Frankie J: The Comeback Kid
Francisco Javier Bautista first came onto the music scene as Cisco, a member of the Kumbia Kings in the 90s. It wasn’t until 2003 that Frankie J made his debut with the hit single, “Don’t Wanna Try.” He enjoyed commercial success for several years with hits like “Obsession,” “Suga Suga,” and “That Girl.” In 2011, he released his fourth solo album, “Courage.”
While the fourth album didn’t fare as well as the previous three, Frankie J is making his way back in a big way. The Enrique Iglesias and Jennifer Lopez tour is one of the biggest concerts of the year. When Wisin y Yandel dropped out of opening for the two Latin powerhouses, it was announced that Frankie J would be taking their place.
With a new single, “Tienes Que Creer En Mi,” and a whole new album in the works, Frankie J is poised for a comeback. Perhaps it’s age or maybe just years of a rocky road in the music industry, but either way, Frankie J’s humility and gratitude were apparent as he talked about coming back into the industry as the opening act for one of the most talked about tours of the year.
AG: So how’s it been going so far on the tour?
FJ: It’s been awesome. It’s been great to be on this tour. I mean, it’s been over four and a half years since I’ve actually been on a tour. Coming back and doing this has been an amazing experience, journey, you name it. It’s been awesome.
AG: How did this tour come together?
FJ: Well, first of all, Wisin y Yandel were the ones that were supposed to open, and then they, for some reason, they decided to jump off the tour. I think my label, Universal Latino, proposed the idea to AEG, and they loved it. They wanted to hear my music and what I was doing, so they sent the single to the agency, and they loved it. Through management, through talks and communicating with the agency, they put it together, and here we are. Of course, though, I had to go through Enrique’s people and Jennifer’s people first, so they approved, and here I am.
AG: What’s been your favorite part of the tour so far?
FJ: Actually seeing Enrique and Jennifer rehearse. That’s the highlight, because you see so many people onstage all the time, you see the full production happening before your eyes, but you don’t get to see the behind the scenes, all the work that goes into it. For me to be able to walk around the hallways and get to hang out and see them do their thing, I learn a lot. I see that, and I soak it all up. I learn a lot from the things that they’re doing, how they handle things, how they work, and that, to me, has been awesome to see.
AG: What have you picked up from them?
FJ: The fact is, my set is so small – it’s a 20-minute set – and, of course, their shows are so big. Their production is just humongous. Enrique has been like a mentor to me on the road. We talk every now and then, and he always tells me, “Take advantage. Take advantage of the time that you’re onstage. Reconnect with your fans. Let them know what’s going on with you now.” I remember him telling me a couple of years back, “Don’t take too long to come back.” He said, “Look what happened to me. It took me a while to get back, and it was hard. Take it for what it’s worth, don’t take forever. Make a single, and put it out.” Of course, I did try that, but the fact of the matter is that you need “the machine.” What I mean by “the machine,” is that you need the major back-up, the label that has all the right things that are needed to get you back out there. I take that to heart, and these guys, when it comes to Enrique and Jennifer, they’re hard-working people. Everyone sees the success, but they don’t see all the work that goes behind it. I see and learn from them. All of their stuff has got to be a certain way, and they might yell and scream if it’s not right, but that’s what it takes to get everything the way that they want it, the right way, the successful way.
AG: What has this meant to you personally?
FJ: To be able to share the stage with two icons and come back this way has been an incredible experience. They’ve been awesome. The people, every time I go onstage and perform, I let them know, “Hey, these are the songs that I’ve had in the past. If you remember them, sing along,” and they do. When I’m out on the streets, I feel their energy and their love. They recognize you and support you still. They love you. They come up to you, and they tell you, “Thank you for coming back, we missed you.” That right there, to me, is a big deal. It keeps you motivated, energized, and moving along. It’s been fun coming back on the road.
AG: What old song do you sing that really gets everybody going?
FJ: “Obsession.” I think that’s been my biggest record, besides “Suga Suga,” the record I had with Baby Bash. Another one that does hit the heart is a ballad that I had, the first song that started it all, which was “Don’t Wanna Try.” Those songs right there are just very powerful. “More Than Words,” I do that one, too, and they sing along. They sing along to all of them, and that’s what’s awesome. You don’t really expect everyone to know every single song that you’ve released, but when you go onstage and sing them and see these people singing along word-for-word, you’re just like, “Wow,” you know? I guess I made an impact in their lives. Then, of course, we do the single, which is “Tienes Que Creer En Mi.” The English title is “Take A Chance on Me,” which I see a lot of people singing along to as well. That makes me feel good, knowing that the song is doing well and moving and climbing the charts. Within a week it was Top 40, so now it’s moving up to I believe the Top 20. My label is talking about that within the end of September or October, it will hopefully be a Top 10 hit. People are really moved, and I can tell because I see them singing along.
AG: How important do you think it is that a tour like this is doing so well or is even happening?
FJ: I think it says a lot for Latinos. It says a lot for us just because of the fact that there are two powerhouses in there, Enrique and J. Lo. And little old me (laughs). It’s so huge. The fact that the concerts deal with both English and Spanish, reaching out to the masses, there are a lot of people out there that, even though they don’t speak Spanish, they go and hear those Spanish songs. There’s something about them that they like. That says a lot, and it’s special. They’re talking about this being one of the biggest tours of the year, so I’m just happy to be involved. I’m excited.
AG: What does it mean to you in particular?
FJ: It means my comeback into the mainstream again, reconnecting with my friends, coming back into the scene in such a big way like this. How can you deny this? I never thought I’d be sharing the stage with Enrique or even Jennifer Lopez. I mean, she’s such a huge celebrity, artist, actress, and it’s an honor and such a privilege to be working alongside them. First of all, for them allowing me to tour with them is an honor. They could have easily picked another act, someone else, and I was able to come in and share the spotlight with them.
AG: What has it been like for you as a Latino in this industry?
FJ: It’s been tough, but it’s been fun, too. Being able to share both English and Spanish with people has been awesome. It’s been a big part of me since the beginning. It’s been challenging. I think just seeing more Latinos in the mainstream has been incredible. You’re conquering, you’re establishing yourself, and you’re making a name for yourself. It says a lot in this day and age, and it’s awesome to see it happening. To see it happen with you is just amazing. To see people of all different ethnicities singing along to the music in Spanish when they probably don’t even know what it means, there is just something about it. I do talk about it onstage, too. Sometimes I’ll say, “For those of you that don’t speak Spanish, you’ll understand this song.” When I sing “Tienes Que Creer En Mi,” I talk about how music is such a universal language. It doesn’t even have a color or anything. It’s just music, you know? People love that. We go in and do the single, and people sing along to it, which is great, even though they don’t know what they’re saying (laughs).
AG: So what is the biggest difference from being in the industry now as opposed to when you first started?
FJ: Wow. You know, this tour. From doing shows at House of Blues’, small theaters, to performing at huge arenas, I mean, wow. It’s like, you’re doing shows where you’re performing in front of 10,000 people plus every night. Not that I never did that before, but this time around, you’re actually on a tour where it’s consistent. You’re doing this tour that’s on a whole other level. Plus, sharing the stage with Enrique and Jennifer, that’s like “Wow” already in itself.
AG: How about the biggest difference in the reception of Spanish music?
FJ: The radio is playing it more. The radio is more receptive to it. I think now it’s more open, and there is a big change now in radio. I think it’s perfect timing for me to come back in. I feel at home. I feel like I don’t have to change, I don’t have to do anything different, I just have to keep doing what I was always used to doing. I just have to keep up with the times, the certain style of music that’s out. Right now, what you hear on the radio is nothing but dance. Everyone knows that I’m a balladeer, that’s where I came from, and that’s where I started. Not that I’m going to stop doing that, I just have to get with the times. Madonna does it all the time. When she comes back, she’s always doing what’s out on the radio with some of her own flavor to it. I think that’s what we have to keep doing. I feel right at home, though, because I can easily do both English and Spanish. The radio will still play both, as long as it’s a hit (laughs). If it’s not a hit, they’re not going to play it!
AG: So what’s next for you after this tour?
FJ: We’re done with the tour on September 2nd in Miami, so I’m planning on going back home and spending time with the family. Then I’ll be recording the album, finishing up this Spanglish album that we’re doing. I know we’re talking about a tour. We’re still not sure if it’s going to happen, but it’s in the works right now. We want to go to Mexico to start promoting over there, go in and do some radio and TV to promote the single. We’ll just be continuing the recording process to finalize the album. We don’t have a release date yet for the album, but they are talking about releasing it this year during the fall. We’re still not sure if that’s going to happen since we’re getting close to the fourth quarter of the year. Hopefully, we’ll see what happens.
AG: On this new album, what kind of sound do you want it to have?
FJ: I’m balancing it out. This time I’m doing ballads, mid-tempos, and up-tempos. I’m doing a little bit of everything, because radio has changed. I do have a song with Pitbull (laughs). Everyone makes fun of me for it, because it’s like, “Pitbull’s worked with so many people!” Fact of the matter is, he’s real hot right now on the radio, so we have a song together called “Beautiful.” It’s a ballad, but it’s flipped into a dance record, which is cool, because that’s who I am. I’m a balladeer, but Pitbull does a lot of high energy stuff. We mixed those two sounds, and it worked. I have a song called “Lady,” which is a remake from the 90s. It was a dance record. It’s one of those dance records, like with a disco-ish kind of vibe. I have a ballad written by Wyze (?). He’s a song-writer out of the east coast with a lot of Latino acts. He actually wrote a couple of songs, and I picked “Regresaras.” Of course the mid-tempo is the single, “Tienes Que Creer En Mi.” I’m keeping it balanced, so we have everything across the board. I want people, when they get the album, to say, “Okay, there’s a little bit of everything here.” I don’t want them to skip through any of the songs.
AG: You’ve still got a little bit of the old you in there?
FJ: Yeah, of course. I put some of the R&B stuff, the pop stuff, Spanish, English, all of that. The remake of “Lady” actually has different lyrics. Jay Sean co-wrote, and the ones who produced it are the Orange Factory. It was Jay Sean that co-wrote on it, I co-wrote on it, and there were a few others. You know, it’s like nine people wrote on the song (laughs). I mean, Usher had “Yeah!” and there were like 10 people in there!
AG: Is there anything else you want the readers to know about you or the tour?
FJ: Yeah! All my social medias, of course, they can hit me up on Twitter, Facebook, my website, Instagram, Tumblr, all those crazy things. I also just want to ask the fans to go out and support the single. It’s already on iTunes, so they can go and download it from there. The video is also on VEVO. It’s on YouTube already, and it’s up to half a million views within a month. I also want to ask them to just come to the shows. Come hang out, support some good music. Enrique is a comedian onstage. He’s funny and a great performer. Jennifer just gets down onstage. Her production is huge. She dances, she sings, and has several wardrobe changes. Lastly, come check me out. I go onstage and open up the concerts. I give you a little bit of 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and of course now!