Gabriel Garzón-Montano Talks
Now I’ve received some exciting phone calls in my time. My first serious girlfriend telling me she had been shagging around while I was in Spain springs to mind. I WAS ONLY AWAY FOR A WEEK FOR GODSSAKE! However, imagine Lenny Kravitz phoning you up to tour the world. You and a rock legend – and not the lame rock kind, the cool kind – performing to thousands. Your good news threshold would be forever destroyed – pissing-off your mates with “that’s nothing compared to Lenny Kravitz phoning me up” for all eternity. Fresh off the back of his new album ‘Bishouné: Alma Del Huila’, Brooklynite soul singer Gabriel Garzón-Montano received just such a call. In real life. So he must be pretty good, or have access to some awesome drugs. R$N found out which….
How are you enjoying touring at the moment?
I'm having the time of my life. It’s an honour to be on this tour with Lenny. His people are hooking us up and teaching us the ropes in a very loving and ease-filled manner. I can't thank everyone in this production enough for their generosity and support.
Playing for so many people on larger stages is freeing and beautiful. So far we've travelled through Russia, Finland, Estonia and I'm writing you from Vilnius, Lithuania at the moment. Every city is so beautiful. I especially love the older parts of town.
Can you take us through a typical day on tour?
Show days we arrive at the venue by 1pm for lunch. The rest of the afternoon is spent making revisions to the set, practising and warming up. We sound-check at around seven and play the show at eight. After that we hang out.
Between gigs we drive to the next city as the tour is staggered with shows happening every other day.
Any pre-gig rituals?
Breathing and warming up.
How did you come to be on the Lenny Kravitz tour?
He called me and asked me if I wanted to do it. I said: "No I got some shit I gotta take care of in Brooklyn." He said: "Oh, ok." Then we were both silent for about five seconds before cracking up.
What are the best and worst gigs you’ve ever played?
Our show in Helsinki at Hartwall Arena was my favourite gig I've played. Worst gig I ever played was at a slot machine casino in White Plains.
What do you miss most about home when you are touring?
Sitting at my Rhodes and singing.
What is the soul scene like in Brooklyn?
I don't know.
Congrats on your album – Bishouné: Alma del Huila – can you tell us what the title means and what the driving force was behind it?
Bishouné is my own phonetic spelling of a nickname my mother had for me as a child and all through my life. Alma del Huila. Alma del Huila is another name for the Colombian municipality of Garzón, which is my father’s last name.
Bishouné: Alma del Huila owes something to my parent's respective places of origin.
How were the remixers of your album chosen?
The remixers were chosen based on how nasty their music is. And most of them are homies.
All of the remixes are on an underground, deeper tip – is there something about soul music that lends itself to be taken in that direction?
Perhaps. But I think it all depends on the source material and those re-imagining it.
Can you take us through your writing process? I’m interested in how you turn an idea to turn into a full song – how long it takes, do you start with a chorus…etc.
I have notebook filled with words, phrases, ideas or near complete poems. I have melodies and chords floating about. I have grooves I record with my phone or by overdubbing myself until I feel like the shit is funky. These come together in no particular order of importance. The song is done when it feels done.
Are there some songs you get stuck on and never finish?
There are always unfinished songs hanging around. I either finish them eventually or use them for parts when I need ideas elsewhere.
I think I read that you play all the instruments when recording – does this allow you more freedom of expression? In other words, do you feel able to express certain emotions and ideas better using some instruments over others?
Playing all the instruments allows me to make a record that is uniquely my own.
The video for ‘Keep on Running’ is stunning. Can you tell us how and why the collaboration with the artist Ryan Bock came about?
I met Ryan at an Apostrophe party and we talked shit for a while before deciding to work on the video. The process was us spending four months talking, drawing and eventually cutting out the puppets and the set he designed. The visual aesthetic is his entirely. Ryan animated the majority of the film by himself. I was his assistant and part time adviser on the video for the last month of shooting. That’s my dude.
Gabriel Garzón-Montano's full EU/UK tour dates can be found here.