Alex Cuba was driving through a snowstorm near Quesnel, B.C., when his name rang out a couple of thousand kilometres to the south at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas .
The Afro-Cuban singer, born Alexis Puentes, was returning home with his wife and youngest son after two nights performing with the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra when he became a Grammy award winner for the best Latin pop album of the year, Mendó,
Shortly after heavy snow began falling, Cuba said he received a phone call from his New York publicist who shared news of his first Grammy win.
“I’m still in a little bit of a shock I think. It was very surreal,” said the artist, reacting to his win.
Cuba said he started “freaking out” with excitement after receiving the news, before pulling into Quesnel and calling his parents. His father, he said, is responsible for teaching him music and that phone call was “so full of incredible happiness.”
“Mendó,,” which he said loosely translates to the “substance of the soul,” was recorded in his living room in Smithers, B.C., during the COVID-19 pandemic with the assistance of engineer John (Beetle) Bailey.
One pandemic silver lining, said Cuba, is that he learned how to engineer his own music and says that has “opened a lot of creative doors.” He is starting construction next month on his own studio to be able to do it more often.
Cuba has lived in Canada for over 22 years and has won multiple Latin Grammy Awards — a separate competition than the U.S.-based Grammys — as well as several Juno Awards.
He said when his album was released last May that his music has become more socially conscious and features special recognition of his own Afro-Cuban heritage.
Cuba commissioned Brianna McCarthy, an artist from Trinidad and Tobago, to illustrate the cover of Mendó to reflect his African heritage.