You would not expect one of the world’s most popular and award-winning Latin soul entertainers to live in Smithers BC, but former Victoria resident Alex Cuba says it’s small town life that has enabled him to earn two Junos and three Latin Grammy awards.
“It works for me, it’s good for family life,” says the Cuban-born entertainer, whose real name is Alexis Puentes. “I have family around, it’s a lovely town. For me, I know I can go and know they are in a safe, happy, friendly place.”
He and his wife Sarah have three children who range in age from 8 to 18.
“If you live in New York or Toronto you can’t do music and have a family. In Smithers I can live with some comfort, it’s affordable, it makes sense.” His favourite part is living just minutes from the airport.
“It gives me more time to spend with my family,” he says.
Son of guitar player and music teacher Valentin Puentes, Cuba began playing guitar at age six. He and his twin brother Adonis Puentes immigrated to Canada in 1999 and settled in Victoria. The pair gained notoriety as the Puentes Brothers, and received a Juno Award nomination in 2001. They each forged solo careers in 2004, but continue their songwriting partnership.
With the 2015 release of his new album Healer, Cuba is on the road again but keeping his time away from home short.
“I’m playing a few cool festivals and events, the Hillside Festival; Panamania, the cultural event at the PanAm Games. … but the highlight of my summer will be opening for Sheryl Crowe at the Hollywood Bowl. It’s two nights, it has 17,500 people, I think it will be pretty cool.”
Healer is described as combining the finest characteristics of his previous works – the soul and intimacy of Agua del Pozo, the pop song-writing of Ruido en el Sistema and the nuanced blends of Cuban and American music of his self-titled third album – with more romance, introspection and spirituality.
“It’s my masterpiece.” he says. “I’m super proud of it. I’m super happy with it. I think my fans will love it and I think it translates well.”
So far he’s had good response from several tracks including In 1, 2, 3, 4, featuring David Myles.
“We played a show on Salt Spring and people cheered it, people had fun, they could not stand still.”
His performance at this year’s Tall Tree Festival last month was “interesting” for the singer.
“It caters to young people. There were so many DJs, I think there were 50 DJs and here I am singing mostly in Spanish and still people seemed to like it – even though there’s this guy with a guitar – I must have looked like a dinosaur to them,” laughs the 40-year-old.
Healer includes five bilingual duets with Canadian stars Ron Sexsmith, Alejandra Ribera, Kuba Ohms, Myles and American Anya Marina.
“The song with David Myles is poking out here and there,” he says. In 1, 2, 3, 4 has earned mainstream radio airplay which Cuba says opens doors for more Latin music. “I’m thankful to a higher power among us to be writing songs and playing music. … Every time I make an album I leave something behind that I hope is unbreakable, a piece of art that paves the road ahead of me.”
Cuba is looking forward to his performance at the Butchart Gardens Aug 13, 7:30pm. “I like playing outdoors, it’s summer – you can wear less clothes and show off your tattoos!”