|ROCKWiRED iNTERViEWS GABY VELAZQUEZ
DREAMSGetting up from that dreary cubicle at work and telling your boss to ďshove itĒ is everyoneís fantasy, but for GABY VELAZQUEZ, it was something he had to do. After making a comfortable living as a loan officer, VELAZQUEZ bolted past the glass doors (assuming they were made of glass) and embraced the life of a singer-songwriter. Now, years of self-discipline and soul searching have resulted in VELAZQUEZís debut CD ĎLET ME INí. At times earnest and at others humorous, the 11-song set is no mere debut of yet another well intentioned, oh-so sensitive troubadour. It is a ďnow-or-neverĒ statement from VELAZQUEZ. ďThis album is my biggest shot at showing what I can do through music.Ē says VELAZQUEZ. ďItís time for me to either do this or maybe itís time to make a left. The album grew out of my need to take my music to the next level.Ē
GABY VELAZQUEZ TALKS TO ROCKWiRED
ABOUT HiS DEBUT CD LET ME iN
GiViNG UP THE DAY JOB FOR MUSiC
AND THE POWER OF SONGWRiTiNG
iNTERViEWED BY BRiAN LUSH
ROCKWIRED spoke with GABY VELAZQUEZ over the phone. Here is how it went.
LET ME IN is a great CD!
Thank you very much! I appreciate it. I put a lot of hard work into it. Itís been along time coming with other acts and other bands that Iíve played with in the past few years. It took a while to get to this point and Iím really proud of it.
When you mention other bands that you were involved in, are you saying that this project was something that had to be put on the backburner?
No. It was more about me finding my voice and just figuring out what I do best as a musician and really just going for that. The other bands that I was in, I was just a member and everyone would have to come together to decide how things were going to go. On this album, I controlled everything and I went out and sought every player on the album. Each player is like an all-star from the Bay Area. Theyíre all absolutely amazing musicians. I knew these guys after having been in other bands. I had either opened for them, shared the stage with them or had gone to see them at one point or another. This past year, I have just started creating as many songs as I can and I went for it. I contacted these guys and it all kind of came together.
Were the songs on this album written specifically for this release or did they come from different periods in your life?
There are two of them that came from the time that I quit my job. I was working as a loan officer and I quit my job to go follow my dream of doing music. Music was what I studied in college and that was what I wanted to do but I got lost in the whole thing of having a job and making money. Through the realization of wanting to do what I want to do and follow my dream, two songs were written Ė DREAMS and SWAY. Other than those two, all of the other songs came out of this project that I started about a year and half ago. I called it ĎA Song A Weekí. I started a blog and I put up a new song on it every week. I put the pressure on myself to have something by the end of the week. Many of the songs on this album came from that.
Now that the work is behind you, how do you feel about the finished product?
I canít be happier. I financed this entire project independently. I didnít have any backers. I would record for two or three days and I would work for five days just to pay for that 2-day session. I did it that way until the album was done. I canít be happier. Iím really proud of the songs and they have a message without being too preachy. I couldnít be happier with the quality of the music.
Talk about what drew you to music in the beginning.
I grew up a total jock. I was a baseball player up until college when I got injured. I come from Cuban parents and was born in Puerto Rico and my whole life has revolved around music. At any family gathering or family function, there was always music being played whereas the average American family sits around the table and eats. My family was very festive at family gatherings. Everyone played some kind of percussive instrument. Theyíd be banging on cups and singing together. My family is very musical. My brother is a DJ in Southern California and my sister is a vocalist.
Did this baseball injury change the course for you?
Absolutely. I thought I was going to be playing pro-ball up until I got injured. I played through high school and I played very competitively. I played for TEAM USA and won some medals and stuff but up to that point, it was baseball all the way. I hadnít played guitar until I got injured. I played baseball in the fall season in college and in that one season, I played more than I had ever played in my whole life. It was baseball six, seven days a week for the whole year. When I got injured I needed a new outlet and the guitar became my outlet. I wouldnít say that it came naturally but I put in a lot of time and I think the work ethic that I learned from baseball really helped me to take on the guitar. I wanted to be good at it. I think there is something to be said about the work ethic in sports. If you arenít doing it everyday, then youíre not really progressing.
Before the interview, you were telling me that you were a Creative Writing major. Do you think that mightíve informed your songwriting?
Yes! 100%. Iím constantly writing. I always have a digital recorder with me and I am constantly listening to the world. Whatever I hear, I will say it into my voice recorder and I will go home and write it down. A lot of that is what my songs come from. Even if Iím reading a book or a magazine, I will underline a sentence and it goes into my notebook. Sometimes Iíll use these ideas right away and other times Iíll go back to something a year later and like it more. Creative Writing is probably the strongest factor for me writing these songs. Music has always been there and I love the music but I think Creative Writing really gets a spark in me.
Is there an artist or group of artists that you look to as inspiration?
Iíve always loved PAUL SIMON. He has been a huge influence on me. Iím regularly reminded of how amazing he is. And then there are more modern artists like the guitarist for PHISH Ė TREY ANASTASIO. He is a great songwriter. There are a lot of jam bands up here in the San Francisco area that I regularly go and see. I grew up with a lot of Salsa music and CELIA CRUZ and BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB. When I visit my family in Southern California, Iím regularly reminded of where I come from with that kind of music.
Talk about the band that you recorded with.
The first person that Iíve got to talk about is the drummer INX HERMAN. He is very modest and wonít talk about it as much as I would but he played PAUL SIMON for a while. He jut put a lot of heart into this project. I had an idea of what I wanted having laid down the song sin pre-production. I brought all of the songs to the musicians in the studio but INX put a lot of heart and soul into this and helped me to capture some great moments. There is something to be said when someone feels the music that much. Itís totally invigorating and totally contagious. MARK CALDERON was the bass player and a phenomenal one. COLIN HOOPS was the keyboard player and I had been in a band with COLIN for a couple of years and knew how good he was on the keys. Last but certainly not least is DAN LEBOWITZ on lap steel guitar. He is the lead guitarist for band called A.L.O. who just got signed to JACK JOHNSONís label BRUSHFIRE RECORDS.
Describe being in the studio with them.
I had to remind myself that I was doing this album for me. I say that jokingly though. I truly admire these players and I still see them in their own acts. I just saw the guitar player on Friday night with his band. I had to pinch myself throughout the entire process, especially with the song DREAMS, which is all about turning our dreams into reality. As we were playing that one, I had this moment where I was like ĎWow! This is really happening! Iím really doing this!í I felt blessed to be in that really amazing studio with these amazing musicians. I felt so blessed to call these guys my band and now Iím even more blessed to call them my friends. At the moment, we are booking shows for the CD release and Iím stoked to have them playing these shows with me as well.
From this CD, what moments stand out for you the most and why?
The song that stands out the most for me is probably LET ME IN because that song was in my head and it wasnít released yet when we got into the studio. At first I wasnít even going to use the song for the album. Then I wrote it down and the song fit perfectly with where I was at and where Iím still at. This album is my biggest shot at showing what I can do through music and the songs says Ďif you donít let me in, then Iím outí. Itís time for me to either do this or maybe itís time to make a left. The album grew out of my need to take my music to the next level.
What would you like someone to come away with after theyíve heard this CD?
Iíd like for people to come away with a big smile and wanting to hear it again. Iíve heard it a couple of times and I really tried to make every song unite the entire project and give it a beginning and end. I love music and I love performing songs and I think that shows. A song or two might be serious whereas another one may seem humorous but I think there is deeper meaning in each and everyone of them. Iíd like for a person to come away thinking that music can be a lot of different things. It doesnít have to be one genre and it doesnít have to be one voice.