Juan Wauters at Polaris Hall
21 and over.
Introducing Juan Pablo
The pleasure of finding something new in what we already know. The strange face of someone close. The outsider we all carry inside. The unexplored path in our usual location. A secret, a hiding place, a surprise. This is what Juan Pablo brings us. He’s the persona that Juan Wauters embodies to tell another side of his story. Not long ago, in January of this year, Wauters released La Onda de Juan Pablo, an album that allowed him to reinvent himself and start writing a separate chapter in his exciting career. Now, as a companion and as a prequel, he shares Introducing Juan Pablo.
Introducing Juan Pablo is a bit timeless: at the time it was made, its author left it on stand-by. That’s why its title emphasizes its origin: to present Juan Pablo and, at the same time, to precede his “onda” or world. Additionally – although more allegorically – it reveals an inner journey, a more intimate time and space. Wauters explains: “It was written and recorded before La Onda de Juan Pablo. At that time, I was away from an audience. When I finished it, I didn't release it. I wasn’t ready to go out and play it live. In fact, I didn’t want to play live at all. That meant that I had to look for a temporary job because I didn’t have money saved and it’s expensive to live in New York. But I needed to stop. I was going through an introspective moment. Then everything changed when I made La Onda... ” Juan recalls the need to rethink himself: “I’d been recording and playing live continuously, without pausing to think what it really means to be a solo artist. I looked inside myself and, at the same time, I tried to see myself from the outside.”
Introducing Juan Pablo shows everything. “I feel part of the New York indie scene, but I'm also part of my neighborhood, Jackson Heights in Queens. I live the neighborhood culture. I can go see bands and connect with that world, but then I go back to my neighborhood, where I have friends who have nothing to do with that music scene,” says Wauters. The album exposes his two worlds, his two languages, his day-to-day life in the neighborhood. Juan was born in Uruguay, but has lived in New York for a long time. He arrived with his family 17 years ago. And that explains his personage: “At first, I wanted to show another musical face for this series of records. For me, Juan Pablo is part of a more personal search. And that has to do with migration: when you move to the United States, the second name ceases to exist. Since I moved here, I'm just Juan. But in Uruguay I’m Juan Pablo Wauters. I felt it was significant to retake my middle name.”
Traveling continues to leave a mark on Wauters. His previous album, with its folkloric airs and its Latin roots, made that clear. Introducing Juan Pablo also embraces that spirit, although his main journey is internal. You can recognize the nostalgic effects of tour: “Rubia” speaks of a girl who lives in another country and whom he would like to see again. You can also recognize his itinerant recording method, which Wauters improves upon each time: “I usually record when I’m on tour. It's part of the process of learning to use a portable studio, which I can take from one country to another. I think La Onda is more accomplished in that sense. Introducing has that home-recorded feeling.... And it's because at that time I was more confined at home. I recorded almost everything by myself. And that makes it different. Afterwards I feel that I opened myself to the world with La Onda… I looked for collaborations and I played with people I met while I was touring. Both albums are nomadic, but one is the doors to the inside and the other is the doors to the outside.”
The beautiful melodies of “Mystery” and “Lonely” are proof of Juan Pablo’s introspective voyage. This adventure was the prelude to what would come next: La Onda de Juan Pablo was a travelogue of sorts, with its anthropological efforts, its parade of Latin American musicians and its choice to only feature Wauters’ native tongue. Introducing Juan Pablo, on the other hand, goes back and forth between Spanish and English. It is, in short, more faithful to the interculturalism that Wauters experiences daily. “My life is a bit like that. In my house, among my family, we speak in Spanish. But outside in the neighborhood, we speak in English with my friends. Several of them speak in Spanish with their parents, but not all. It doesn’t cause me any trouble to go from one language to another. I can express myself in the same way: everything is music.” In a nod to both his home country and his adopted home he includes an English version of “El Hombre de la Calle” (“The Man on the Street”) by Jaime Roos, one of the most popular Uruguayan songwriters. The references to the land where he was born are here on the surface. Between the first track (“Super Talking”) and the last(“Greetings”), songs run in both languages. In that sense, the peak is “Lora”, which opens like a pop kaleidoscope and ends in a kind of cosmic brotherhood between Eduardo Mateo and Syd Barrett.
His immigrant’s side. His sense of belonging. His social life and his use of language. His need to work. And the even stronger need that his work doesn’t become monotonous. His dream of another possible world: a world where all worlds fit. Juan Wauters went through all this to introduce us to Juan Pablo. They are the same person: one among the whole crowd. He’s here to share with us his songs, his field recordings, his videos and his live performances. Everything comes from the same creative head. Everything springs up with the same intention – not intentional at all – to express himself freely.
"In the liner notes accompanying the Portland band’s wonderful follow-up, Vanished, Mope Grooves founder and chief songwriter Stevie Pohlman writes that her second album is more “honest” than Joy because it is “a load of melted doll parts I have no control over.”
Pohlman’s artistic vision is too rowdy and expansive to corral into simple oppositions, but if Joy is a document of psychic pain, Vanished is a pissed-off and panicked vision of physical danger and obliteration. Like Joy, the new album builds stunning, swaying bridges between post-punk deities like Television, the Raincoats, and Pylon—but the world Pohlman writes about has become much scarier."
-Chris Stamm, Portland Mercury