Raul Midon can best be described as a one-man band with a plan to provide his audience with hope in a world that is sometimes filled with despair.
Midon first gained notoriety with his vocals and performance on a side project for Grammy award winning producer and DJ, Louie Vega. As part of the Elements of Life band, Raul Midon was prominently featured on four tracks on the eponymous disc and gave the world an inkling of his talents. "Cerca De Mi", "A Better Day", "Mozzalounge", and "Sunshine" highlighted heartfelt vocals, spirited musicianship, and scats which completed a music journey through the worlds of Latin, soul, dance, and jazz.
Midon took this stage and developed a loyal following through playing in clubs around the world. Audiences saw a man on stage supported only by his voice and a guitar. By the end of the show, their original image was dramatically changed into a singer who used his guitar for a backbeat and his lips literally as a trumpet for change. Not only did this help bring new fans into his fold, but also gave him his signature sound which resulted in his 2005 major label debut.
State of Mind was critically hailed for its collection of classic pop songs with a soulful voice. With the political conscious and romantic vision of Stevie Wonder, the guitar playing virtuosity of Jose Feliciano, and the genre defying dexterity of Bill Withers, it was apparent that the new century had its signature voice in a manner that Joni Mitchell, Bruce Springsteen, and Paul Simon spoke for previous decades.
Last fall, Midon released a second collection of songs on his disc entitled A World Within.
Raul Midon's signature optimistic words are found on songs such as "Pick Somebody Up", a plea for us to help inspire others, the internet savy of "All The Answers", and the dreaming of a better life on "Ain't Happened Yet". However, "Peace On Earth" reflects a songwriter who is becoming jaded with a world drawing more divisive.
To counter songs of jaded love that have seem to overtaken commercial radio, Midon exemplifies the feeling of love in "All Because of You" and a song for Sandra.
Finally, Midon expands his sound including the flamenco-inspired "Tembererana".
For a man raised in a small New Mexico town of less than two hundred, Raul Midon made a huge impression on the music world.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Midon. What follows is our exchange.
Just days into your second major release, as you look back at the past seven years, from your days as an independent artist, to appearing as a backup singer, to performing with Louie Vega's Elements of Life band, and now a critically acclaimed artist, what goes through your mind?
What goes through my mind is it’s a miracle I made it this far. It’s also a testament to the importance of persistence. If you want to be an artist, you have to commit to it and stick to it like a bloodhound.
When listening to your music, it is apparent that you are truly a singer-songwriter. Describe the importance of not only creating, but singing, your own compositions.
The advantage of singing and playing your own songs is that there is no problem with having a connection to what you are singing about. It strikes me that sometimes I hear singers singing a song and it doesn’t sound like they are connected to what they are singing.
As a songwriter, who are your influences?
My influences are varied and some of them are more musical influences while others have more to do with lyrics. For example, I’m very influenced by Thelonious Monk musically while lyrically Randy Newman and Joni Mitchell come to mind as great influences.
I've had the great fortune to watch you live, even before State of Mind was released. The live, acoustic version of your music certainly has a different tone than your studio productions. When constructing a song mentally, describe whether you hear the final production with strings and background singers or just the stripped down version? Of course, you enjoy the final production, is there a part of you that embraces the original version?
It depends sometimes I just hear the song with guitar, record it and then build on it. Sometimes I hear the whole thing in my head including lyrics, and all of the other musical accoutrement. I’ve always enjoyed working in the studio and coming up with production ideas. For me I imagine it to be similar to working as a chef in a great kitchen where you have the ability to mix and match ingredients, experimenting until you find something that’s tasty.
Your music has a distinct positive vibe to it. By listening to Raul Midon's music, does your listener have tremendous insight into your view of the world? And so by listening to your music, can we describe you as optimistic, caring, and a romantic?
I think when people listen to this record they will find many different states of being. I become less optimistic by the day and songs such as “Peace On Earth” reflect this. However, I think it is incumbent upon me as an artist to communicate my faith in the possibilities that reside within human kind.
Your new release has a soulful sound to it. How does this release differ than State of Mind in terms of songs and songwriting?
The songwriting on this album is more reflective of the way that I experience the world. I took the time to use imagery and metaphors that rely upon all of the other senses such as taste, smell, touch and sound rather than visual ones. I believe by doing this I am developing my artisitic identity as a writer.
What have you personally learned about yourself as an artist over this two year span?
That in order to do this you have to be a bit of a masochist. You have to believe in yourself beyond all evidence.
What is the "message" behind this new album?
There is none. It’s a snapshot of my musical abilities and vision thus far in my life.
For those not fortuante to catch Raul Midon live, he wraps up another United States leg of his tour before heading to Europe and Asia. But he will certainly be back in North America soon.
In the meantime, you find out more about Raul Midon on his official website.