The Billboard Latin Music Awards is the culmination of a week-long conference that brings huge stars, record execs, up-and-coming artists and radio heavyweights together for seminars, workshops and Q&As about the inner workings of the Latin music biz. Front and center will be Puerto Rican reggaeton duo Alexis y Fido, a team that has been together for over a decade, dropped six albums and has five Billboard Award nominations of their own this year, but found time help out emerging artists at the RadioShack Music Lab. They will be offering pearls of wisdom to unsigned hype Angel, Sito Rocks, Yahaira, and Eli Jas this week and fans will be able to vote for their favorite newbie online at www.RadioShack.com/rsmusiclab. The winner gets to open for the duo at a future concert plus a $5000 purse. We chat with Alexis & Fido as they arrive for the first day of work.
You have been together as a duo for ten years, what’s the secret?
Fido: The secret is that we write and produce our music; all the songs are created by us. We're trying to do the songs differently than other artists. We try to do fusion - we see what happens in Europe with the dance music, in the U.S. in hip-hop. We put all the inspiration to blending it all together.
Alexis: Fido’s personality is different, but he respects what I do and I respect what he does. I think my partner is the best and he thinks I'm the best. I believe in everything he writes and he believes in everything I write. We never argue.
Have you ever considered parting ways to work on solo projects like Wisin & Yandel?
Fido: We never thought to do that. The fans like the music how we do it together. We respect that. We're always going to be together.
Alexis: That's not our goal. If we start working separately, it doesn't work. When we came together it’s when people go crazy.
Puerto Rico is known for producing big musical talent. What were your influences growing up?
Fido: The first influence I had was [rapper] Vico C. He was the pioneer, the first artist to represent Puerto Rico around the world. We were also inspired by the salsa. It was the urban music like 20 years ago.
Alexis: Salsa, I'm a big a fan of salsa music, always, thanks to my dad and my mom. That's my big influence. And English music, hip-hop. I liked when the hip-hop movement started in the United States. I have a cousin who would send me tapes.
How did you react to the tragic death of salsa giant Cheo Feliciano?
Fido: He had a big influence on us. I saw a video of him when he was young and his style on the stage is similar to our style on the stage. We respect what he did.
Alexis: I never talked too much with him, but I know his music, his history, what he went through. He was a family guy; every time he goes to his shows he's always saying "Familia!" For me, my family is everything. When I was younger I moved to Pennsylvania to work, but I missed my roots. When I got back to Puerto Rico, this is what I was missing, my family, my music, the special moments with them. Forget it, he was one of the biggest.
Tell us about the RadioShack Music Lab.
Fido: We created a studio and we have one on one sessions with four artists that the fans can vote for on the Internet. We are going to mentor them to produce a song and talk to them about the music business.
Alexis: This is important for new talent that wants to start their career and they don't know how to do it. This is a big move. This is a big business. We have the opportunity to teach new talent, it's really important because we didn't have that kind of opportunity when we started.
What’s your biggest bit of advice for the four artists you will mentor?
Fido: They have to be original. To be successful you have to have something that calls attention to you, no matter what you sing – rock, salsa, bachata. You have to have your own style.
Alex: Write your own music. That's the only way people can know you for what you are. That way you can be on stage and you can be you.
What advice do you wish someone had given you when you started your career?
Fido: The discipline and the patience. The first years we started in this business, if somebody would have told us to be patient, nothing's going to happen in a minute. A lot of artists that learn that, you have to work hard to get everything right.
Alexis: To be honest with you, we learned from other partners in music. Nobody sat Alexis & Fido down and said you have to do this and you have to do that. It was difficult for us in the beginning, but it was better for us because you have to learn on your own.
You have five nominations for this year's Billboard Awards, which one means the most to you?
Fido: Our own label Wild Dogz (nominated for Latin Rhythm Airplay Label of the Year), because it shows how well we are doing by ourselves. It was an idea we had to start our own label, it's hard to have a label, but we did it.
Alexis: If we won that award, forget it!
How will you celebrate if you win?
Alexis: I don't drink. Maybe a lot of partying. But none with wine.