March 27, 2010 / 12:18 AM / in 9 years

Composer Piloto reflects on changing music scene

MIAMI (Billboard) - Cuban-born composer Jorge Luis Piloto was honored March 23 with the Golden Note Award at ASCAP’s 18th annual Latin Music Awards.

The performing rights organization recognized Piloto for his career achievements: For more than 25 years he’s been penning compositions that have yielded some of Latin music’s best-known songs, including No. 1 hits like “Quitame Ese Hombre” (which spent nine weeks atop Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart in 2002), “Como Se Cura Una Herida” and “Como Olvidar.”

Piloto most recently scored with “Yo No Se Manana,” which he co-wrote with Jorge Villamizar for Luis Enrique. The song spent 11 weeks at No. 1 on the tropical airplay chart.

Billboard: Now that an increasing number of artists want to be composers, has your role changed?

Jorge Luis Piloto: It’s changed in that I’ve gone from writing mostly alone to writing with others — not only artists, but other composers. It took me some time to get used to that. But the industry has forced all of us to diversify. I also think this has damaged the quality of the music somewhat. Sometimes people want to write, write, write. And I say, “Gentlemen, this isn’t a chocolate factory.” Sometimes I forget what I was writing. So, when I sit down to write, I do so until I’m happy with the result. And if that means one or two songs a year, so be it. But quantity can damage quality.

Billboard: Do you write on commission?

Piloto: In some cases. For example, (Chilean star) Myriam Hernandez came to ask me for a song, and it led to producing her album. But I don’t sit down to write for a specific artist. Some songs work for some acts, and some for others. For example, with “Yo No Se Manana,” Jorge (Villamizar) and I wrote it in my house, and we just had it there until I showed it to Luis Enrique and (producer) Sergio George. And it was a hit. We didn’t conceive it with Luis Enrique in mind. It was based on a story Jorge told me.

Artists usually call me, unless it’s someone like (salsa star) Gilberto Santa Rosa, who’s a very good friend, and I’ll say, “Hey, Gilberto, I heard this song and I thought of you.”

Billboard: Do you also produce?

Piloto: Yes, but it takes too much of my time. Truthfully, I like to write.

Billboard: With technology and radio formats being what they are, is the songwriter’s craft becoming diluted?

Piloto: Yes, and also the producer’s. Today there are few productions. I’m surviving, like other composers, because I have a big recorded catalog. My forte has always been tropical music, which is very strong in Europe and Asia. So, songs that were recorded 20 years ago still generate income for me from places like Italy. I collect from songs I wrote for Rey Ruiz and Gilberto Santa Rosa as if they had been released today. That’s my bread and butter.

Billboard: What has changed in Latin songwriting since you began?

Piloto: Language used to be far more poetic. Now it’s more colloquial. Musically, songs are simpler. With the help of computers, songs are very simple, very basic. When I started they were far more musically elaborate. Today, you have four, five chords and you have a song. They’re sometimes very elemental, but people like them.

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