Interview with Juan Zelada

Juan Zelada is a musician who has been a major part of my collection ever since I was introduced to his single ‘Breakfast in Spitalfields’. This led to me making an impulse buy of his album ‘High Ceilings & Collarbones’ from the strength of that one song. I was blown away with his sound which is a blend of soul, folk, pop, funk and so much more. A few months later I had the opportunity to see him perform live and his infectious vibe was even better. Since then, I have been a fan who has eagerly awaited all new releases to see what he was going to offer his fans next.

Music has always been apart of Juan’s life from an early age, so it came to no surprise that this would continue. 2006 saw him complete a musical scholarship at Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts which he received recognition for best songwriting from Sir Paul McCartney. After that, he was ready to set his art free on the world. This began in 2010 with his debut EP ‘Story of Stuff’ which gained great reviews and momentum. The following him year saw him release the song ‘Breakfast in Spitalfields’ and this was to catapult him into the spotlight. This featured on his 2012 album ‘High Ceilings & Collarbones’. During this time, he was gaining a great reputation for his live shows which saw him support Amy Winehouse on her Back to Black tour.

He continued the trend of creating music with an infectious sound with his fan funded EP ‘Follow the River’ and then the album ‘Back on Track’. All these releases to date have so many killer tracks which you should check out including my favourites ‘The Blues Remain’, ‘Follow the River’ and ‘Train to Mexico’.

Now to the present and we have the new album ‘Be Somebody’ under the name Zelada. Before I talk to you about this release I am so happy to share a chat I had with Juan. Being a fan for a long time it was great to be able to talk to him about his world of music. This is what he had to say:

What was it that inspired you to become a musician and who helped to shape your sound?

Family jam sessions in the summertime when I was a kid was probably to blame. Self-taught father, uncles, cousins, and so on had a big influence. The atmosphere was of great vibes listening to everything from the 50s to the 90s!

I got around to “finding my sound” perhaps at the end of my time in LIPA, Liverpool, having recorded an album that got appraisal from sir Paul McCartney himself! Back then, it meant to simplify things, get to the core essence in songs, and trying to add something valuable to the music and content of my storytelling.

Your debut release was in 2010. How do you feel your songwriting has grown since then and what songs have been your personal favourites?

Since 2010, my music has evolved somewhat in maturity and effectiveness, however there has always been an importance in songs, and not so much in production. I’ve always liked the kind of timeless songs that the greats wrote decades ago. In my case it was Billy Joel, Paul Simon, James Taylor and others, I always related with doing songs honestly and as authentically as possible. Personal favourites? “I can’t love” from album in 2012, “sitting at home”, from EP “story of stuff”, Or “heartbreak” from EP “follow the river 2013, are 3 I’m pretty proud of.

To the present, you have recently released your new album ‘Be Somebody’. What were you highs and lows while working on it?

It has been a struggle, with limited time, small studio, and fitting things in like a puzzle, but in the end a bit of stubbornness has helped me through, and I’m very pleased with the outcome. It’s just musicians doing their thing, plenty of “live recording”, and songs that also talk precisely of them highs and lows. There is a satirical look into the current modern society, but also a light-hearted appeal to just have a good time, funk it up at times, and enjoy the essence of the live show which I’m doing with the band now.

Which of the songs from this album are your favourites and why?

“Be somebody” or “down easy” are 2 favourites for different reasons. The first goes back to that kind of easy songwriting when songs just come out naturally and you finish them in no time, and also adding Nina’s collaboration (great singer here in Spain from the band “morgan”) made it extra special. The second, was a long process of trying the song in 7 different ways, and ending up in square one with the simplicity of just a pop song, telling a story, easy-listening and reminding me of that essence of when people ask me; “oh yeah, who was that written by?” (this always seemed a great compliment for me!)

From your musical journey so far, what has been your personal highlights?

The music blog and trip around South America called “away with music” was quite a highlight! amazing trip, meeting amazing people spontaneously, without programing anything, full of surprises and discovery.

A trip to Eurosonic Nedersalg festival in Holland, winning “European border breakers award in 2013” and getting to play in front of Jools Holland across the massive stage..saying to us “CALL ME!” …(we later played on his show, I got to play with his band too!)

Recording in abbey road studio 2, at midnight, lights down, a song that was never released “me and my tape-recording machine”, context was quite unrepeatable! (I also got to jam on “lady Madonna´s upright piano!)

Now that the album has been released, what are your future goals for your music?

Keep on playing, keep on spreading the music, no matter the size, age, whereabouts,….always keep on grooving, always keep on writing, and allowing for my music to “touch” people in a special way. Nowadays music becomes more important than ever to bring people together! (previously just hippies from the 60s got to say that!, now in a post-traumatic,catastrophic-trump-era, music is crucial!)

I am going to get straight to the point ‘Be Somebody’ is Juan Zelada’s best work to date. I was expecting another great collection of songs but did not expect for it overtake my favourite release ‘High Ceilings & Collarbones’. What this offers is a fusion of so many different genres that include soul, blues, funk with bits of bluegrass, gospel and a few others. Not only that but it manages to do this with tempos that ranges from a slow soulful sound to an energetic infectious vibe. I have always loved these two sides to Juan’s music but this album has the balance right and this is why this is a winner for me.

There are so many outstanding tracks which perfectly showcase this balance. For example, ‘Change’ and ‘Burning in the Night’ slows the pace down. What I like about this is that it gives the listener the chance to hear how good Juan can sing. His tender soulful tone seems to flow effortlessly throughout these songs and it is wonderful to hear. On the other end of the spectrum, when you listen to ‘Up to Us’ and the amazing ‘I Need your Fire’ then the party gets started. This is when the band show off their skills as everyone blends together to create this infectious energy that it will make you move.

As soon as I listened to the opening guitar riff on ‘Oh! Mountain’ I knew this was going to be my favourite. I love the bluesy guitar on this one which ticks the right box for me. The backing vocals also give this track a great feel and of course Juan sounds great. I have listened to this song a lot since grabbing a copy of the album and I don’t think I will get tired of listening to it any time soon.

‘Be Somebody’ is a superb album that you need to listen to in full to fully appreciate the talent of Juan Zelada. You can do so by visiting his Bandcamp page (click HERE), click play and enjoy! If you like what you here then you can purchase a digital copy while you are there or alternatively grab a copy from Amazon and iTunes by searching for Zelada.

As you read during the interview, Juan Zelada is someone who loves creating music and just wants to share it with the world. This is so true, especially when you see him and his band perform as their infectious happy vibes ensures you have a good time. I hope he announces some gigs close to me soon as I can’t wait to hear these new songs live. If you want to find out if there are any upcoming shows near you then check out JuanZelada.com which is a great place to find out more about him and his music. You can also follow him on his social media sites at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Remember, musicians like Juan Zelada can only continue to do what they love with the help of their fans. Do you part and help spread the word about the music that matters to you TODAY!