Hit Pop/R&B Singer Frankie J Talks About His Album, Priceless, His Single “That Girl,” And Writing His Songs

Frankie J
Frankie J

Within a short span of three years, Houston, TX-based Frankie J has emerged as a top artist & songwriter in the pop, R&B and Latin genres. His debut solo album What’s A Man To Do (in 2003) contained the hit ‘Don’t Wanna Try,’ and his second English album The One (2005) fared even better, reaching platinum and featuring the Top 5 hit, ‘Obsession (No Es Amor).’ J has also successfully released two Spanish-language albums, Frankie J and Un Nuevo Dia.

Currently, J is set to release on Oct. 17 his third English album, Priceless, on Columbia Records. The album includes his new, uptempo/dance single ‘That Girl,’ which is already moving up the pop and R&B charts. This single was produced by hip-hop hitmaker Mannie Fresh, and features a rap performance by platinum artist, Chamillionaire.

In a new interview, J talked about the making of his new album, how he writes his songs, and how he collaborated with several, hit writer/producers. He also spoke about his Spanish language albums, and how he alternately records and releases his English and Spanish albums. Lastly when asked, he gives advice to young artists and writers who are trying to break into the music business.

J was born Francisco Javier Bautista in Tijuana, Mexico, and he grew up in San Diego. As a teenager, he signed as a solo artist with a Canadian indie label, and later worked with veteran producer Jellybean Benitez. But he first achieved success when he joined the popular Latin group, Los Kumbia Kings, in the late ’90s. J subsequently recorded several albums with the group and toured steadily in Latin America, and they once played a concert in front of 100,000 people in Monterrey, Mexico.

Following this success, J decided to pursue a solo career, with his main goal to become a hit R&B/pop artist in the U.S. After shopping his demo to labels, he signed with Columbia Records in 2003, and released his first solo album What’s A Man To Do. J also demonstrated his skills as a songwriter, by writing the hit ballad ‘Don’t Wanna Try’ and subsequently teaming up with Baby Bash to co-write their hit single, ‘Suga Suga.’

Once his U.S. pop career was established, J also wanted to reach out to his many Latin fans, by recording his solo debut, Spanish-language album, Frankie J. This album mainly consisted of Spanish versions of songs from What’s A Man To Do. ‘I definitely want to continue alternating between the English and Spanish album releases,’ explained J. ‘My second Spanish album Un Nuevo Dia came out earlier this year, and it contains all new songs.’

For his new English album Priceless, J wrote some of the songs by himself. ‘I love writing ballads ‘ people know me for the ballads I write,’ he said. ‘There’s a song called ‘Is This What You Call Love’ on the new album, which I wrote and produced by myself. But I’m also excited about the great collaborators I worked with on Priceless. I like working with different people.’

J recruited an all-star group of hip-hop pros to co-write and produce the new hit, ‘That Girl.’ ‘My manager hooked me up with Mannie Fresh, who was working with Chamillionaire,’ said J. ‘We all got together in a Houston studio, to write and record this song. I also invited (rappers/producers) Play N Skillz to work on the song. These guys are really street ‘ they give the song that street vibe.’

In addition, J worked with other top writer/producers for his album. ‘I try to spread the love as far as collaborators,’ he said. ‘I’m happy that I worked with Bryan Michael Cox. I’ve always been a big fan of the Jagged Edge hits that Bryan did. I also worked again with Happy Perez, who produced my biggest hit ‘Obsession (No Es Amor)’. And I wrote with a friend of mine, Claude Kelly. We wrote the songs ‘Daddy’s Little Girl and ‘Say Something’. Claude is an incredible writer.’

With Priceless set for release on Oct. 17, J has been doing extensive promotion for the album. He has also begun a special concert tour of a dozen U.S. cities, sponsored by McDonald’s. J will be joined on this tour by such Latin stars as Luis Fonsi, Jeannie Ortega, Orishas and Nina Sky.

Lastly, when asked what advice he would give to young artists and writers who are trying to break into the music business, he said, ‘Focus on your career direction, and on making it. The music business is so difficult and there’s so much competition, It takes a lot of dedication. Work with the right people. If you are working with people who are just there for the money, it won’t happen. With songwriting, it’s good to write songs, to be involved in what you’re singing. But it’s also good to sing songs from other great writers.’

When asked if joining a group was a good career move, he said, ‘Yes, it’s sometimes good join a group like I did with the Kumbia Kings and learn from it. Justin Timberlake did this with *NSYNC and he launched a great solo career. Being in a popular group gives an artist a fan base. Being in the Kumbia Kings was a great thing for me.’

Dale Kawashima is the Head of SongwriterUniverse and a music journalist. He’s also a music publishing exec who has represented the song catalogs of Michael Jackson, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Motown Records.
Dale Kawashima