Retaining artistic control in the music industry is often difficult when the artist’s goal is to be successful. Agents and record labels poke, prod and edit the artist’s image and sound until they exemplify what the big-wigs believe will garner the most public attention – and adoration.
The best way for an artist to avoid this fate is to avoid signing on with a label. Unfortunately, in many cases, this route can leave the artist virtually unknown. But not always.
Gaby Moreno is an unsigned, completely independent singer and songwriter, and she’s also successful. She’s toured around the country as well as internationally, and has even seen her music featured on television shows such as ABC’s “Ghost Whisperer” and “Lincoln Heights.”
Student Activities is sponsoring a show featuring Moreno, as well as spoken word artist Buddy Wakefield, on Friday, March 25. Moreno was kind enough to talk with TNL about herself, her work and the road she took to wind up where she is now.
TNL: Have you ever been to Alaska?
Moreno: No, I’ve never been there; I’m really looking forward to it.
TNL: Are you going to be in town for a bit and get to hang out, or are you just flying in and then right out after the show?
Moreno: No, I actually have a whole weekend off, so if you have any tips for what to do, I welcome them. I’ve never been there, so I have no idea what to do.
TNL: Tell me about the show that you’re going to be doing with Buddy Wakefield here at UAA.
Moreno: Well, I’ve never met Buddy, so I’m looking forward to meeting him, and hearing him. But as far as my set goes, I’m going to be playing songs from my first record and also some songs from my new record. I sing in English as well as in Spanish, so I’m going to be incorporating some of the Spanish language songs as well as some English ones.
TNL: On that note, would you tell me a little bit about your style of music?
Moreno: My style is a bit of a mix of my influences. I love a lot of blues and soul; I love jazz, but at the same time I love Latin music, and it’s a mix of all that. And I’m very much influenced by old music from, like, the 1930s and 40s, 50s – up until the 60s I’d say. Anything after that isn’t really my style. That’s mainly it; it’s just a mix of the genres that inspire me.
TNL: How long have you been performing; singing, songwriting – the whole nine yards?
Moreno: Oh man, since I was little. I’m from Guatemala, so growing up there I was doing it since I was eight or nine years old. Then I came to Los Angeles to study music, and I stayed here. So, I guess for as long as I remember; it’s always been my thing.
TNL: How do you like Los Angeles compared to Guatemala?
Moreno: It’s very different. Guatemala is my home country, and that’s where all my family lives. It’s also a third world country, so there are a lot of issues that we deal with every day. There’s a lot of poverty, there’s a lot of violence. But at the same time, it’s a really beautiful country. It’s very different from L.A. – L.A. is just a huge city, you know? In Guatemala, in the city where I lived, is not that big. There’s only 2 million people living in the city. Outside of the city, is just mountains and volcanoes; it’s very rural. And it’s really beautiful.
TNL: What does your family think of you living here, and living this life of a musical artist?
Moreno: They were always very supportive because they always knew that this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to do music and sing, and they knew that I couldn’t stay in Guatemala to pursue music on a bigger level. So, they are very, very supportive. Of course, we miss each other a lot, but I go back home maybe two or three times a year, and they’re always happy to hear of all the things that I’m doing here. This is my second home, but I consider it more like my work place – this is where I work.
TNL: How difficult was it to get started up here, when you first came to study music? And how did you get to where you are now – touring around the country?
Moreno: Well, you know, it was step by step. At the beginning I was just going to school and meeting people. Little by little, opportunities started coming along; I started meeting the right people. Of course, I also had some really bad experiences; I was signed to labels and there was just…bad. But then, after a few years passed, I met some really wonderful people who helped me just sort of find my path, where I was going, and the tours and all this sort of came along from that. From friends who recommended me and friends who knew certain artists or friends who played with certain artists, and they told them about me. It doesn’t happen super fast. In the end though, it’s rewarding.
TNL: How does it feel to have your stuff on national television?
Moreno: Well, it’s amazing, of course. I feel very thankful that they’re using my songs. For me it’s kind of funny because I don’t really watch T.V., so I don’t get to see the songs being played in the T.V. shows; I just hear about it.
TNL: Is there anything else that you think I should know?
Moreno: My second album, “Illustrated Songs,” is being released on April 5, and that I will be playing songs from that album at the concert.
TNL: Thank you so much for the interview, and I can’t wait to see you up here.
Moreno: You got it.
Gaby Moreno will be performing at the Fine Arts Building with Buddy Wakefield on Friday, March 25 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are free to students taking six or more credit hours with a valid UAA ID. General admission is $10 in advance and $15 at the door. Tickets are sold at the Student Union Info Desk, and online at www.uaatix.com.