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A big fan of slick Puerto Rican-born crooner Luis Miguel, Monreal believes he could convince the singer to record one of his ballads if he could pitch it directly to him. In 1998, Monreal and Griego attempted such a pitch when they attended Miguel's show at America West Arena.
Dressed in suits and ties, and carrying CDs and lyric sheets, they planned to huddle with Miguel backstage after the show. Before the concert had begun, though, a woman in the crowd accused Griego of dumping a cup of beer on her, and -- despite Monreal and Griego's protestations of innocence -- security officers placed the two songwriters in a holding cell beneath the arena until after the show was over. By the time they were released, Miguel was gone.
Monreal heard Miguel's smooth, candlelight tenor when he began writing "Me Enamore de Ti." Telling the story from the perspective of a male celebrity whose insecure wife wants to know why he chose to be with her, the song would be a natural for any of the young Latino heartthrobs currently burning up the charts.
After two demo passes at the song, Monreal let Griego reshape it from a gauzy, Latin pop ballad into an acoustic country tune, with dramatic key modulations and a string flourish provided by Nashville orchestra players. If not for the Spanish lyrics, it could easily be mistaken for Strait or Clint Black.
Listening to his prize creation, Monreal matter-of-factly says, "It's a beautiful song." Coming from most people, such a statement could sound cocky, but Monreal says it without a hint of hubris. It's almost as if he's objectively talking about someone else's creation, and in a way he is.
He often refers to a proverb his grandmother told him when he was a small boy: "If you want to keep an idea for yourself, don't share it with anyone." Monreal recognizes that by sharing his songs with the world, he has to let them go, the same way a mother bird pushes its babies out of the nest.
And if he's learned not to control the path of his own songs, he's also resisted any attempts by the outside world to control his path. In the same way that his education income protects him from having to write odes to drug dealers and street thugs, he conversely values songwriting because it offers a safety valve from the demands of his day job. In a way, he views his life as a feverish struggle to learn enough skills (cooking, bartending, teaching, magic, songwriting) so that he'll never have to be at the mercy of any one boss.
"I have this freedom that a lot of people don't have," Monreal says. "I can be at work and not be intimidated by the idea of not having a job.
"Once, when I was talking to my supervisor at work, he said he got the feeling that I didn't care if he fired me. And I said, 'You're right.' And that freedom takes the power from them. They can't control you."