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Q&A: Gloria Estefan

Along the way, Estefan has sold a whopping 70 million albums and singles worldwide, according to her record label and management company. This includes the Spanish-language albums "Mi Tierra" and "Abriendo Puertas" and such English-language collections as "Destiny," "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me" and "Into the Light."

Now, Estefan has returned with her first English-language album in five years, the intimate, acoustic-shaded "Unwrapped," the bulk of which she wrote herself. Co-produced by Sebastian Krys, Estefan and her husband, Emilio Estefan Jr., "Unwrapped" (released Sept. 23) includes vocal contributions from Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders and Stevie Wonder.

What do you see when you look at the musical landscape today?

People's attention spans are extremely short -- I see this in my own two kids. They have such a vast array of things to choose from: TV, videogames, satellite radio. It's sensory overload. But it's the nature of life at this time. With music, it's hard for them to follow something beyond one or two singles. That's the nature of the beast, unfortunately.

Fortunately, I came up in the industry when artist development was still important. It's tough for today's artists who want to grow and develop. But music is music, and it is more popular than ever. I love the fact that world music is cropping up in more places, particularly in the States. And artists like John Mayer and Vanessa Carlton are showing that kids are looking for depth in their music, too.

How has the Internet changed the music business?

I see revolutionary changes in the way music is delivered and consumed. The way the consumer wants their music is a major shift for the business side. Pirating is so easy now; is first-generation now. And the legal side must be addressed. It is all cutting into how artists make a living. I don't think kids realize they are stealing when they share their files. They need to be educated. Payable downloads must be affordable and easy to access.

But as an artist, I simply make the best music I can. Hopefully, everything will work itself out. Until then, if I were a multinational label, I would drop the price of CDs. At the same time, I would put additional value into CDs.

Have you discussed CD pricing with your label?

Yes. In fact, I even asked Sony to drop the price of the actual CD. But there is just so much control that we as artists have. My new CD does include a bonus DVD, though. I've been adamant with Sony that it be included as a gift for my fans.

What do you attribute your special relationship with your fans to? They are extremely loyal.

I've nurtured this relationship. I spent a lot of time touring on the road. Hopefully, every time they see me live, there is a deepening of that relationship.

Also, when I went through that tough accident 13 years ago, they were able to connect with me on a very human and personal level. My battles became theirs. They were able to see a human being struggling with difficult times and turning it into something positive

What did the accident teach you?

There were a lot of things. First, I had so much love sent my way; I used it in my recuperation. I could feel a real physical energy around me. I attribute a lot of my well-being to that. I learned that I have much discipline when I needed it.

I also learned that we have an incredible power to affect reality, our bodies and the healing process. These are all beautiful things.

Additionally, I learned to live life in the moment, to enjoy what's happening now. Of course, having a big business, I must plan ahead. But you must not take life for granted.

Is there anything you have learned along the journey that you wish you had known from day one?

I was shy. It took me a long time to relax. There were a lot of performances and situations that I could've enjoyed if I had just been able to let go. But that is impossible, because it comes with time and experience.

But I try to impart this to artists like Shakira and Thalia, so that they can get a jump-start on what it took me a long time to figure out: that we're privileged and lucky to be making a living from something that is so much fun. Also, to keep yourself open to the love that everyone is giving you. Tension and fear affect your performance. Because I am a perfectionist, it took me a while to enjoy the process. Since I've learned to enjoy it, it's been fantastic.

You have always embraced the dance community. Why?

The dance community was responsible for putting us on the map way back when we did "Dr. Beat." At the time, we couldn't afford to do anything, but we were able to do a trade with Pablo Flores, a DJ in a gay club in Puerto Rico. We had him create a 12-inch mix of the song.

Emilio and I took the mix to all the record pools. There was nobody else to do this for us -- we were signed to a Latin label. "Dr. Beat" was one of two English-language songs on our fourth Spanish-language album with CBS. Somehow, the record pools exported the single to Europe. The next thing we knew, we were No. 1 all over Europe and No. 20 with a Latin album on the British album charts.

"Conga" happened backwards. It was released in Europe first and returned to the States by way of the dance community. It took the song a full year to get into the top 10 here. Radio kept saying, "We can't play this." But once they played it, the phones would go crazy. People don't care where music is from; they understood the lyrics and they liked its different sound. The dance community was instrumental in our career; it has always been there for us.

What is this I hear about you, a screenplay and Connie Francis?

I've been working with Connie for the past two years on a screenplay of her life based on her 1984 autobiography, "Who's Sorry Now?" We met for lunch, and the first thing she did was place my CD, "Mi Tierra," on the table. She said, "I want you to play me. I want you to do this movie of my life for me."

Would you star in it?

Absolutely. It would be my first big starring role. It would follow my roles in "Music of the Heart" and Arturo Sandoval's life story, which I did for HBO. I also just spent a week in Vancouver filming "The Chris Isaac Show." I play the evil Gloria. I wrote myself a devious part. Everyone always says I'm so nice. So, I wanted to play a manipulative character for once.

Reuters/Billboard

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