For more than a decade, actor Shalim Ortiz, who is of Puerto Rican and Dominican heritage, has successfully crisscrossed between the American (“Magic City“) and Latin (“Dama y Obrero“) worlds of film and television — a privilege only a few experience — but his initial mark was made in music. In 2003, Ortiz was actually well known for his second and last album “Cuarto Sin Puerta”, an Emilio Estefan collaboration. Remember “Se Me Olvido Tu Nombre,” the huge hit from 2003? It reached #2 on the Latin Billboard charts, and now 11 years later, he’s toying with the idea of returning music again with “Va a Llover,” a single made just in time for Valentine’s Day.
I spoke to Shalim from his Florida home to find out more about his latest single, why he decided to try music again and about his current acting projects.
Mariana Dussan (MD): Seven months ago you confessed to us that acting was your first love and that music was the step you used to get there so going back to it was not in your current plans.
Shalim Ortiz (SO): This is true, I started my career as an actor at six and [acting] was my first love, it was what made me fall in love with this business. But that doesn’t take away that from the fact that I love music as well, one thing complements the other. I always knew that I was going to do something new in music, it was never as if I was never going to go back to music period, I just didn’t know when or how it was going to be done.
(MD): What changed in the last seven months that made you decide that this was the moment to go back?
(SO): This single, “Va a Llover,” is a very unorthodox way to do music because it’s not an album, it’s not a twelve song piece, it’s just a single. With Adrian Ponce, the producer for this single, we bumped into this melody organically and when I heard it I just fell in love with it and the song just happened without much expectation. Then, next thing you know we did a music video, and Valentine’s Day started approaching and I thought that this felt like the right time to share the single with the world, especially now that you don’t have to do a whole album to share your music. It was just kind of the right time to be honest. I don’t think my priorities have changed with this song. I think that what I’m going to keep [acting], I just think this kind of parentheses was a way for me to just let go of some emotions and to tell the music that I still love it.
(MD): Would your next step then be making the full album?
(SO): I don’t want to say never, but I would lie if I said there were concrete plans. Right now I am exclusively with Telemendo doing Spanish content and they have been very supportive if I want to do an album, if I want to do music and I have been very grateful because of this. I may take that opportunity and maybe explore a little deeper. It’s like growing wine, it’s a process that takes time and the process of making music is very patient and beautiful at the same time.
(MD): You now have an expanded audience of both Spanish and English speaking fans, how do you think both parties will receive your new song?
(SO): I guess it’s a lottery; I don’t have the ultimate truth to that, I don’t know how they are going to react. I think the true essence of any artist is that you don’t really of how many people you’re going to reach out to, you just kind of unleash how you feel and if one person gets touched by your message that’s enough. There are so many variables that could lead somebody to identify themselves with your song and I’ve had so many examples of people that have been touched by [my music], that gets me excited.
(MD): Is the way that you are approaching music this time around any different now – 11 years deep in a successful acting career – than when you recorded your last album?
(SO): Yeah, I think that with the experience that you get as an actor you get more into the story telling mode. You get more into the story telling instead of the generic and vague lyrics, you get more passionate about being specific about the story. When you shoot a music video you also don’t want to make it a one dimensional video, you want to tell a story as well. I think in those two senses, as an actor you just [want to] narrate a tale rather than just singing a song for the sake of singing.
(MD): Tell me more about “Va a Llover”, did you compose it?
(SO): I did not write it. This is a remake of a Brazilian song called “Dos Vidas, Dos Amores” (“Two Lives, Two Loves”) and it was more of a samba rather than a pop-rock ballad. Adrian Ponce was the one who did the Spanish adaptation and I interpreted it. Like I said, it happen in such an organic way, we really had no plans for this so when we did it was snowball effect. We did the song, then the video was made, then Telemundo heard it and they wanted to support it, and that’s how it happened.
(MD): It’s really an emotional and heartbreaking song, can you relate it to in anyway?
(SO): Not at this present time. I’ve been blessed to share my life with my wife and I’m very happy in that sense, but I think that the best Valentine’s songs and movies are the ones that are not exactly about the perfect love story. Those are the ones people [use] to let go of their feelings because not everybody is blessed to have someone they love by their side. Like “Blue Valentine” with Ryan Gosling, I love that movie, it’s kind of anti-Valentine, but those are the ones people see when they feel like that.
(MD): Finally, tell us a bit about your current acting projects.
(SO): I’m premiering a movie – I don’t know exact what date – that was directed by Kuno Becker who is a renowned Latin actor and this is his first time directing. It’s called “Panic 5 Bravo,” a horror-thriller about five paramedics on the Mexican border who find this guy who has a bullet and wonder whether they should save him or not. It’s all in English and I’m actually the 5 bravo, which is code for a man who has a bullet in his body.
After that I’m just entertaining other options and offers, and checking to see what will be my next step. In terms of Telemundo, I finished “Dama y Obrero” in October and right now they are letting the image rest and checking to see what project they want me to do next.