Arts & entertainment

King of Rock Flamenco makes Denver home

El Javi kicks off 2020 with new single, year of live performances

Clarke Reader
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 2/3/20

The traveling, rootless life of gypsies doesn’t appeal to everybody, but for guitarist Javier Gutierrez, better known as El Javi, embracing life on the road led not only to self-discovery but …

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Arts & entertainment

King of Rock Flamenco makes Denver home

El Javi kicks off 2020 with new single, year of live performances

Posted

The traveling, rootless life of gypsies doesn’t appeal to everybody, but for guitarist Javier Gutierrez, better known as El Javi, embracing life on the road led not only to self-discovery but confirmed that making music is his purest form of expression.

“In 2011 I was living in Los Angeles and I decided to put everything in storage and traveled Europe and Mexico, as a way to prove to myself if my music is something audiences would like,” El Javi said. “I was just traveling with my guitar and playing. It’s the way I express myself, and when I don’t play it drives me crazy.”

El Javi — “The King of Rock Flamenco” — just released his new single, “The Last Goodbye,” and its accompanying video, which is the first taste of the final piece of “A Gypsy Journey” trilogy, entitled “Samahdi.” He also kicked off a year full of touring with a performance at Swallow Hill’s Daniels Hall on Jan. 24.

We spoke to the 39-year-old musician — who has called southeast Denver home since 2015 — about completing his trilogy of EPs, his musical journey and the Denver scene. The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Tell me about the development of your music.

I’m originally from Mexico City, and moved to Denver five years ago from Los Angeles, which is where I initiated my music career. The El Javi project started in 2006 with my first album, “Gypsy Muse,” and since then I’ve worked on developing my sound.

I started as a rocker, but then discovered traditional flamenco sounds, and now I think of what I do as progressive fusion. Flamenco guitar is a part of my sound, but I also experiment with whole different styles — my new single has a folk sound, which I think is a Colorado influence — while keeping the flamenco and progressive rock elements.

What is your writing process like?

I’m very autobiographical in my writing, and regarding “A Gypsy Journey,” that is a project I’ve been developing for the last five years. The trilogy reflects my life in Denver and my development as a human being. It’s kind of a spiritual practice, because for me writing music is a form of healing.

My music is instrumental, so the writing process takes a little longer since there’s no verse-chorus-verse framework. Instead I’m using a sonic experience to convey my story.

Why does your music have no vocals?

Since I was a teenager and started playing the guitar, I wanted that to be the main way I express myself. I want to make the guitar sing and be the main character, especially since most music is just the backing track for the vocalist. I believe music can be the message.

I also find it’s really nice in my travels because there’s no language barrier to overcome.

Tell me about making “A Gypsy Journey.”

For this last EP, I decided to release a single every couple of months, instead of waiting until the whole thing is finished for people to hear it. I worked with percussionist Jordi Marín a lot on the album — we’ve been working together for seven years, and he’s really my right-hand guy. I come in with ideas, forms and melodies, and we work together to produce the songs with others, depending on the sound we want.

We have several studios we use on the album — a home studio where we rehearse and do the initial version, we do the drums in Evergreen’s The Spot Studios and do guitar work in Los Angeles. Jordi and I are the core and we worked with pedal steel player Tony Ortega and bass player Sam Lafalce.

The first “Gypsy Journey” EP was released in 2015, the second in 2017. Hopefully this one will be out by the end of year. We want to make sure everything on it sounds great.

Tell me about performing live and your tour?

I’ve been working on creating a really visual show — I’ve been collaborating with dancers and animators to create visuals my for live shows. The main part of the (Swallow Hill) show was to launch my new single and video, and I was able to work with Flamenco dancer Sonia Burns.

We’re heading out to Mexico to tour and in March, we’ll be going to California. Hopefully we’ll be going to Spain in the beginning of the summer. We’ll definitely be playing around Denver frequently as well. (El Javi will be playing a free show at the Broomfield Amphitheater, Three Community Park Road, at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 5).

Live shows can be the most impactful experience, and I hope audiences come away inspired. Being in the studio is a whole different monster, because there it’s all about collaborations and who can come in and build the song more. But every time we play live, it’s an interpretation, and can never be repeated.

What makes Denver’s music scene special?

Denver is almost an empty canvas — it’s not saturated like in LA. The people here are very receptive and like to hear new things. The city is in its infant stages and still finding itself, and for us musicians, that makes it a great place to be right now. As we’re growing and experimenting, so is the city.

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