Ricky Martin has scored No. 1 singles in English and Spanish. He’s performed on Broadway, survived a boy band and melted hearts as a soap opera star. (Miguel Morez, y’all, on “General Hospital.)
What’s left, then? Starting his own company, of course.
The crossover superstar has launched Martin Music Lab, a collaborative effort focused on Orbital Audio, a technique that creates an “immersive” headphone listening experience. The idea is that every element of the music is swirling — or orbiting — separately around your head. The next level of Surround Sound.
Martin debuted Orbital Audio on the July rerelease of his “Pausa” EP, which features collaborations with Sting and Bad Bunny, one of several artists who has already signed on to use the patent-pending technology. Martin has partnered in the venture with Grammy-winning mix engineer Jaycen Joshua and music engineer Michael Seaberg.
Martin and Enrique Iglesias are scheduled to perform Sept. 11 (next year) at Toyota Center, assuming things are back to some sort of normal. Until then, he talked over Zoom about his new venture, surviving a pandemic and his four Latin Grammy nominations.
Q: How did Orbital Audio first enter your, um, orbit?
A: I’m gonna give a lot of credit to this pandemic and the level of anxiety that I was going through when it all started. I wasn’t feeling comfortable in my skin because of the uncertainty that I was living. I told my team, “I don’t know what’s gonna happen, but I know something amazing, we will create. We need to invent something powerful that can help people heal.” I had no idea what that was going to be. I didn’t know if it was a cream to relax your muscles. Two weeks later, I was introduced to this immersive audio technique that has been out there since the ’70s.
Q: It must be a strange feeling to find something in the music industry that feels completely new.
A: I thought I knew stuff about music because I’ve been doing this for a long time. I heard it and said, “This is really cool, but it needs to be perfected.” Brother, be careful with the vortex, man. Arrogant as that sounds, yes, but we gotta think big. I started working with Jaycen Joshua. He’s an incredible producer, mixer. I was very specific about what I wanted. How can we do this? And then all of a sudden, I don’t know what happened that I was able to grab the cello and make it go around my head. And then I grabbed the percussions and the same. My vocals, the same.
Q: What are your ultimate goals with Orbital Audio?
A: The intention is about healing. We were having fun with our music, but all these tentacles started coming out of Orbital Audio of things that we can do. We can do gaming. We can do wellness apps. We can do television, film. And then it became this snowball of things and options that we could get. Where’s Ashton Kutcher? He’s gonna come up and say, “You’ve been punked. This is all a big lie.” No, this is as real as it gets. A lot of people have been trying to do this for a long time, and it was impossible for them.
Q: What was it like hearing “Pausa” in Orbital Audio the first time?
A: I’m gonna share with you something very personal. My mom was locked in here with us because she came to visit her grandkids and all of a sudden, boom, pandemic. “Mom, you’re not going anywhere.” She stayed with us for five months. She walks in when I was listening to my music in my working space, and she’s like, “Son, my son, what’s going on? Are you OK?” I was crying. I’m like, “No, mom, I’m sorry, I’m just listening to my music, and I’m very happy with what I’m hearing.” So that’s where we are. Music, after so many years, this is what it’s creating in me emotionally. The magnitude of it is really interesting. I feel a lot of peace every time I press play.
Q: You’ve said it’s important that this technology is accessible for everyone, from $5-$500 headphones.
A: I want this for the masses. Remember, the intention is healing. I want to bring this to schools. I want to bring this eventually to rehabilitation centers where people are dealing with PTSD or Alzheimer’s or maybe stroke victims. Maybe we can create something. This is all in the making. What I’m sharing with you is based on the desire for this to happen. We’ve been talking to people in the medical field who say, “There is something here.” Even for kids with dyslexia. Listen, the possibilities are endless.
Q: What’s the balance like of dad, husband, artist while wading through a global pandemic?
A: A lot of people say, “Ah, Ricky, you have no issues. You live comfortable in your house, and you have space,” blah, blah, blah. I understand that there are people out there that are really struggling and suffering, people that have lost their jobs, lost their homes. They’ve been forced to be locked in a house with someone they don’t like. It’s a lot, and I think that we haven’t seen the PTSD yet. We’re still in the middle of it. I think that’s what Orbital Audio will do. Hopefully next year it will be out there already, and people will be able to reach out and find this new tool that can help them find a spiritual balance, a physical balance and a mental balance.
Q: Have you always looked to music for stress relief?
A: I’ve been in music since I was 12 years old. Music has taken me to the best places mentally and also the worst places mentally. Music takes you to moments of joy and moments of sadness at the same time. When you are part of this industry, all of a sudden you go into this automatic mode when people ask, “How are you?” And you feel horrible. But you say, “Good, thank you, how about you?” Not anymore. I don’t want that. I want to really feel, and that’s what music does to me. Music puts me in touch with my emotions, and music has allowed me to feel things I never felt before. I didn’t even know those feelings had names. That’s what music is for me. It’s like a religion.
Q: Are your kids at all familiar with your new venture?
A: I told my children, they’re 12 years old (twin boys), the possibility of them playing Fortnite with Orbital Audio. They went crazy because this is how big it could be. I’m not kidding. They ask me every day. Let’s have fun, right? Instead of watching a great movie with 5.1 (Surround Sound), now you can take it to the airplane in your earphones. You can go to the gym and work out with Orbital Audio. Everyone that we are talking with — I’m talking about my colleagues, Bad Bunny, Myke Towers, A$AP Rocky — to see their enthusiasm and to see how they react when they see their music evolving every time they press play is freaking fascinating, man.
Q: “Pausa” earned four Latin Grammy nominations, including album and song of the year. Is it still exciting?
A: Yes, of course. Bring me the artist that says, “Oh, I got nominated. No big deal.” BS, BS, BS! It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in this industry and how many times you’ve been nominated and how many Grammys you have in your house. Every time you get that phone call in the morning, “Congratulations, you’ve been nominated,” you celebrate. My first Grammy was in 1999, and to be nominated today in such great categories, with people that have been doing great things for music … and then, when you have in your comments on social media, people saying, “Thank you for ‘Pausa.’ It has become the soundtrack of my quarantine, of my pandemic,” that’s all you want. You’re never gonna get tired of that.