It all started with laziness… (well kind of). You know when you are a kid and you have to do things to keep you “occupied”? Well, I spent about 4 years playing football (yes, American football in Mexico). I hated every minute of it. On top of that, I was probably the worst teammate imaginable. So, when a move of house happened and I was left with nothing to do, I was asked by my parents to find a sport or something to get involved in. And as chance would have it, my new middle school offered guitar classes!!! Voila!!!!
So my hate for sports brought me to my love; the 6 string instrument that became my life.
Playing the guitar came naturally. By the 2nd class I was already playing some melodies that I knew from playing the recorder in elementary school. One by one the other students dropped out of class because it was too hard for them and it slowly became a private class with just the teacher and I. He saw I had it. He pushed me to do difficult things and I was up for the challenge. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long. Because I was the only student, the school ended up cancelling the program.
But the seed had been planted. So, with my parents support I got a teacher. He travelled far to get to my place. Extremely far!! Really!! He grew my passion and helped me obtain all the basics in my quest. And with that, I became a “metal head”. I submerged myself in conquering all of my favorite songs and albums; Metallica, Pantera, Zeppelin, Hendrix you name it. Then the virtuosos, Satriani, Vai, Malmsteen. Eventually, he said he couldn’t teach me anymore because my skill had surpassed his own. I was obsessed!
Next came the time for serious study. A new teacher, Jose Coggiola, introduced me to jazz and classical harmony, improvisation and theory. From there I enrolled to get my bachelors in contemporary music at Fermatta Music Academy. They provided me with many tools and my skill level grew immensely. But, it was mostly aimed in Jazz and my teenage metal headed-heart wasn’t having it. So with that, it was time for the next move; Los Angeles, CA. The Musicians Institute.
I was 19 years old (which is super young for a Mexican to leave home) and I had a goal; to find my voice and how to speak with this instrument.
So I get to legendary LA with its iconic symbol in my mind and in truth it wasn’t quite as glamorous. The heart of Hollywood was like a run down amusement park (back in 2000, now it’s crazy). Yet, the Musicians Institute changed my life. First of all, everyone played as good as or better than I did. There were Shredders everywhere and serious musicianship. Once again, I was up for the challenge.
And alongside the challenge is where it all changed. I couldn’t just play metal or jazz. I craved something unique, something different. I wanted… No. I needed to do my own thing.
Following my experience at MI I felt lost. I stopped playing. I was depressed. Th struggle lied in the recognition that I didn’t know where to begin. I didn’t know how to turn this deep seeded desire into a life. I had come so far, and learned so much and suddenly I was in limbo. I spent nearly 4 months without picking up the guitar. With that, I went back to Mexico for a few months. I sold my marshal half stack and my rockstar dreams seemed to be put on hold.
But not for long. I returned to LA to pursue my somewhat broken dream. And then one day, instead of spending the money I had from my amp on beer, I went to guitar center, walked to the acoustic room and there she was; this beautiful flamenco guitar, Cordoba. I picked her up and played for practically an hour. I still remember feeling the vibration of her sound in my chest. The price was within my budget, and although I would compare her to more expensive ones, she had the tone.
And so there I was, a new challenge, no more big amps, picks, pickups or pedals. Only a raw relationship between the guitar and I.
The album Friday Night in San Francisco (Paco de Lucia, John Mclaughlin and Al Di Meola) became my soundtrack. It was magical to hear what was possible with your fingers alone. And then best thing happened. After spending years playing the electric guitar trying to write music and failing, the acoustic guitar gave me a voice to express and flamenco language was my vehicle.
I spent hours with books and videos the old school way. Since, high speed internet was so expensive at the time and YouTube was in its infant stages. With money saved for the first time in my life I paid my own trip and education in Sevilla, Spain. An intense flamenco program. I became a gypsy. I was on the streets taking it all in, submerging into the flamenco culture. And Javier the metal head became El Javi, a gypsy.
I wanted to stay in Spain but it seemed ridiculous to compete against the real flamencos. I wasn’t one and in truth I didn’t want to be. So I started writing my own music. It was time to create. I had all my influences to back me up and this new language to express it all.
When I got back to LA I took my first solo gig; 3 hours of playing and it was a nightmare. But why not? Next, I recorded my first EP, Memoirs of Sevilla. I think it was mostly covers with some classical, flamenco and Mexican songs. I was so inspired that I started writing my own material; all fueled by my experience in Spain and life itself. So in 2006 Gypsy Muse was born and with it the quest to tell stories with my music.
Since then the real work began. The rockstar dream is harder than it seems. You have to think business, promotion, performing, composing, website design, interviews, and emails. You name it! No more sitting there dreaming of being on a big stage. You have to stand up and make it happen. Be unique, write good songs, have a strong stage presence, speak with eloquence and write a blog 😉