With so much negative news bombarding us, living legend Gloria Estefan rightfully thought it was a good time to balance out all the sadness and bring some positivity into the world – and that’s just what she has done with her joyful new album, Brazil 305.
A reworking of some of her classic hits alongside electrifying new songs, the album is a journey through a hit-filled musical career as well as a celebration of Brazilian music and Bahian samba. Speaking on zoom from her home, Estefan shared the long journey toward its creation.
“Music has always gotten me through my toughest moments,” she shared. “It’s a privilege and a blessing for me to make music, and if people listen, I want to inspire them in a joyful way.”
The album was originally conceived back in 2015, but personal tragedy intervened. “Brazil 305 was a long time coming,” Estefan explained. “In ’16, we recorded all the music in Brazil and in ’17, I was supposed to do my part, but my mom got very ill and eventually passed 33 days later.
“When I attempted to put my voice on, I couldn’t sing, I just couldn’t. I was grieving so badly, I didn’t want to put that on a record. I asked Sony to give me some time. It took me well over a year to be strong enough emotionally to go back in, and at that point, my mom was helping me every step of the way. She gave me peace and joy again. And I wanted to make it a joyful album.”
Alongside the new songs, fans can expect a reworking of classic tracks, including a particularly beautiful new version of ‘Cuts Both Ways’. Of the experience, Estefan described, “It was like hugging an old friend who’s come dressed in new clothes. It was such a special experience to revisit the songs with a new feeling, because now I’ve got decades under my belt. It was nostalgic, it was cathartic. It was like grabbing these things that were a part of my past and taking them forward.”
Before recent events caused a necessary postponement, On Your Feet, the critically acclaimed, smash-hit Broadway musical telling the life story of Gloria, her husband Emilio Estefan, and their families, was due to hit Dublin’s Bord Gais Theatre. The experience of making the show was an inspiring and emotional one. While creating it, “I hadn’t cried so much in my entire life,” Estefan laughs. “I was proud of many things about it, not only the wonderful reviews that it received, but the fact that we were the first show ever to have a 99% Hispanic cast.
“My mom, I told her, ‘I’m gonna tell the truth about stuff that’s happened in our family’, because what’s the point otherwise? We wanted to take people on a journey, not just an entertainment where they can dance and hear the songs – that’s all good – but I think people were surprised to feel the emotional rollercoaster that we took them on. I’m really sad that it had to stop, hopefully it will be back again on the other side of this pandemic, because it touched people in ways that we’d only dreamed of.”
In 2017, Estefan was honoured by the National LGBTQ Task Force in Miami with the National Leadership Award. Gloria and Emilio’s daughter, Emily, came out publicly in recent years, but her own support of the LGBT+ community existed long before that. Gloria shared how in the early days it was her queer fans who were one of the first communities to get behind her. “I was always going to be a supporter and I was for gay marriage before anybody was really saying anything, because I think it’s a contract between two people that love each other. Why should anybody get involved in that? Why should that have to be a right? You’re a human being, you should love who you love, and you should be who you are.”
Throughout the conversation, Gloria’s positivity shines through. She shared how it was her own experience of being on the receiving end of positivity from others that helped her greatly. During her world tour in 1990, a truck crashed into her tour bus, leaving her with broken vertebrae and a long road to recovery. “I was in the hospital receiving the energy of millions of people, because I was at the peak of my career, so it was literally people wishing me well and sending me their prayers. I realised the collective power of good, unconditional love being sent my way and I felt it like a physical energy. It was real. I didn’t have to understand it, I was feeling it, and those prayers and those good thoughts, I would channel into my body, I would meditate and imagine all that energy, reconnecting nerves in my spine – it’s called visualisation, I didn’t have a name for it 30 years ago, but I felt it.
“That is a very powerful force. I wouldn’t want to go through it again, but I wouldn’t change it.” Estefan would continue her tour 10 months later.
As the zoom conversation drew to a close, Gloria had a message she wanted to share with her Irish fans. “Thank you for all the years of love and support that you’ve given me. My daughter turned two in Dublin. And we celebrated her birthday in a pub of all places! So needless to say, a good time was had by all.
“Those memories, they’re always in my heart. Ireland will always be a part of my life.”
‘Brazil 305’, the new album by Gloria Estefan, is on release now.
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