Gaby Moreno to bring eclectic sound, social conscious to Colorado Springs
For Gaby Moreno it’s about more than just making beautiful music.
“I try to be as honest as I can with my music,” the Grammy-winning, genre-bending singer/songwriter said in a phone interview from California this week. “I have a lot of songs that deal with the immigration issue. I just feel, like, a responsibility as an immigrant, as an artist, to sing about these issues and to use my art as a platform.
“If that can affect people and people feel inspired by it, I feel like I’m doing my job.”
Front Range music lovers will have the chance to experience that platform first-hand starting at 7 p.m. Aug. 22, when Moreno plays the Shockley-Zalabak Theater at the Ent Center for the Arts, 5225 N. Nevada Ave. Latin-influenced five-piece Jarabe Mexicano is on-tap to open the show. Adult passes range from $28.75 to $69.75 each, and youths under 18 are $20. They can be purchased by visiting tickets.uccspresents.org.
“I drew from many different influences – mainly from blues and soul and folk – and coming form Guatemala, I have my influences from Latin America.”
Life of a performer
Moreno, 37, has packed a lot of career into her life. A native of Guatelama, she started singing at age 5, and by the time she was 10, she was singing on stage.
“I even opened a concert for Ricky Martin, and I was singing in festivals, telethons, anyplace I could,” she said.
Her parents, she said, stood “100 percent” behind her and encouraged her performance-focused career. Of course, Moreno pointed out, they’re no strangers to the entertainment business. Her father was a music promoter who would bring artists to Guatemala, and her mother a television and radio personality.
And by the time she graduated high school and set her sights on college, there was only one place she wanted to be. Well, kind of.
“I knew I wanted to come [to the U.S.], I just didn’t know which music school I wanted to apply to,” she said.
Moreno decided on the College of Contemporary Music’s Musicians Institute in Hollywood, and before she turned 20 she was signed to Warner Brothers for her first record deal.
“I was already attending this pretty prestigious music school,” she said. “In my view, I was like, ‘Oh man, I’m set!’
“I’ve had my ups and downs of course, like anybody does. But Los Angeles has been a really incredible place for me to grow as a musician and a song writer.”
The multi-faceted musician has received critical accolades for her impassioned singing and powerful songwriting, and earned her share of awards. She won the 2006 John Lennon Songwriting Contest Session II Latin Division for her single “Escondidos,” and in 2010 she and co-writer Vincent Jones earned an Emmy nod for their original theme to NBC’s “Parks and Recreation.” The same year she won “Favorite American Latino Indie Artist” at the American Latino Awards.”
But it was her 2013 Latin Grammy for Best New Artist that Moreno still describes as “really surreal.” (For the record, she earned a Latin Grammy nom for Record of the Year in 2012 for “Fuiste Tú” and a Grammy bid in 2017 for Best Latin Pop Album.)
Finding her sound
It’s not easy to describe Moreno’s sound … even for the artist. Her lyrics transition seamlessly between English and Spanish, and the influences on her music are just as fluid. There’s clearly the rock ’n’ roll, the indy rock, the jazz and the bossa nova, so how does Moreno define it?
“I always tell people I like to let the listener describe it for me,” she said with a laugh.
“I drew from many different influences – mainly from blues and soul and folk – and coming form Guatemala, I have my influences from Latin America. I just mix it all and kind of make music that sounds good and honest to me.
“But it’s very hard for me to pick a genre.”
The concert on the 22nd, she said, will include a drummer and bass player, but rest assured, Moreno will take the helm.
“We’ll do a selection of songs from my previous five albums, as well as some new songs from my upcoming album that will be released on Oct. 4 and a few covers that I usually do,” she said. “It’s gonna be a very electric show, it’s different. When it’s just these two musicians [and me], I really have to step up and play the lead part. That’s fun for me.”
Music with a message
And, of course, there is the music that pays homage to her Guatemalan roots – both in sound and in message.
Her home country recently became the largest source of undocumented migration to the United States, The Washington Post reported. And President Trump reached a shaky immigration accord with the Central American country in July; one that Alejandro Giammattei, Guatemala’s new president-election told the Associated Press on Aug. 13 the country would be unable to honor.
Moreno said the Trump administration’s tough, anti-immigrant rhetoric has had an influence on her song writing, but she added that the political undertones to her music is nothing new. Rather, it dates back to 2010, when Arizona approved Senate Bill 1070 – which, in its original form, essentially legalized racial profiling in policing.
“The first song that I wrote about it is called ‘Ave Que Emigra,’ which means ‘Bird that Migrates,’” she said. “I remember seeing this and thinking ‘this is just unbelievable that all these people can’t see that immigrants are building this country and have been for centuries. We should be celebrating them, not demonizing them.
“It’s as easy and natural as writing a love song,” she continued. “It’s part of the narrative, part of what we’re all talking about right now. It’s an important topic.”
Check it out
Who: Gaby Moreno with special guests Jarabe Mexicano
When: 7 p.m. Aug. 22, when Moreno plays the
Where: The Shockley-Zalabak Theater at the Ent Center for the Arts, 5225 N. Nevada Ave.
Cost: Adults $28.75 to $69.75, youths under 18, $20
Gaby Moreno’s new album, “¡Spangled!” is slated for release Oct. 4 on Nonesuch Records. The album is a compilation with Van Dyke Parks.
The duo’s first single, “Across the Borderline,” featuring Jackson Browne, is now streaming on YouTube.