When international rock star and humanitarian Juanes began putting together his new memoir, “Chasing the Sun,” he started with pictures. The handsome book, nearly 300 pages, is filled with the kind of candid shots that fans will eat up, from his days as a pudgy schoolboy to angry long-haired rocker skirting the violence of Medellin, Colombia, to recent scenes on tour and in Miami, where he now spends most of his time.
But when it came time to provide words to put the pictures in context, Juanes says he found unexpected catharsis.
“Sometimes going back to those days, of course, was painful. But it was also part of the therapy,” he says from his home on Key Biscayne. “I wrote the book not expecting anything. After I finished, I feel much better.”
Juanes will sign copies of “Chasing the Sun” ($28.95, Celebra Books), which will be published in English and Spanish (“Persiguiendo el Sol”) versions, on Monday at Books & Books in Coral Gables.
The book, due in stores on Tuesday, comes at a high time for the 40-year-old singer: He just won a Grammy Award for the “MTV Unplugged” album recorded last year at the New World Center on Miami Beach, and he’ll soon be on a tour that brings him to Hard Rock Live in Hollywood on June 27.
But the stress of that kind of success is a recurring theme in “Chasing the Sun,” which is depicts a near-constant ebb and flow of creative euphoria giving way to a disillusioned search for new ways to express himself and guilt over missed time with his family.
“I wanted the fans to be able to connect with me even more than with the songs or the politics,” Juanes says. “Just to understand where I am coming from, to give them more clarity about who is the man behind the guitar and the microphone.”
In the book, the singer-songwriter is frank about the toll his relentless touring and recording took on his marriage and his relationship with his children. There is plenty of self-flagellation, but for those keeping track of such things, Juanes whistles past the old girlfriend rumors.
“The things I put in my book are things I wanted to share … It is always good to have privacy,” he says.
Some of the most vivid sections of “Chasing the Sun” include his pre-teen discovery of rock ‘n’ roll via much-traded cassettes of bands such as Metallica, Iron Maiden, Slayer and Kiss, and the joy and pain of running the streets of Medellin, where guerrilla violence would claim a friend and a cousin.
“The first time I listened to Iron Maiden and Metallica, I couldn’t believe it. It was angry. It had an energy I didn’t find in any other kind of music,” he says. “At that time in Medellin, there were many difficult situations. That music gave me strength I didn’t have.”
If you’re a little nervous as you step up to meet Juanes at Books and Books on Monday, he knows how you feel.
About nine years ago, Juanes says, he found himself at a music industry event with one of his heroes, Iron Maiden’s drummer, Boca Raton resident Nicko McBrain. The meeting was brief but memorable.
“I said to him how much I respect him,” Juanes says. “I’m sure he doesn’t remember me, but that night was very important to me.”
“Chasing the Sun” devotes several pages to Juanes’ controversial 2009 Peace Without Borders concert on Havana's iconic Plaza de la Revolución, which came at time of creative crisis brightened by the birth of his first son, Dante.
The concert, which was not well received in anti-Castro communities and reverberated throughout Latin America, drew a crowd of more than 1 million to see Juanes and such acts as Miguel Bose, Carlos Varela, Olga Tanon and Los Van Van.
In the book, he writes: “Dante’s birth and the concert in Cuba became a watershed event that defined my life. It was as if an unexpected force I never knew I had crashed over me in a powerful, definitive wave. Those two events, only eight days apart, generated a compelling change inside me. The concert in Cuba showed me the two sides of every coin –– love and hate, right and wrong, lies and truth –– and I witnessed the frustration and ultimately the joy of seeing over a milllion Cubans singing and dancing. Cuba taught me how to recognize true friends.”
Asked to explain, Juanes says: “When you go through difficult moments, you recognize who your friends are, who are your real friends, and who are not your friends. [The concert] was true to my heart and my soul. I feel the same way now. I am proud of that show.”
Juanes doesn’t think he lost any real friends due to the concert, but says he took some “unfair” hits from public officials and media. He doesn’t hold any grudges. “I know where their pain is coming from,” he says.
Elsewhere in the book, Juanes explores his renewed relationship with God (“It’s not religion … I believe in God in my own way”) and recounts his UFO experience over Lake Geneva that created a pop-culture blip last year. He stands by what he saw.