It's been more than two decades since Jorge Drexler chose the path that would earn him Uruguay's first and only Academy Award, a journey that's had little to do with movies. It started in 1992, when Drexler reached two milestones: He graduated from medical school in Montevideo, and he released his first album, "La Luz Que Sabe Robar [The Light That Knows How To Rob]."
Opting for a life of music instead of medicine has led him here: At 49, Drexler is celebrating his 20th anniversary as a singer-songwriter with Mundo Abisal, a North American tour that will arrive Saturday in South Florida.
"I'm very happy with those years, and I think this is a beautiful way to celebrate, with a tour," says Drexler, who now lives in Spain and won the Oscar for Best Original Song in 2005, a first for any Spanish-language track.
Drexler received the Oscar for "Al Otro Lado Del Río," from "The Motorcycle Diaries." The film chronicles a formative year in the life of another young doctor, Ernesto "Che" Guevara, who abandons the medical profession to pursue other ambitions: helping Fidel and Raul Castro lead the 1959 Cuban Revolution.
Drexler, who also has been nominated for the Grammy and Latin Grammy, says awards are validating but secondary. "Those moments of happiness go in an important compartment," he says. "But I just spent a week writing songs by the sea in Spain, and I can tell you there's no bigger happiness than wrestling with a song for days and finally figuring it out."
Even after 20 years, Drexler still feels butterflies in his stomach when he begins a new project. "I'm just as nervous when I start writing a song, and just as excited when I finish it," he says. "I'm still on the same quest, with the same appetite and yearning of writing."
His most recent album, "N," was released as an app and features lyrics performed by Drexler and other artists that users can combine to create their own songs. "I was drawn by the possibility of treading new, unknown terrain in music," Drexler says. "There are 100 verses recorded by 10 artists [in the app]."
Playing "N" live is complicated, but it allows Drexler to improvise and interact with concertgoers. "I pick out three or four people in the audience, and they come up and change the text on an iPad. It's a special moment," he says. "Instead of hearing the result through headphones, I sing whatever verses they combine."
His next album won't be as experimental.
"I try not to make the same joke twice," he explains. "It will be almost the opposite of "N," which was a poetic combination with an emphasis on math, full of infinite songs that can be reshuffled. This new album will have regular songs that can be played and danced to."
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12
Where: New World Center, 500 17th St., Miami Beach
Contact: 305-673-3331 or NewWorldCenter.com