Interview by: Becca Horne
Trying to write something that hasn’t already been written about Raul Midón is challenging. He has been featured frequently in: The New York Times, The Guardian, and in just about every relevant music magazine around the world — not to mention his countless television and radio performances and interviews. This singer-songwriter’s talent, heart and authenticity comes through in everything that he does. The fact that so much has been written about Midón pays homage to the wonderful spirit that resides inside the artist.
Midón was born in the United States, in New Mexico — in the 1960s. An era in which, according to Midón , “Music was really relevant: It was about something.” Midón’s father was from a musical background and introduced him to a wide variety of music at an early age. By the time Midón was old enough to hold his first guitar, the proverbial “fire” had been lit in his soul, and the “Muse of Music” claimed Raul Midón as her own. Midón began his career after graduating from the University of Miami—a university known for their intense Jazz curriculum. After graduating Midón became a session singer, and started working with the crème da la crème of Latin music. He then toured with musical superstar, Shakira, and eventually found his way to New York.
The list of musical royalty Midón has recorded and performed with is nothing short of incredible. The names: Stevie Wonder, Jason Mraz, Bill Withers, and José Feliciano, are just a few personalities Midón can add to the pages of his own musical legacy.
Midón’s new album, Don’t Hesitate, is a self-produced endeavor and has received accolades from both fans as well as his peers.
Here are the highlights from a recent conversation Midón had with, Becca Horne from Jazz in Europe, about art, inspiration and producing :
Becca Horne: Do you think artists have a responsibility to share their gifts and talents?
Midón: I think that as an artist, I have a duty to get up every day and try to be the best that I can be. I think people of my generation grew up with the Beatles and music changing the world. I think that the music of today has become largely irrelevant compared to that. But I still think that music has the power to move people and is a very special form of human expression. And as person who has been given that, I feel it is my responsibility to do my part to try to navigate the path between doing it full time and making a living, but also fulfilling my responsibility as an artist.
BH : If you could look back 100 years from now, what would you like people to remember about your music?
Midón: I guess everybody would like to think their music would have an impact and I don’t know if mine will or not. But hopefully people would remember that I was adventurous and that I explored. I am down this path of being an eclectic musician, someone who takes from a lot of different genres and I hope that will have an impact. I think the future of music is we are becoming less and less isolated in the world and becoming more and more apt to be exposed to a lot of different music. The idea that you are a rock musician or a jazz musician or a classical musician is becoming less and less applicable to some of us. We are just musicians and we are interested in incorporating a lot of different kinds of music into what we create.
BH: There is music that is transformative. Music that we listen to for inspiration or simply to “unplug.” Who do you listen to?
Midón: There are so so many and for different reasons. Could be W.C.(Handy). Could be Miles Davis. Could be Frank Zappa or Elliot Carter.
BH: Is there a common thread?
Midón: I don’t know. I just really like them. There isn’t a common thread. I was very impacted by an experience I had. I went to a concert in New York a few years ago. It was Al Green and Cassandra Wilson, and I thought to myself, what a great coming together of what I think of as the African American diaspora of Jazz and R&B. And I was disappointed that the audience had no interest in listening to Cassandra. They only wanted to hear Al Green, and they only wanted to hear his old stuff. To me, it is all a part of the same thing. All music is part of the same thing.
BH: Can you talk a little about your experience with producing your new album, Don’t Hesitate? Would you do it again?
Midón: I think I will always be involved in producing, once you have that power, once you learn it, I think you always want to be involved. I think maybe I won’t do everything myself next time. The engineering was so time consuming. I was in front of a computer 12 hours a day. The creating and dealing with all the technical aspects was a little much.
But I think I have always produced myself. I just didn’t get credit for it. Of course I have worked with some great people like Joe and Arif Mardin. They have been very important to me. But I think that I will always be involved.
BH: As a singer-songwriter, what inspires you?
Midón: “I really think it’s important for people who write to read. I try to be reading some work of literature all the time–- maybe a novel, even a Thriller. I go through phases. I just got through reading all of the Oscar Wilde plays. We always have to be looking to people who do what they do really well. So for me reading is very inspiring. I have resigned myself to being “the artist” instead of the guy who writes commercial pop songs. But if something I write becomes a commercial hit, that would be great. I really need to be challenged both musically and lyrically. I try to write the kind of music I want to listen to.”
BH: As a parting question, can you talk a little about Jazz and what it means to you?
Midón: The Jazz part of what I do, and the thing that I love about Jazz, and the thing that makes me go back to Jazz, is that Jazz is freedom. Jazz the ultimate expression of freedom–but a freedom through discipline. To become adroit, you have to put in the time learning your instrument and the intellectual time to understand the meaning behind that freedom. Jazz is the ultimate freedom.
TIP: For our readers in the Netherlands Raul will be performing on the 27th of March at “Gebroeders de Nobel” in Leiden and on the 28th at the “Tivoli Vredenburg” in Utrecht. For more dates from his coming European tour click here.