Omar Velasco has toured with Jonathan Wilson and A Fine Frenzy, as well as having opened for Tom Petty, Wilco and Neil Young and now the talented singer-songwriter is stepping into the spotlight with his beautifully arranged debut Golden Child, which you can stream and purchase via Bandcamp. He’ll be showcasing the ten brand new tracks at his January residency, every Monday night at the Bootleg Theater, which he’s totally excited about sharing with everyone who attends. “I love the idea of having a consistent gig to try different things and really get creative musically. I think there’s an opportunity to experiment since a lot of the factors will be the same week to week. Also, I’m really looking forward to playing with all these wonderful acts, Jenny O., Odessa, Max Kasch, to name a few.”
The album features some standout tracks including the story-telling affair known as “Great Western City.” The galloping beat and hint of piano paired with lush, rousing harmonies make this song a perfect soundtrack for any California road trip. I was certainly ready to hit the wide open road upon first listen. “Dreamtube” may be “the reason you fall in love” with Velasco’s supple, unanticipated hit-the-dance floor number. “Family Tree” ushers the listener in with it’s welcoming, acoustic vibes and then picks up the pace with a clever mix of delicate vocals and a brush of brass. Velasco then surprises the listener halfway through with Spanish lyrics, a deep soul groove, flute solo and a whole lot of gusto, before bringing the song back around full circle with a smooth, acoustic guitar finish. If Velasco had been around in 1967 I could have easily imagined him on the Monterey Pop Festival bill.
When it came to the making of Golden Child, Velasco shares, “The process was spread out over many months, with gaps in between working periods, which gave me time to think about things and gain objectivity. This being my first album I had the chance to really draw from life experience – from childhood, even – and filter it through the influences I was under at the time of making the album. He also got to work with trusted music collaborator and fellow tour mate Jonathan Wilson which he described with great glee and gave insight as to how some of the gorgeous arrangements on the album came to be. “Working with Jonathan Wilson was like being in a graduate program at a university, I learned so much from the guy. One of the most gratifying moments would have to be when we layered strings on some of the songs. As a young boy I’d always been moved and mystified by the sound of orchestral strings, so it was a real treat to have that sound on the album.”
Digging deeper into Velasco’s personal music background and history, it was charming to hear about how growing up with an “off-the-grid” lifestyle and parents with diverse musical taste influenced him. “I have very fond memories of that time: lots of nature, freedom, exploration and heartbreak from always having to leave my friends behind as we moved to the next place. And at that time there was always such great music playing in the house, both recorded and music that we made ourselves. I remember in particular some of the west african music like King Sunny Ade and Ali Farka Toure; there was lots of afro-cuban, classical, flamenco, indian. Pop and folk too! Eclectic, for sure. But that stuff just seeps into your bloodstream and becomes part of you, especially at that age.
When I got a little older and developed my own tastes I was just into what was popular, what the other kids liked: Nirvana, Metallica, Ace of Base, Mana, (Brian Adams!). I didn’t really discriminate. I was a sensitive kid so whatever made my heart skip a beat. A bit later I really got into Stevie Wonder and to this day he’s probably my main man. He achieved in his music what to me is the perfect balance of sophistication and popularity.”
Even if the soft nature sounds heard on Golden Child aren’t your cup of tea, it’s easy to appreciate the craftsmanship, attention and care that went into the making of it, a purely positive take away from the listening experience. After chatting with Velasco, it was clear that his no holds barred passion for making music is admirable and refreshing. When asked what he hoped listeners would take away from listening to the new tunes and the residency he said this, “My hope really is just for people to enjoy the experience of listening to the music. It’s really that simple. If it’s done right music is one of those special things that can take you to another place and make you feel intensely. That’s the real business of making music: to provide that experience for the audience. And hopefully for yourself, too!”
Stream Omar Velasco’s new debut album Golden Child via Bandcamp.
Watch the video for “Family Tree” (Live) below.
Golden Child Track Listing
1. Snowy Water
2. Golden Child
4. Great Western City
6. Water to Wine
7. Birds of Eden / Modern Life
8. Family Tree
9. Harmony, Ca.
10. Great Big House
Upcoming Tour Dates
1/11 Los Angeles, CA – Bootleg Theater Residency w/ Jenny O., Max Kasch
1/18 Los Angeles, CA – Bootleg Theater Residency w/ Leslie Stevens, Alex Siegel
1/25 Los Angeles, CA – Bootleg Theater Residency w/ Odessa, Janitor