Nelly Furtado Fires Up Passion For Latin Music, Records Spanish LP

'I always wanted to be an international artist,' singer says.

NEW YORK — She’s dabbled in it before, but now Nelly Furtado wants to go all the way — and why not, considering Christina Aguilera, Shakira and Jennifer Lopez have all done it? Record albums en Español, that is.

“I’m in the midst of recording a Latin album,” Furtado revealed when she stopped by the MTV offices Wednesday. “It’s like, ‘Wow, I’m writing a song in Spanish.’ It’s really bizarre, but really great.”

Furtado, who grew up speaking Portuguese, didn’t learn Spanish until she was in high school at age 14. Although she has sung a few songs in Spanish already (such as “Te Busqué” on Loose), this is the first time she’s attempted to write songs in Spanish from scratch.

“I feel like a little kid again, because it’s a whole new language,” she said. “And I can’t translate poetically yet. But Latin languages come easy to me. When I sing in them, it feels natural. It feels organic. I love rapping in Spanish, I love singing in Spanish. It just feels so good.”

Still, the first time she attempted singing in Spanish, on her 2002 duet with Juanes, “Fotografí,” she was worried that the reception wouldn’t be so positive. “Right away, I was tentative,” she said. “You don’t want it to come off as a commercial attempt to gain a new audience. You don’t want it to be fake.”

Instead, the song was a hit in the Latin world and was named BMI Latin’s Song of the Year. Encouraged, Furtado started putting more and more Spanish songs in her repertoire, especially while recording Loose, which also features the reggaetón-inspired “No Hay Igual” (see “Chris Martin Covers Jay-Z — And Other Scenes From Nelly Furtado’s Loose ).

“When I arrived in Miami, it was all about reggaetón,” she said. “I arrived not knowing who Daddy Yankee was, to [now] loving Daddy Yankee. I love the music because it’s so grassroots, so independent, so reflective of what’s going on in the streets, so authentic. It’s not taken over by the corporate world. It has fire. And it’s great that a Spanish music is so popular right now in America, since it’s the second language of this country. What I hear in reggaetón, the sexiness and the delivery, it just so feels so good.”

For her Latin album, though, Furtado plans to include her previous songs in Spanish, a couple of translations of album tracks and B-sides, a few new original songs and a possible cover. For translations, she’s focusing on her more acoustic, singer/songwriter tracks, such as “Try” from Folklore, and “In God’s Hands” and “All Good Things (Come to an End)” from Loose. Musically, she’s taking her cues from Portuguese and Brazilian music as well as Spanish, “so it’s a nice fusion.”

“It’s definitely a different mood,” she said. “It’ll be a completely different style recording, with even the vocals mixed differently. It’s taking on its own identity, a whole new character.”

Furtado is working on the record until her tour starts February 16 in Manchester, United Kingdom, but even that won’t stop her. “You can do a lot on the road, you know? Record anywhere you want. It’s quite possible with portable studios,” she said. For now, Furtado’s tour takes her through Europe and Canada until the spring, at which point she’ll play some U.S. dates and then hit a few other continents. “Justin [Timberlake] and I talked about touring Latin America or Asia or Australia together next year,” she said. “It’s all just kind of in the works” (see “Furtado Lines Up Special Guests: Timbaland, Chris Martin, Justin?” ).

“I’m excited,” she added. “I always wanted to be an international artist, and it’s more of a true artistic experience when you just let yourself go and not judge, and be a sponge. My parents listened to Julio Iglesias and stuff like that — bilingual, trilingual — and those types of artists were real icons.”

The North American portion of Nelly Furtado’s international tour, according to her Web site:

» 3/21 – Victoria, BC @ Save on Foods Memorial Centre

» 3/22 – Vancouver, BC @ General Motors Place

» 3/23 – Kelowna, BC @ Prospera Place

» 3/25 – Grande Prairie, AB @ Crystal Centre

» 3/26 – Edmonton, AB @ Shaw Conference Centre

» 3/27 – Calgary, AB @ Pengrowth Saddledome

» 4/4 – Toronto, ON @ Air Canada Centre

» 4/5 – Montreal, QC @ Bell Centre

» 4/6 – Ottawa, ON @ Scotiabank Place