Singled Out: Roxanna's Close Your Eyes
"Close Your Eyes" is a very special song for me. It was written by Lindy Robbins and Mark Portmann. Lindy has written hits for Selena Gomez, One Direction, and Demi Lovato, among many others. Mark's credits include writing, composing, arranging, and producing for Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand, Josh Groban, Christina Aguilera, Luis Miguel, and my artistic idol Julio Iglesias. Mark produced my album, Exotica, and wrote several of the album's songs with me. He's also the musical director for my concert video, Roxanna: Exotica Live, which will air on television later this year.
Mark and Lindy originally wrote "Close Your Eyes" for Celine, but she didn't record it, which proved to be my good fortune. Mark said that he never panics when an artist shelves a song, because if the song is strong, eventually there will be a right artist and a right time for it. So I am the artist for "Close Your Eyes," and now is the time.
I met Mark by chance years ago by the pool at the Sky Bar in Hollywood. I was visiting Los Angeles from my home in Toronto, and he was attending a bachelor party for one of his friends. He told me he was a producer, and of course I was impressed, but I never dreamed that one day he would produce for me. At the time, I was a registered nurse, and it wasn't until several years later that I chose to pursue my passion for music.
When I made the decision to become a professional singer, I thought immediately of Mark. Latin music is the genre that thrills me most -- especially flamenco -- and Mark is a world class expert in this style. So I tracked him down, called him, and told him I wanted work with him. He told me he didn't work with amateurs and recommended that I meet with local producers in Toronto and make some demos there.
But that wasn't my vision. I wanted to work with and learn from the best from day one. So I sang a bit of "You Lift Me Up" a la Christina Aguilera over the phone to him, and he said, "Okay, get on a plane, come to my studio, and we'll see what happens."
The first song we recorded at Mark's studio was "Close Your Eyes," using the backing tracks from the demo he'd prepared for Celine. He told me later that he wanted to throw me a big challenge from the top, and he knew that "Close Your Eyes" would be demanding for even the most accomplished singer. It goes from very soft and intimate verses to a huge bridge and an even bigger chorus. He said that he didn't expect that I would be able to do it.
But "Close Your Eyes" touched me very deeply, and I felt an instant soulful connection with the song. The lines of the chorus capture so perfectly what I had experienced so many times as a nurse, when my patients were suffering and needed tender assurance that someone would be there to care for them and help them through their darkest hours. Often to ease theirdiscomfort, I would sing softly to them. And I saw firsthand the miraculous power of music to calm and to soothe, to quiet fears and nurture hope, and ultimately to heal.
For me, "Close Your Eyes" expresses the essence of my dreams as a musical artist. And when I sing it, its message of devotion resonates through me and brings the song to life. When Mark asked me to sing it, I knew this song was meant for me, and I sang it with all my heart.
We recorded two takes of "Close Your Eyes" that day as test vocals, and it was those recordings that convinced Mark to produce my entire album. In fact, the first take is the vocal that ended up on the record. But once Mark heard me perform the song, he decided to change the original arrangement, which he felt was too slick for my voice. So he chose to surround my vocal with all natural instrumentation -- no electronic sounds -- to preserve the purity and vulnerability he heard in my performance. I'm delighted with the result, and I hope that "Close Your Eyes" will bring peace and hope to the hearts of everyone who hears it.
Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself and watch the video right here!