BY MICHAEL ELLIS
It gives us pride to know that we have so many unique, artistic and entrepreneurial people right here in our Wash Park neighborhood. El Javi is the epitome of this spirit. Originally from Mexico City, El Javi is an incredibly talented guitarist and songwriter who has created his own brand of music fusing flamenco with the heart of rock and roll. He has invented the unparalleled experience of Rock Flamenco. Highlights of his career include Festival of the Arts in Coahuila Mexico, The Jazz and Blues festival in Santa Clarita, CA, the Denver International Festival, The International Music Festival in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, the Salmon Arm Festival in British Columbia, Canada. and opened for today’s biggest voice of flamenco, Diego el Cigala, during his Noche Tacumana world tour in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Currently, EL Javi tours North America with his powerful live performances as he promotes the 2nd part of the Gypsy Journey trilogy “El Refugio.” We we’re lucky enough to catch El Javi for a quick look into his ever evolving work and journey.
How did you get involved in music?
`While I was growing up my parents had a huge record collection. Every morning we would have breakfast and listen to Clapton, Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, you name it!!… To me that was the beginning of it all. Then later on I had the opportunity to take guitar lessons in 7th grade and by the first class I was able to play a song. It just came very easy to me and I knew then that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life.
What was it like going to music college in both Mexico City and Los Angeles?
Each place gave me different tools. While going to school in Mexico I learned a lot of music theory, arranging and it was heavily aimed into Jazz music. In L.A. it become more about performance and the music business. I got to see what a working musician really looked like and how to take my career more seriously. There is fierce competition in L.A. So, you have to have your “A” game all the time or someone else gets the gig.
My roots are planted in hard rock. My first years of playing the guitar were mainly focused in Metal. It is a technique that requires lots of practice and perfection. Later on as I was figuring out what to do with my life, after I finished school in L.A., I discovered flamenco. At first it was something to challenge myself, but then it grew to be my new language in music. When I started composing my own songs it naturally evolved into a fusion of both worlds and it is something that I’m still developing today.
You eventually found yourself traveling to Spain to Study at the Flamenco institute called Taller Flamenco in Seville? What led you to this journey? Can you tell us about your adventure there?
When you want to learn a music style there is nothing better than to actually go to the place where it was born. So, as I was discovering flamenco, I saved my money for a year to pay for my studies in Seville. It was a life changing experience. I submerged myself in the culture of flamenco. I lived a gypsy life while I was there, hanging out in the streets with my guitar, going to shows, breathing it all in.
Also, the guitar classes were very intense. I had 1 1/2 hours of class every day for 3 months. So I had lots to take in.
You’ve called compositions an “auditory portrait.” This is a fascinating way to approach your song writing. Can you tell us more about how this works?
My music is instrumental. Without the use of lyrics I tell a story and in a sense I have to use the colors of sounds to paint that picture. It is a very different approach. Nowadays music is based on the lyrics and then the actual music is secondary to that.
I’m a huge fan of classical music because of it’s ability to take you on a journey solely with sounds. It ignites your imagination and emotions. So that is something I strive to do with my compositions as well.
Do you feel that your music reflects your own life stories directly?
It absolutely does. I really can’t compose new songs unless I have new life experiences. Each song has the essence of the times when it was composed. Even when I play them live they take me to that place, emotionally and mentally. It is my way to express and share with you all who I am. For example my last EP (A Gypsy Journey Pt. II:El Refugio) it’s all inspired by people and places. There’s even a track titled Colorado that it’s inspired on the journey and sounds of being in Denver.
How does a gypsy spirit find his way to Denver and the Wash Park area?
I moved here 3 years ago to be with my daughter. So, to me coming here was very circumstantial. Before moving I would come here to visit a lot and the Wash Park area has always been my favorite. I love the neighborhood and the people that live here are very friendly and loving. So I feel very lucky and grateful to call it home. I also perform regularly at a local venue (Wash Park Grille, July 14th).
Where in Denver do you feel you can really feed your cultural soul?
That has been a challenge for me. I do see this city growing a lot and there is plenty of live music. However, culturally there is a lot missing for me. To me culture shows in the city; its architecture, the colors, the sounds. Denver is still finding its identity.
I find myself in the Santa Fe Dr. Arts district and going to live shows (when I’m not gigging) to add a sense of that cultural balance.
Do you have any new adventures or projects on the horizon?
Always!! We are finishing up the songs for the 3rd and final EP of the Gypsy Journey trilogy so we will be going into the studio soon and I have some other projects in mind to collaborate with more musicians.
This summer we are playing some big shows, including the Levitt Pavillion on July 15th.
I am constantly carving the path for my career to take it to the next level. There’s so much to learn!
The cultural spirit of Denver thrives because of creative individuals like you. We look forward to what the future holds for you and your musical path. Be sure to check out El Javi at www.eljavi.com.