentro would like to thank you and RMM for this wonderful opportunity (thank you Dagmar Lopez). Michael, we admire your spirit, your drive, and we all wish you the best in your career. See you on the dance floor!!!!!!

Angel Ortiz & Michael Stuart