Known for being prolific and turning out hits consistently as a regional Mexican artist, it took Ortiz an unusually long three years before his latest album, Comeré Callado (or Eating Quietly). But it was all part of a purposeful step back to find the right balance in a career that began at age 8 after moving from his native California to Mexico.
“I’m much more mature now,” Ortiz said recently during an interview at the Billboard offices in Los Angeles. “I’m more responsible.”
Ortiz said that his current album is themed around decisions in life, whether good or bad. “This album is about family, values and decisions,” Ortiz said. “In life, you pick the direction you want to go in.”
And sometimes, admits Ortiz, there are mistakes. Last year, his music video for “Fuiste Mia” -- which showed a woman being stuffed into a car trunk and set on fire by her angry lover -- set off a maelstrom of controversy. A contrite Ortiz later apologized.
“The song was well-received when it was released on YouTube, and it was played everywhere,” he says now. “Then the video was born. Some people can see [the video] as a bad thing. I do my music and others create stories [for those videos] … I offered [fans] my apologies for the misunderstanding. The intention wasn’t to offend anyone.”
Ortiz’s new project includes 16 tracks, mostly norteño music, presented as Volume 1 with a mix of romantic songs, corridos and intricate orchestrations that include the tuba, guitars and a vibrant traditional style that also has a fresh feel, as Ortiz always tries to bring a modern take on the genre without losing the appeal of the music that has literally millions of followers worldwide.
First single “Para Qué Lastimarme” (Why Hurt Me), a ballad, is at No. 16 on Hot Latin Songs this week. Here are a few things you may not know about the new album, which dropped Friday:
Two is better than one: Instead of delivering one album, Ortiz decided that two volumes would work best and divided the project between norteño and banda music. In fact, around September, Volume 2 will go on sale and will feature new music, including a duet with Latin pop and bachata singer Prince Royce.
To play or not to play: Although Ortiz has a strong touring schedule, both domestically and internationally, he may not be allowed to play his music in some parts of Mexico where narcocorridos are forbidden. Known for writing about the drug-trafficking world, Ortiz (like other acts in the genre) has faced major criticism from government officials. An upcoming fair in Tijuana, Mexico, may not allow Ortiz or Los Tucanes de Tijuana to perform.
“There is going to be a moment when all this ends,” says Ortiz. “Narcocorridos have gone through an evolution that’s part of a history and it cannot be stopped. The theme of narcos and mafia has become very popular; you can see it on TV shows and everywhere you turn. Those people in government who are well-studied need to understand that this music is something very important.”
Back to basics: Even as Ortiz has always kept his sound current without losing the traditional sound of his musical roots, it’s this album where he goes back to the music that started it all. Traditional Mexican music that makes good use of guitars and the tuba give the album a strong overall tone that nicely connects the dots musically, making it appeal to younger and older fans of the genre.
Breaking into the top: In January, Ortiz notched his eighth No. 1 on the Regional Mexican Songs airplay chart with “Regresa Hermosa” and earned the record for the most No. 1s among solo artists in the history of the 22-year-old chart. That means he broke the tie for the title with the legendary Vicente Fernandez.
The Ortiz experience: Ortiz has booked several in-store appearances with fans hoping to buy the album and say hello. Catch him in San Diego on Tuesday (June 27); Phoenix on Wednesday; and Anaheim, California, on Thursday.