Prince Royce Is One Of The World’s Biggest Stars, But He Hasn’t Conquered America … Yet

Have you ever heard of Prince Royce? If you live in America, the answer might be no, but Geoffrey Royce Rojas is a major international star specializing in bachata music – he has 11 No. 1 Latin hits, 20 Latin Billboard Awards and seven Latin Grammy nominations in the last five years alone. His first three albums have all been certified platinum (his first album went triple platinum) and more than 32 million people like him on Facebook. (For comparison’s sake, Drake’s four albums have gone platinum – with Take Care going double platinum – and he has 33 million likes.) Royce’s “Back It Up” video, featuring Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull, has more than 91 million views.

Born in the Bronx to Dominican parents, Geoffrey Royce Rojas was raised in Patterson Houses, a tough public-housing project, and spent his summers in the Dominican Republic visiting his grandmother. He learned English at school and spoke Spanish at home, and named his new album for the generation of young Latin kids who grew up loving R&B and hip-hop as well as the traditional music of their community.

He has a massive fanbase, earned from songs like “Darte un Beso,” “Corazon Sin Cara,” and his cover of “Stand By Me.” In July, he released Double Vision, his first English album. If you’re only just getting to know Prince Royce, here’s your chance to learn a little bit more about the 26-year-old singer.

For people who don’t know, can you explain what bachata is and why it is so popular?

Bachata is the rhythm and the sound of the Dominican Republic. It’s a genre that was looked down upon. Back in the day, people that listened to it were seen as low-class, or having no class. They listened to it in underground bars and clubs and it wasn’t really played on radio there.

People love bachata because it’s danceable, it’s a very sensual dance – it’s a style of music and a dance – and the music is very emotional. I grew up listening to it, and whenever I would go to the Dominican Republic my grandmother would always play. That’s where I truly discovered bachata.

I think a lot of people have the idea that bachata has always been this genre that’s [always been] a big success in Latin music, but the reality is that it’s very recent. Artists like Antony Santos and Juan Luis Guerra gave it a global sound and it started to seep into Mexico and Spain. Aventura came along and gave it a young flair and that made me want to put my own twist on it. I often compare it to country music. It’s the country music of the DR. I love bachata, and when I’m singing it really feels like I’m representing my family and where I’m from.

Is it necessary to learn to how to dance bachata to enjoy the music?

Not really. The dance is a very simple dance, basically a two-step, but you don’t have to dance bachata to enjoy the music.

What were you doing before you started making music?

I worked at a Sprint store in the Bronx when I was 17. I was in college and studying to be an English teacher – and studying journalism – and I saved about $8,000 of that Sprint money to make my first demo. That demo became my first album. Every single song on that album is the actual recording that I had done on my own while working at Sprint. If it hadn’t been for that job and taking the risk of spending money on engineers, on a studio, on musicians, that first album never would have been created. It’s crazy, though: I ended up meeting the CEO of Sprint at an iHeartRadio event one time and I was like “Dude, I used to work for Sprint!” and now I have a partnership with them! We have a commercial coming and I’m doing charity work with them: We’re doing a lot of great things together and there will be more to come.

This is your fourth studio album, but your first English-language album. Are you moving away from bachata? What was your inspiration and hope in writing this album?

I’ve done songs in English before, one or two, but this is my first real attempt at doing a full package English album where I felt I could show every side of myself. There’s a little bit of urban stuff, some ballads, there’s uptempo, there’s some Latin influence, some bachata influence – we got J.Lo, Snoop Dogg, Pitbull, Tyga, Kid Ink – but it’s not a “different Prince Royce.” A lot of people have the idea that I’m changing, but it’s just another side of Prince Royce that they haven’t heard on a record before. For a lot of people it’s the first time they’re hearing me, so it’s a chance to represent where I’m from and what I do.

So you’re not moving away from bachata, you’re just trying something new.

Of course not! I’m still coming with my next bachata album. I’m going to start recording once this tour is over. So there’ll be plenty of music – Spanish, English, a little bit of everything – for everybody. I just look at this as double the work now, and I’m cool with that (laughs)!

What was it like working with Jennifer Lopez in the video for “Back It Up” – and was it difficult to make eye contact?

(Laughs) It was crazy! She’s such a cool person! We went and recorded the song at her studio and really got to kick it. She really made me feel at home. We talked about New York and the Bronx and what train she would take and what train I would take… so by the time we got to the video, I wasn’t intimidated. It wasn’t until we took a break and I went to look at what we’d recorded and I saw J.Lo backing it up on me, looking me straight in the eye and kinda getting close that I was like, ‘Oh, sh*t! I got J.Lo backing it up on me!’ And I’m from New York, right? So I got a group chat going with my cousins texting me, “How’s the video going? What’s going on?” (laughs) It was just a great experience, and not too many people can say they had Jennifer Lopez so up close like that. So I’m grateful that I can say that and I’m grateful that Jen supported me and this record.

Five years ago you started out at clubs like Maracas on Jamaica Avenue in Queens. You’ve played all over the world, but now you’re playing arenas with Ariana Grande. What’s the difference for you with this tour?

This tour has been very cool. I’ve headlined my own shows for five years now, coming from clubs shows like Maracas to theaters and arenas in Latin America. It’s a totally different experience and it feels good to be able to perform in front of 15,000 people, and it’s good to have a production with better lights and better sound and video where you can put on a better show. Ariana and her team have been great. She’s a really nice girl and I’m getting to be in front of a lot of people who don’t know who I am and aren’t familiar with bachata, and her fans have been really great and very supportive. I am very thankful for that.

In 2012 you met President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. Do they like bachata?

Yeah, yeah! I’ve met him about three times, I just have to post those pictures on Facebook! (laughs) I think they love bachata and I think they really support Latin music. I’ve been to Latin conferences at the White House and I’ve sang the national anthem and stuff like that. I think they really support the Latin community and Latin music, I gotta say.

What do you think about the state of Latin music in America? It seems like it’s gotten more popular, but is still outside of the mainstream.

I think Latin music has always been there, and recently it’s been getting more attention and it’s getting to places where it hasn’t gone before. You’re starting to see more mainstream artists join with more Latin artists. We’ve seen Wisin and Yandel collaborate with 50 Cent, we’ve seen Drake collab with Romeo Santos, Shakira with Beyonce, but I don’t think it’s mainstream yet. It’s not under-rated, I just think there’s a language barrier. In the last five years since I’ve been making music I’ve seen it grow from when I started. Whether I’m singing in English or Spanish I feel like I’m still representing my community and my Dominican background and I feel like I’m part of this Latin movement. As long as we continue putting out new music and introducing new faces, I think Latin music will continue to grow and hopefully one day jump into the mainstream. I think it’s getting there.

Last question, for the ladies: You have three songs about kissing (“Kiss, Kiss,” “Darte un Beso,” “Seal It With A Kiss”). What makes a girl a good kisser?

I think what makes a girl a good kisser… (laughs) I’m not going to get into details, but I think a kiss is best when it doesn’t feel awkward, you know what I’m saying? Sometimes people get nervous or they’re trying too hard, so I think that a simple rule would be just don’t try hard, go with the flow and let it come naturally.