All-Star Latin Music Artist and Producer

By
Mark Small

Tommy Torres '93

Tommy Torres '93



Image Credit:

Ruben Martin

When he left Berklee in 1993, Tommy Torres wasn’t plotting the course that would lead him straight to winning a Grammy and three Latin Grammy awards for cowriting and producing hugely successful records for Latin music superstars. These endeavors were a fruitful detour from launching his own career as a singer/songwriter.

These days Torres remains in demand as a producer, and his performing and recording career is also in high gear. Most recently, his fourth album 12 Historias (12 Stories), entered the Latin album charts at number one and was nominated for a 2013 Latin Grammy in the Best Singer-Songwriter Album category. It is also nominated for an American Grammy in the Best Latin Pop Album category. [This story goes to press just before the January 26 Grammy Award telecast.] As well, Warner Music Latina released an in-concert CD and DVD package titled 12 Historias En Vivo.

During his youth in Mayagüez and San Juan, Puerto Rico, Torres became well acquainted with American pop culture through top-40 radio and American TV shows. He pored over album credits to learn the names of those creating his favorite records. Because he was largely self-taught when he arrived at Berklee in 1989, Torres had to pedal fast to keep up with the pack. But diligence and desire enabled him to graduate magna cum laude in 1993 with a demanding double major in MP&E and commercial arranging.

Upon leaving Berklee, Torres took a job as an assistant engineer in Sony’s New York studios. After hours he recorded demos of his own songs in the company’s studios. On the advice of a Sony A&R man, Torres moved to Miami to be closer to the heart of the Latin music industry. His first break as a songwriter came as he shopped his demo. That opened a door to cowriting a pair of dance songs with members of the Puerto Rican pop-rock band Menudo. Both tunes went to number one. Torres was soon signed to a Sony subsidiary as an artist and made his eponymous debut album.

But the label delayed releasing the disc and the launch of Torres’s solo career stalled. What initially appeared as a dark cloud overhead later revealed a silver lining. The execs hadn’t completely shelved his music, but they started playing Torres’s songs for other singers seeking great tunes with Spanish lyrics. In a further twist of fate, top artists cherry-picked some of the album’s best songs before Torres’s versions could get out there—but then the artists asked Torres to produce them.

In 2001 his first production work on famed Puerto Rican singer Ednita Nazario’s Sin Limite album started the momentum. Ricky Martin and Jaci Valasquez called next seeking his production expertise. Since then, Torres has worked on chart-topping and Grammy-winning projects with Juan Luis Guerra, Rubén Blades, Alejandro Sanz and Alicia Keyes, Ricardo Arjona, Jesse & Joy, and other major Latin artists spawning numerous radio hits, awards, and accolades.

Beyond his fame as a musician, Torres’s public profile grew in 2008 when he married Puerto Rican actress and model Karla Monroig, the current host of Idol Kids Puerto Rico, a variation on American Idol. In 2009, Torres, Sara Bareilles, Liz Phair, Esperanza Spalding, and four other musicians were featured in a major ad campaign for Banana Republic. Torres is in the winners circle among Latin musicians, and his future as an artist and producer is squarely in his hands.

Pages