Carlos Santana has a flair for the dramatic. When asked about his current run of arena shows with Rod Stewart -- an 18-date tour dramatically billed The Voice. The Guitar. The Songs, which arrives at the MTS Centre on Friday night -- he responds: "I feel very honoured to be a part of this glorious event." And yet, you can tell he is being 100 per cent sincere.
Carlos Santana compares himself to water. "I'm not a patriotic guy -- I believe in one family. This whole planet is my family. It's important for me to play music and be relevant to everyone. It's wonderful to feel like water -- everyone wants and needs you." And yet, he doesn't sound self-important when he says this. He sounds grateful.
We are discussing Santana's latest studio album, 2014's Corazòn, the 67-year-old guitar legend's first Latin music recording. That the record has topped the iTunes album chart in 24 countries -- and was the top-selling Latin music album in the United States for six consecutive weeks -- speaks to both Santana's reach and the appetite for a Spanish-language album. It's hard to believe it took more than four decades and more than 20 albums to get here, but Santana says the world wasn't ready for Corazòn until now. "It was perfect timing," he says. "It seems like America is embracing the Spanish and Latin community and recognizing that it's part of its tapestry."
Corazòn is a collaborative effort with an all-star cast of Latin music's biggest players, including Gloria Estefan, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, Juanes, Ziggy Marley, ChocQuibTown, Lila Downs, Pitbull and many more.
"The idea came from my brother-in-law, Michael (who is now Santana's manager). He said, 'Why don't you do Supernatural in Spanish with Latin people?'
Supernatural, of course, is Santana's career-resetting 1999 album. Featuring collaborations with Eric Clapton, Rob Thomas, Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill, CeeLo Green and more, the record went on to win nine Grammy Awards and become Santana's most commercially successful release, going platinum in the U.S. 15 times and selling more than 30 million copies worldwide.
It's a good thing Santana thrives on collaboration. "It was very natural and a lot of fun," he says of making Corazòn, adding he especially enjoyed recording with the women in his illustrious group.
"It's their heart. I love surrounding myself with that heart." In fact, he recently told California's Orange Country Register that his trademark solos are informed more by the vocal acrobatics of female singers than the guitar heroics of other axe-slingers.
Each song was matched up to an artist in a way that best played to their strengths.
"The songs are like glass slippers. And then we find Cinderella and Cinderfella," he says. (It's a line he's used in interviews before.) "We paid particular attention to how that person fits that song. You'll send it to someone and they'll say, 'Ah, yes, I hear myself in that song.'"
Most of Santana's co-conspirators were able to make the trip to Las Vegas to record with him.
"It was unique," he says. "It was like watching babies come out. It's the same process every time, but the results are all individual. And they are all handled with love."
Handling songs with love is what Carlos Santana has built a career on. He's a deeply spiritual guy -- and he doesn't speak in empty platitudes. He believes that music has the power to change the world. It's why he kept making it, even when it wasn't always bankable.
"Bob Marley, One Love -- I believe in those songs," he says. "I believe we can inspire people -- political leaders, religious leaders -- to come together and do their jobs. Because they're not doing their jobs. They're a billboard on the freeway with nothing behind it. I do my job. I make a difference. For me, this isn't a profession. It's a way to heal. It's a way to bring people together."