The brand new Unity: The Latin Tribute to Michael Jackson album has taken the world by storm since hitting the market on April 14, 2015. The album shot to the #1 spot on numerous charts including the Latin chart, Tropical chart, World Music chart, and Tributes chart!
The man behind the project, Peruvian-born, Miami-raised producer/multi-instrumentalist/arranger Tony Succar has been working non-stop around the clock promoting the album in the form of countless interviews.
Today I was privileged enough to score my own exclusive interview with Succar, who was kind enough to take time out of his hectic schedule to answer a few questions regarding the project, its development, and reception since being unveiled to the world. Check it out below:
Damien: How do you feel now that the release date has finally arrived?
Tony: Oh my god! It feels more than amazing! I can’t believe it’s finally happening. I wasn’t expecting such a great reaction from the public, but it’s been truly amazing. There have been so many supporters and I’m just super thankful.
Damien: This project has grown from what was originally a humble Kickstarter campaign. Did you ever imagine that it would (or could) become this big?
Tony: No. I never thought it could be this big. I came up with the concept more than four years ago. A series of events lead me on to creating this project. When Michael passed away, just like many MJ fans around the world, I sat in disbelief, dumbfounded, experiencing one of the saddest moments in my life. A couple of months after his passing I felt an unquenchable urge to pay homage to Michael’s legacy. I had no idea what I was going to do, or how I was going to do it; I simply knew I needed to follow my heart.
It happened to be that in October of 2009 I got a call from an agent that hires my band – Randy Singer. Randy wanted to put together a Halloween party for a local club on South Beach in Miami, Florida. He had the idea of making a Thriller theme costume party with everyone looking like zombies.
To cut a long story short, the band I had at the time was a strict salsa band. We played some other styles, but very few. Mainly salsa. Randy wanted to me to perform “Thriller” for the night, and I came up with the idea of doing a salsa arrangement to “Thriller” so we could perform it live. So I sat down and wrote that arrangement, and we performed it. When I saw how much the people went crazy for it, that’s when it all began.
I finally discovered what I could do for Michael, his legacy, his music, and his messages. My goal with paying tribute was to embody Michael’s essence by focusing this tribute on his message of unity. Unity is something that I saw in his lyrics, his music, in his dance, and his way of being. He always looked out to unite people, unite cultures, and unite talent. I wanted to expand on his message by interpreting his music in a new way; in a way where I express myself fully, because expression is in my Latin DNA. This way it would result in something new, hoping that I could continue the legacy and show the world how he influenced me and how important he still is to all of us.
It all started so small, not thinking about sales, commercially, recording with big artists, etc. None of that crossed my mind in the beginning. This was completely a passion project, and it still is.
Damien: You’ve gone global! Billboard and other reputable music news outlets have reported on Unity: The Latin Tribute to Michael Jackson. How do you feel about the massive reaction and worldwide press?
Tony: It feels incredible! Actually yesterday we hit #1 on the Billboard Tropical album charts! I never thought this would ever happen, but it did. When you do something straight from the heart, with honest hard work, respect, and most importantly passion, there’s nothing that will ever stop you!
Damien: Michael Jackson’s longest-serving engineer Bruce Swedien is involved! Has he been involved from the beginning? Or did he join later, after seeing how great the project is and the potential it has? Was it hard to get Bruce involved? What is the extent of his involvement? Did he mix all the songs?
Tony: Working with Bruce Swedien was truly a blessing. I simply sent him, through a mutual friend, the album for him to just listen to it. When he heard it he loved the project so much that he decided he wanted to mix one song. For me that was already such a huge opportunity! He mixed “Earth Song” first, and then after “Earth Song” he wanted to do another track that was a more tropical/salsa, so he ended up mixing “Smooth Criminal” as well.
It was a process to get to Bruce involved, but luckily he was able to listen to the tracks and he immediately fell in love with the project. The two songs he mixed are just incredible, and i just learned so, so, so, so much during this whole process with him.
Damien: Are there any other former Michael Jackson collaborators involved with this project? If so, who and what did they bring to the table?
Tony: No. It was just Bruce Swedien.
Damien: Were there any issues with The Michael Jackson Estate i.e. gaining permissions/clearance to use Michael’s music? And was it an obstacle to release this music on a label other than Sony, whom the Estate have a contract with?
Tony: Yeah, it was most definitely difficult to get clearance on the music. It took a very long time – nearly two years in fact! At the beginning I got straight denials on everything. But then after I actually got the opportunity for them to listen to the tracks, everything changed; doors opened up. The key here has always been the music. When the music is good, everything else gets easier.
It wasn’t an obstacle to release this on a label other than Sony. Once Universal came on board, it was very smooth. Universal works with Sony on projects. I’m not sure exactly all the details, but I know that all these big labels work together on many projects. It all has to do with how much they believe in something.
Damien: Is there any special message you’d like to share regarding Unity: The Latin Tribute to Michael Jackson?
Tony: I’d like to thank not only everyone that has participated in this project. The more than one hundred musicians, the artists, the engineers, people behind the scenes, etc. I’d also like to thank everyone who has always believed in it. This includes all of those who believed in it since day one – in the Kickstarter days. And also those new fans that are discovering the Unity project now. Without all of your support, this would not be where it is today, that’s for sure.
Thank you God, and thank you Michael Jackson. Thank you for driving this project and making this dream come true.
Damien: Congratulations on everything so far, and for what’s to come in the future! I wish you all the success in the world!
Tony: Thank you Damien for everything. It’s a super privilege.
Damien Shields is the author of the book Xscape Origins: The Songs & Stories Michael Jackson Left Behind about Michael Jackson’s artistry and creative process. Click here to order your copy today - also available via Amazon, Kindle, iBooks, and Google Play. Follow Damien on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date with Michael Jackson-related news.