February, 2014, will be an important month in the career of renowned guitarist Oscar Lopez, who is playing Cranbrook next week, Saturday, Jan. 25. In a few weeks, he will be releasing his 12th album, “Apasionado” (Passionate).
“It’s a new album that I’m doing, it’s almost done. I’m very happy with it,” Lopez told the Townsman, shortly before setting out on a “mini-tour” of Calgary, Cranbrook and Penticton.
“I’m very proud of it — it’s something I’ve done on my own. For so many years, I was recording with a record company … but now I’ve returned as an independent.”
“Apasionado” was recorded in Penticton.
“I was waiting for when the time would be right (to record this solo project), and it happened to be when I was in Penticton. I have a friend there who has a studio in his basement, and I was very comfortable there. No pressure. Most of the songs were born in that studio.
“Sometimes you fight with the creation process, and you have no idea what’s going to happen — you don’t know what direction you want to take. But it happens. The right time came along.”
One of Canada’s greatest guitarists, Oscar Lopez will be performing at the Key City Theatre on January 25 at 7:30 p.m. Known for his intimate live performances, Oscar offers a unique flavour of Latin music that incorporates a mix of jazz, blues and pop.
On the new album, Lopez composed and arranged all the songs but one, which was jointly written with a friend and keyboard player who also appears on the record.
“I promised myself I wasn’t going to put any pressure on me,” he said of the recording process this time around. “You always have to have a deadline, no doubt about it, but I said to myself, ‘Don’t push yourself,’ do it for the right reasons. Don’t do it because people want you to put an album out, or because you want to submit it to the Junos — just do it. When the time is right, it will happen organically. That’s what’s happening right now.”
Lopez said he will showcase a few songs from the new album at his Cranbrook concert.
“I think it’s one of the best things I’ve done,” he said of “Apasionado.” I feel there’s a different direction that’s happening. It’s still me, it’s still Oscar Lopez, but the music is really cool.
Lopez was born and grew up in Chile, where he took up music at an early age. In 1979, at age 25 he moved to Canada, where he launched his professional career. He recorded his first album in 1989. He has been nominated for Juno Awards numerous times, and won twice. “Apasionado” will be his 12th album.
Lopez is often categorized as “New Flamenco,” but Lopez rejects that term as it concerns himself. “There’s not much to say. I don’t know why they apply this term to me. Flamenco’s a very disciplined style. I don’t think what I play is Flamenco, not even close. I would call it more ‘World Beat.’ New Flamenco became a term for record companies to use to put the music in a box. ‘New Flamenco’ is just a word they created, not like ‘Flamenco,’ which has been around for generations.
“But you can call my music whatever you want to call it. Just enjoy it, have a good time.”
Music is more than just a profession to Lopez. “It’s me,” he said. “It’s my personality, my passion, my emotions, my sensitivity, my imperfections — my life. It has less to do with my musical technique, and more to do with who I am.
“The way I project the music I play for you, for everybody who wants to listen, it’s part of me. It’s who I am. That’s the way I am on the stage or off the stage — with transparency, compassion and honesty. I just play it the way I feel it. It could sound different the next time I play.”
In the same way, his guitar — named Rosalita — is more than just an instrument. Is Lopez a master of the guitar, or is the guitar master of Lopez?
“The guitar is my inner voice,” he says. “It’s a tool of expression, a tool of compassion, it’s a tool that can teach me. It can open the door for me to learn a new language, a new system. It’s been a tool to meet my wife, my friends, many, many musicians in the world. It’s been a tool to travel. That’s what the guitar has done for me. It keeps doing it for me — opening doors.”
Lopez didn’t record or tour for a few years, due to a battle with depression. It was the guitar and music which brought him back, he said.
“The most important thing it’s done for me — it’s been the best, the absolute therapy in the world for me. I’ve paid the price, I’ve been there, done that. Music brought me back.
“(Without music) I’d be a guy with a gun, shooting somewhere in South America. But I’m here, playing music. I am because of my music, my guitar, which helped me so much.
“Once, I even took it for granted. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I was doing it mechanically, I wasn’t doing it from my heart. And the guitar taught me a lesson — it said, ‘Don’t ever do that again, because you’re the one who made me speak. If you’re going to speak mechanically, don’t do it.’
“A guitar is a living thing, with its own personality, soul and character.”
Oscar Lopez will demonstrate the lifeforce in his guitar at the Key City Theatre, Saturday, Jan. 25. Tickets are $35 ($30 for members) and are available at the Key City Theatre box office or charge by phone at 250-426-7006.