Back on the Road
— Right on the footsteps of Momentum, Gabriel Santiago returns with a new release: Traveler. His journey in Brazilian music is strong as ever, and this time he devotes the album mostly to authorial music.
In a trio formation (Thiago Rabello on drums and Sidiel Vieira on acoustic and electric bass), Gabriel Santiago exhibits a more intimate side of his music. Playing a 12-string guitar (superb sound), a mini moog and adding vocals here and there, Gabriel pens five original songs in the album. The other two are classics from the Clube da Esquina group. Although a short album, Traveler packs in quality to satisfy the most discerning listeners.
Shortly after the album release in the spring of 2017, I had the opportunity to meet Gabriel for lunch and sit down to talk about his music and new album. As always, time flew by very quickly. To follow up on our conversation, I sent him some additional questions. Here is our chat about Traveler.
EL: Traveler shows a different side of yours when compared to your previous album, Momentum. This new album is mostly authorial. How did you choose this repertoire?
GS: It is indeed different because in reality Momentum was an album that I dedicated to play other composers. Normally my albums contain a lot of my own material. In Connections, for example, I also played a majority of other composers’ music. In Traveler I’m back to composing and playing new music, while also including a couple of my takes from other composers’ repertoire. In my conversations with Thiago Rabello, who co-produced this CD, we did talk about doing a more authorial release.
EL: Are these brand new songs you wrote for the album or a mixture of songs you had and new material?
GS: The majority is brand new, except for “Unlived Future.” That was written by request around 2012 for the University of Texas Trombone Choir. It was written to be performed by twenty-four trombones. Originally composed on a 12-string guitar shortly after my grandmother had passed away, I re-arranged it back to a 12-string guitar for Traveler. The other music is all original, written especially for this album. Some were written at the airport, on the plane, in Bahia.
EL: The only two tracks you did not write come from the Clube da Esquina songbook. They are a perfect fit with your 12-string guitar. Any special significance for those selections?
GS: Yes, plenty. “Vento de Maio” is a song I adore and listen to it a lot and play it often. I decided to record it because when I was researching music for Traveler I played “Vento de Maio” and saw that it worked well on a 12-string guitar. It was in fact the first song we recorded for the album. I thought it was a perfect choice for it. The other song, Milton Nascimento‘s “Coração de Estudante,” came up when we were already in the recording sessions. I needed another song. Besides it being a song I like a lot, it also relates to my childhood days. I used to sing it when I was a kid. It came up to me, and I thought it’d sound good on twelve strings. In the end, the song showed a certain country and Texan feel to it.
EL: Do you have a preference as to your ideal ensemble when you play your music? You often play solo, in trio format or with orchestra and big band, for example.
GS: No, I don’t have a preference, Egídio. Each performance or album I do gives me similar pleasure. Each context is different, but the output is the same. Of course playing solo I do have more freedom, but it is also very challenging and difficult. In a trio formation, there is interplay with other musicians, but you are also more under control in a small environment. You also have more freedom to open up with the other musicians. In an orchestra, there is not much freedom since you have to prepare everything in advance. You write and rehearse everything with the musicians. With a big band format, you have more space for improvisation. Nevertheless, I like all types of ensembles. They are all different and pleasing. It is the same with food and wine, for example. You enjoy the different tastes.
EL: For listeners not familiar with your previous work, what would you like them to remember about this release? What should they take away from Traveler?
GS: They should take away that it is a light album. It is also an album to enjoy at any moment, in the car or at home. I do not have any high expectations or demands of what one should infer from this music. A listener should just listen and experience the music. The album has a pleasing sound that speaks to a heterogeneous demographics because it is accessible to a variety of people. Everything is there, things that I like, the music and the way I play. This is an album that was made with love and celebrating friendships with these musicians with whom I have worked for a long time. It is a happy album, and I hope people will enjoy it.
EL: Your song titles carry a little bit of longing (saudade) and, obviously, traveling ideas (the first track, “Vento de Maio,” etc.). Is there a particular message you want listeners to get from the album?
GS: Maybe yes and no. Of course, the album title and the music carry some message: the landscape, traveling, things in motion. That’s the idea I’m trying to convey. The music I make generally has this characteristic that I call sonorous images or sonorous landscape. I think people end up associating my music with things they remember with traveling. It is very strong in me, and perhaps it is because of the fact I am away in another country.
EL: In your previous album, you recorded it in two straight session on a couple of days. How was the recording of Traveler? Were there any hurdles to overcome?
GS: It was the same thing, Egídio. It was a fast and intense process. Traveler was also recorded in about three days. It took me a little longer after that because we had more time and other things to be added. For example, the addition of the moog was done later. Vocals were recorded later, too. In addition to the trio recording, the other things caused me to take a little longer. All in all, it was fast and had no hurdles.
I thank Gabriel Santiago for making time to answer these questions. Traveler is a solid release with a captivating repertoire and high caliber performances.
Tracks (all music by Gabriel Santiago, except where noted):
- Vento de Maio (Telo Borges – Márcio Borges)
- Displaced Tiles
- Unlived Future
- Coração de Estudante (Mílton Nascimento – Wagner Tiso)