Juanes on the Power of Music: "It Opens Hearts, a Language Everyone Understands"

As a two-time Grammy-winning artist and ganador of 20 Latin Grammy Awards, Colombian rockero Juanes knows a thing or two about the music biz.

That's why he was the talk of the Billboard Latin Music Conference's Digital Superstar Q&A session this week, and why he's headlining tomorrow's Billboard Latin Music Awards.

"What gives me the most joy is the opportunity to sing live," el cantante humbly says. "And, as you know, in Latin TV, there's not a lot of room for live broadcasts. For me, this opportunity, playing live at the Billboard awards is very special. It's like my dream."

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While Juanes isn't nominated for any premios at the Billboard Latin Awards this year, his latest album, Loco De Amor, was released earlier this year and has already been named one of the Ten Best Albums of 2014 (so far) by People.

"I think it's the start of a new path in my career," Juanes admits. "This album is, in terms of songs and lyrics, more mature."

Maybe the fact that it was produced by the Grammy Award-winning Steve Lillywhite, who's worked with U2, the Rolling Stones, and Morrissey, has something to do with it.

"I think it was a great opportunity working with Lillywhite because he pushed me to the limit. It's an album that's international, but also Latino. I don't know why people connect to music. It's strange. But I can say we've put a lot of love and dedication into the album."

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Juanes shared his Amor with the world last month on his first live stream performance of Loco De Amor via Terra.com.

"Obviously, nothing beats seeing the concert live, but in this case, we were able to reach the entire world where people could see the concert. It was a great opportunity to reach a lot of people who were watching online, and to inspire them to see the concert live when it comes rolling around."

A man of firsts, the singer recently made history as el primer Latino to rock The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and on Monday, he took center stage on The Today Show.

"It's marvelous," he recalls. "Ever since last year, we've had the opportunity to show up on many American shows and to perform in Spanish. Now, there's more tolerance and respect for our countries. It's a huge dream to be in New York, and I think it's part of what's happening in our countries."

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    Music, fame, and success aside, Juan Esteban Aristizábal Vásquez is as much an activist as he is a musician. Juanes founded Mi Sangre Foundation back in 2006, which el Colombiano says began to help displaced citizens and victims of violence in his home country.

    It later evolved into an organization that "gives kids the opportunity to be leaders of peace and [to] use art to solidify [themselves]." Last year, the singer was awarded the Distinguished Humanitarian Leadership Award for his work with Mi Sangre.

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    But Paz Sin Fronteras, or Peace Without Borders, is where Juanes has gained the most publicity, mainly due to his controversial trip to Cuba in 2009 where the singer put on a free concert in the capital's Plaza de la Revolución to mark the United Nations' International Day of Peace.

    "It [Paz Sin Fronteras] was created to bring peace and unity," he explains. "We use art and believe that music and concerts can unite people."

    "The purpose of the concert was to bridge the culture divide, and to unite [people] through music. I think art can open hearts and touch people."

    And "touching" people across the globe con la música is exactly what Juanes has dedicated his career to.

    "It's a different way to connect. It doesn't matter what religion you are, what creed you follow. "It's a language everyone understands."

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    Billboard Latin Music Awards 2014. With Juanes, Laura Pausini, David Bisbal, Chayanne, and others. Thursday, April 24. BankUnited Center, 1245 Dauer Dr., Coral Gables. Los premios starts at 7 p.m. Registration costs $715 plus fees. Visit billboardevents.com/latin.

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