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Juan Zelada

Juan Zelada is a musician who sings and composes his own songs. An artist whose Moleskine is filled with his ideas, messages and hums. Zelada reminds you of a New York bar, with sounds of black and white, sounds of smoke and a sexy dance. His music takes you to the subway, the office or the train and makes you picture stories. Stories with a soundtrack, a familiar sound, of a life you have never lived. Listening to his music, to his voice, you cannot but to wish living more: driving at dawn, runaway with the guy having coffee next to you or pack your things and slam the door behind you. Juan’s music nourishes the new soul growing within in you. Maybe, that's why, he is classified in the Neo soul.

First at all, How do you get to live by music?

As with many things in life, it’s a combination of effort, putting in the hours, conviction in what you’re doing, an attitude you have when opportunities arrive, and in my case an inevitable sensation of not seeing it any other way.

I think luck is something you earn and you have to be ready to take advantage of the situations. Even though I live off my songs for quite some time, I still have the same approach as when I played in piano bars, hotels, cruise ships to pay my bills at the end of the month in London. A city thats very demanding and complicated.

The joy and passion which I always had for music, would often crash with the crude reality of obstacles which musicians face. Its a great ride where you learn from so many people every day and wonderful things surprise you not only linked to music itself.

In your opinion, is music an intimate process or a more collaborative project? In music business, do you work as a team?

I could tell you one thing or precisely the opposite! As a songwriter, I would say it’s very intimate process, even if it's collaborating with others. You are sharing emotions, feelings and other personal matters. This is also the case with your musical instrument.

As a musician that has taken part in many projects, I would say it is 100% about teamwork and collaboration. To know the technical things involved behind the scenes, a tour, promo, a recording. It is key to build a great team around you and there isn't one single formula that always works.

There are synergies and chemistry between musicians, also a musical vibe projected, songs and experiences shared with audiences. (whether it’s a living room or a festival).

Each project is a learning process, an example is a recording we made last week in a house in the mountains. Four musicians, a producer, a sound engineer, a camera man, ultimately the magnificent seven, without them this wonderful project would not be possible.

What do you think about music education in Spain versus abroad?

The training is improving in terms of contemporary music schools, and initiatives of all kinds. The level of musicians that I have seen since I returned from England 3 years ago, is very high!. Great people that give to any music style, with good attitude and humility. The problen is just that the opportunities don't seem very apparent.

There is the musical culture of a country in general, and I do see great differences, for example, with England. The respect that you have, the institution that is the BBC radio for example, which breaks with new impressive artists every year , which end up marking fashions and musical styles. To that is added the public that respect that culture and go to normal pubs to discover new people, without knowing what is going on.

You have established what you do, like someone who goes to the movies, not only because your friend has invited you, or you do your family a favor. There I do believe that Spain has a deficit of decades of cultural progress, and even then spectacular people have come out.

What scares more, a blank sheet or a cold audience?

I think a blank page! When for example you know the music very clearly but you can’t quite figure out the lyrics to go with that music., it is tough.

You can always entertain a “cold” crowd or try to reach out to them somehow. We have played in practically empty venues, however these ended up being amazing shows. I remember in Bermeo, part of the GPS tour, playing in this big hall on a stormy and complicated night, we had maybe an audience of 15-20 people. To turn the situation around, I ended up inviting the crowd onto the stage to accompany the musicians and live it from our perspective.

Following that I went down the stairs towards the floor where the crowd previously stood and remained dancing my ass off for the crowd and band together. It was magical night.

What has been the most important moment of your career so far?

There have always been landmarks which people talk about. (supporting Amy winehouse, receiving a prize for composition at LIPA from Sir Paul Mcartney, etc) and this is what is usually mentioned in press releases. I prefer the human moments more where six guys in a band are together fulfilling their dreams to be heard on English radio, go on tour in festivals and share the great experience of music.

Rehearsals where you found a unique song, recordings with magical moments which I’ll always remember (for example recording in Abbey Road studio 2, singing a ballad at midnight, which was never published but I cherish it like gold!) The laughs shared on the road in some remote location, endless anecdotes on the road and the great privilege which is to live off music and share it with people.

How is your creative process when you compose?

I usually come up with the music first, a line on the guitar or chords on a keyboard and a basic rhythm groove, I then start to improvise with the instrument and with the vocals I sing random syllables and I try and fit them within the rhythm in terms of metrics, and bit by bit you get close to something consolidated.

Another option is the opposite, starting from a certain concept like a title for a song, a preconceived idea or intention and on the basis of that, to build the music from that. The key is to have something interesting to say, whether it’s musically or lyrically. It’s a sort of musical catharsis, you feel a need to get rid off or give birth to a song or album. It’s a tiring process that wears you down, but its so uplifting and wonderful at the same time.

What is the last song you've heard?

“Sound and color” by Alabama Shakes, a work of art.

Dream collaboration?

Jorge Drexler, Paolo Nutini, John Mayer, Silvia Perez Cruz, to give some examples of the top off my head.

I am going to start writing in Spanish also (next recording will have songs in Spanish and english) and after many years abroad, I now listen to a lot more latin music done here so a collaboration with a great local act here would be great.

A word that always looks good in a song?

“something about her”?! "come on?"

If you had to create the music to a movie, what would the title be?

“Respuesta 9: “beautiful uncertainty”? “give me guacamole" haha

You have collaborated in several projects that involved brands and music (Audi, Renfe ...), what can a brand contribute and this type of projects as an artist?

Brands give you the opportunity to adapt to the medium, the format and the given context. It’s a type of applied songwriting, and the challenge is great.

If the project is good and enthusiastic, the music usually goes along with it. Its difficult if you lose control or course of the project, and you can lose the inspiration or the intent. The visibility is obviously great although it can be a double-edged sword, and you have to manage it well.

Tell us a brand that you like and what that brand sounds like.

AUDI, sophisticated, innovative, breakthrough technology, cultural input, you think they’ll end up giving me one?

You can check Juan’s work in:

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