When and how did you get into music?
I got into music when I was very young, about 4 years old. It was back in Texas during a party and a band there had a drum set… I began to play and they just followed my rhythm. They later called my mom and asked if I’d had lessons and she said “this is the first time I actually see him play the drums…” I was a four year old kid playing with a band… I’m sure it sounded like “crap” but hey I was playing and my mom loved it. At 7 years old I returned to Venezuela and I would go to festivities with my grandmother, unfortunately at the parties my uncles became a little inebriated and someone had to take over the drums…. That was me. The party had to go on!
What artists did you play / record with?
In Maracaibo, I played with artists such as Guaco, Yordano, Franco De Vita and many more… Until I returned to US and I began to play with Nestor Torres, Roberto Perera, Arturo Sandoval… around 1988 (I was about 20 years old)… In 1993 I went to Emilio Estefan’s studio because they were producing Gloria Estefan’s album Abriendo Puertas (Opening Doors). I did a mix of Brazilian and Latino percussion… I went in to the studio and I never left!
How did you get into writing and producing?
During the time I was in Estefan’s studio, he asked if I could write songs. I signed a deal to write, produce, and perform at that time. It was the first time someone had signed a three-time deal like that (songwriting, producing, and performing). That led me to write songs for Shakira, Gloria Estefan, Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin and countless others.
What was it like to get your first hit?
My first hit was with an artist named Shalim and the song was titled “Se Me Olvido Tu Nombre” (I Forgot Your Name)… It was a REALLY big deal for me because I had no idea what it was like to have a big hit… That led me to receive more calls from artists which led to co-writing “Hips Don’t Lie” with some of the biggest names out there, including Wyclef Jean and Shakira. It became one of the biggest radio singles in history.
Archie, that is AWESOME!! Tell us, how do you usually approach the writing and
Before anything I create it begins with a groove, a beat. I have to feel the rhythm before I begin to produce anything… I believe it’s feeling the pulse of whatever I write. I really do not consider myself a songwriter [per se], even though I had two BMI songs of the year… I consider myself a musician who is able to write songs. I ended up producing music almost by accident, getting into the
studio and attempting to create something different… I love it so much now, I can see myself doing this for the rest of my life.
How do you see the music business now and where do you think is headed?
The music business right now, in my experience is at it’s worst level in history. When any artist would sell back then, 10,000 records in a day, today they are not even selling 10. How do you make a living from that? How does a business stay afloat with those figures… That is a big question mark. I think the way this is going to happen is by going back to the basics. Basics for example, like in the 50s or 60s when bands would release singles and do gigs based on those singles. It wasn’t necessarily because of an album, but because of that radio hit. And that’s what we see people doing nowadays. People are putting out singles on iTunes and try to do as much as they can with it because there’s no money to produce entire albums anymore. We go back to basics by having real artists make real music. Not “wannabes” anymore. People who can really sing, and can really craft their music, their instrument, be real. Starting all over again.
What advice do you have for composers who are starting in the business?
First you must write what you feel. Also, know who you are writing for. What is the need for that song that you are offering? You can come up with great ideas and great sounds but great ideas are just great ideas not songs. You have to establish exactly what is that song talking about from the first second. In movies you have 2 hours to tell a story, in a song you have 2 and a half, 3 minutes. So really say what you mean and mean what you say. Songs have to have a strong meaning, this is an industry about songs not necessarily about artists or sounds or productions. It has to be about the song, the song is the one that lives. For example, how many times have you sung a song over and over without even knowing who the artist is? It is about the song. The art form needs to remain pure. The main thing is to keep it simple, keep it real and keep it true to yourself.
Archie, what are you working on right now?
I’m working with an artist named Jocelyn, who is on her way to “The Voice” as we speak. I also have a single hit on the radio right now that I wrote and produced for another artist named Norka. I am also working on a new young artist from Mexico Vadir Dervez which I am sure people will start hearing about soon. I also direct the Miami Heat Rhythm Section, and have been writing for the Miami Marlins, and for the show Glee, TV commercials, etc.
… And that is Archie Peña.
Thank you Archie for interviewing with us! If you want to read more about Archie Peña
you can find this article by Dan Kimpel on BMI: http://www.bmi.com/musicworld/entry/archie_pena_rides_the_pulse_of_the_global_groove