On a surprise Birthday trip to see Los Brazos, I got talking to William Gutierrez, the band’s lead singer & guitarist. The conversation flowed and it actually felt like I was interviewing him (if I’m being honest! Haha) Anyway, I went on to ask him, if he could officially go ‘on the record’ for me and he agreed, to my delight!
Fast forward nearly a month later and William takes us back to where his musical journey began bringing us right up to present day.
“My parents both played guitar, some of my relatives also and some how, engineering and music has been strongly present in both my mother and father’s families since I could remember. Whenever there was a celebration, my parents used to sing and play for us and we used to join in. I’m the 7th out of 10 brothers and sisters and as you can imagine, it was so much fun that you couldn’t help but join the party. In all seriousness though, I honestly can’t remember the exact moment in my life when I decided to pick up a guitar and play, but, I clearly remember Stevie Ray Vaughn’s Live at the El Mocambo, along with the old rock and roll records my older brothers and sisters used to listen to; that music somehow shook me inside and maybe I t was when I was 12 that I truly realised I needed a guitar.”
“The first song I ever learned to play on guitar was….(insert drumroll)…..La Bamba! Which was followed by ‘Johnny B Goode’ and ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ and you know something, I still come back to those songs every now and again, there’s a lot to learn out of those vibes, riffs, and rhythms and you always find something new. I guess ‘Yesterday’ was the first ‘complex’ song I learnt (more than three chords, wow!), I was taught by an Australian guy named ‘Expo’ who had used a type writer to put together a whole book which included a lot of lyrics, I actually made a copy for myself (no internet back then either!), and those all time classics have been a source of learning and inspiration ever since. I owe a lot to that guy and unfortunately I haven’t seen him again.” Added William.
“The decision to create music came way later, I gathered all the bits and pieces of music that I had treasured through time and when we founded Los Brazos. My mates helped me out a lot at the beginning with putting it all together. Before this, I just had pieces, ideas, and one or two songs. I never had an idea of what to say -with a very few minor exceptions- until I met my bandmates. You know, Our music has evolved very naturally, We don’t have a closed or certain style of music: we just play everything that sounds good to us. We don’t care about a certain rhythm or chord pattern, we are open minded to any source of inspiration, and that makes our music flow in multiple directions. Sometimes we take an idea and make two songs out of the same starting point. We are very lucky that ideas seems to flow whenever we are together.” Adds William
“You know when musicians have dreams to play with other musicians? Well, I love playing with my mates. I feel honoured and lucky every time I have the chance to share a stage with them. If I had to decide between, them and Paul McCartney, I would have to apologise to Sir Macca because I really like my mates!”
“I’m lucky in a sense, that I learn out of all the music I listen to: it doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad: if you keep your ears wide opened you’ll learn out of anything you listen to. You can learn what to do and also what not to do. There’s many musicians from all eras I like. Some of my favourites are Brian Setzer, The Beatles, Creedence, Ben Harper, Black Crowes, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Tom Petty.. among many others all over the world. But I guess I especially like the ones who keep their mind open and are really passionate about their job. I like the guitar obviously… haha and I used to focus on guitarists, but I listen to almost any musician who cares about the music instead of himself. I actually write our songs, but I try to fill the lyrics with the whole band’s philosophy, so it’s somehow a joint effort. The main topic could be all the behaviours and feelings that are common to all the people in the whole world (thats a lot to talk about, by the way). It could change with time, I don’t know. By now, I’m a bit obsessed with the idea that we can all live better if we open our eyes and heart to the people next to us.” Continued William.
“I actually remember the first music I bought, it was Rage Against The Machine. In regards to recent music, I’m not as updated as I would like. But, I really dig Ben Harper’s, Jim Campilongo and Blackberry Smoke’s work. Those artists are reinventing the spirit of blues, jazz and the rock and roll pioneers of yesteryear.. I have to admit that I enjoy listening to this sort music and treat it as a master class. I enjoy the sense of mindfulness. When I want an empty mind or to just sing and dance, I listen to rock and roll and anything from Mumford & Sons to Stay Cats. I have to make an effort to let my mind fly when there’s music on. Digressing slightly, My fondest musical memory was probably my school’s music teacher, who loved James Taylor and any of the parties with my family, especially before dad passed away. I miss him so much.” Continued William.
“We are always working on a lot of things at the same time. Right now I’m dealing with some live recordings of Los Brazos, we are also preparing new music and we will probably release some new songs next year. We are always working hard to open doors in other countries and get some communication bit by bit. So far, We have toured all over Spain and also in the Midwest of the USA in 2013, where we played a bunch of gigs in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Milwaukee, we had an absolute ball there!
Personally, we prefer the small venues, We find that being so far away from the audience in the bigger venues is cold We actually love to sweat with the people! Oh and we are almost fully booked for 2017, check our website for details and come see us!”
“As a band we have faced many different challenges, Playing venues far from home, making the best recordings with our limited budget… and well, we are a rock band, singing in English and living in Spain, where, as you know, most of the people simply don’t speak English. This makes it hard for people to understand our message and to understand what we are about. But then again, I guess our attitudes have overcome that problem haha. Our main challenge now is being able to reach a bigger audience to make our next record more successful than the last.” Continues William.
“We all find the internet has helped us and also has a very good influence in general, it has forced all the musicians to improve their sound, public image, and has brought old music closer to new audiences, and new music to the older generation… seems a fair deal, though money is always in the same pocket. Also, internet forced the resurgence of live concerts, what’s probably the most important part of music.” Adds William
“Myself, Txemi & Koki share the idea that music is a very interesting part of our lives, but it’s not the only thing. Neither is it, the most important. We try to take a lot of care in our work, with our friends and families, but, not necessarily in this order.” Continues William
Some people may not realize but William actually designs all the artwork for their albums and he goes on to explain about where the idea came about for their most recent album….
“The artwork for GAS was inspired by a World War II squad named the Black Sheep Squadron, led by Greg “Pappy” Boyington. As it happens in almost any war, but especially in those times, those guys were pure pioneers who sat on the top of a 1.000 horse power motor loaded with 2.000 lb (900kg) of bombs. You have to have guts to be the first in flying a hacked-motor airplane, more if you are doing it to stand up for your country, your mates, or even yourself. Lots of pilots died in accidents caused by the lack of knowledge, experience or just by the development of the technology. I found the idea quite interesting, as I have never risked my life other than checking my phone in my car (DON’T DO THAT). It must be very hard for anyone. So, the artwork is mainly inspired by the F4U Corsair aircraft, the stunning machine that the Black Sheep Squad used. Also, the lyrics in ‘Black Sheep’ talk about Boyington, who had a very successful life as a fighter, but was a complete disaster out of duty.”
As our time was coming to an end, It would’ve been out of character if I didn’t ask some fun questions before we part our ways…..for now!
So, we came to the conclusion that William would like to trade places with…..
“Kim Jong Un, what?! …..I’m curious.”
If a movie was ever made about his life……
“Clint Eastwood should play me? Yes, Clint would be perfect!”
And if he were to ever gain a superpower…..
“The superpower of finding both socks when I open the dryer. That would be overwhelming! And if I could ask for another power, it would be to fly (but I would not fly with just one sock, so I would need the former first).
And on that note…..
William had to go find his other sock!