We had the good fortune of connecting with Jose Luis De la Paz and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jose Luis, why did you pursue a creative career?
Since my earliest childhood, I’ve felt a special connection with the guitar and with music, and the fact of living in a place where flamenco is an art that permeates life and is part of the sonorous landscape of the city, led me to dedicate myself to a professional career in flamenco guitar in a very natural way, without a sense that anything was forced. Besides this, I’ve always had a strong intuition for music and guitar technique was very simple for me, so the consistency required to develop technique was never a punishment, but instead I felt that I could play for hours without feeling tired. Another factor is that in Andalucia at that time, it wasn’t common to study flamenco guitar in an academic manner, but I was lucky to encounter musicians that did have an academic background, and were able to advise me on the path, until I found my mentor, Mario Escudero, at age 15. He was a legend of the flamenco guitar and also a composer with classical training, who mediated my encounter with the heritage of concert-style flamenco guitar, and also classical Spanish guitar technique. Besides this, Maestro Escudero was a known international composer, many of whose works are considered standards of the canon of flamenco guitar, and he taught me many compositional techniques that could be applied to the flamenco guitar. All of this, along with the possibility of playing with the prominent figures of flamenco, would slowly confirm the desire to become a professional in a very short period of time, when I was just about 16 or 17 years old. By then, I had achieved some recognition as I won some national awards as guitarist, I found myself touring a great deal, and I was published as one of the 10 best guitarists of my generation (Agenda Flamenca, 1995 by Felix Grande). As the flow of these accomplishments appeared, I decided to leave my studies in history at the University in my second year. All of these events and experiences only served to confirm the calling that I had long intuited from the guitar as a vehicle of my purpose and meaning. These days, since I arrived in the US in 2011, I try to continue to share experiences with musicians and artists of other disciplines to continually enrich the elements that I draw from, using flamenco as part of my characteristic sound without having to think about keeping the flamenco audience happy or playing only using the traditional tools of flamenco. At this point in my career, my intention is just to play the music that I really feel I’ve composed with the greatest possible honesty and that is most true to my sentiments in the moment. Flamenco will always be there, because it is where I come from, but it will not necessarily be the main goal.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
When I first encountered the flamenco guitar, I was just a child and many folks told me that I would never be able to play flamenco because my father was a doctor, I had a relatively normal, happy childhood, and as you may know, flamenco is considered an art form of the marginalized. This only increased my drive to integrate myself into the world of flamenco. Further along my career, I had to learn to balance how to play for dance touring globally with Ballet Cristina Hoyos and my maintain my dream of being a concert guitarist, since the technique of dance accompaniment guitar is much more aggressive than concert guitar technique. So I made two important decisions. One was to challenge myself to do at least two hours of technical work after each performance (we did more than 180 galas a year) and the other was to compose the dance accompaniment music from the mindset of a concert composer. This made me unique and made me one of the most sought after flamenco composers because I was able to change flexibly between the two techniques and this influenced my way of composing forever. If I were to describe what sets me apart, it is flamenco and not-flamenco. I am a multi-code musician, intuitive, with sprinkles of the writer of life introspections and experiences. I think my work is reflective, curious, hard-working, passionate, idealistic, and a humanistic. All of this is part of who I am. You tell me the rest. As an individual, I invite everyone to get to know my work, especially my work as a performer and through my albums. It hasn’t been easy to get to this point, but I can feel very content with having been able to produce various solo concerts, a symphonic piece for guitar and orchestra, the soundtrack for a film (Finding Compas), and to have played at the Hollywood Bowl and the Disney Hall under the direction of Maestro Dudamel and choreographer Siudy Garrido. At this point I’m finishing my new album, Introspective, as a reflection upon this year marked by the COVID-19 pandemic. www.joseluisdelapaz.com
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Miami is undeniably one of the most multi-cultural cities that exists. This allows us to live experiences that are very different. All of us know, through films and other media, the fun part of Miami Beach, the nightclubs, bars, and general nightlife. But this is just a screen that sells the city. Of course, I could recommend the beaches. A day at any of the beaches, from the South to Ft. Lauderdale, is a marvelous experience. The beaches are clean, you can walk, there are plenty of little shops and small restaurants where you can spend an unforgettable day. But besides beaches, Miami also has other charms like visiting some of the zones and buildings that have Spanish influence such as Coral Gables or the Spanish monastery. Multiculturality has also brought the possibility of fusing the gastronomy of many countries, with Chefs native to each country uniting in fusion-themed restaurants. Besides this, we also have a lot of musical offerings, since there are plenty of places that have live music. For example, specific recommendations would include for beaches: Sunny Isles Beach, the Russian Baths on Collins Avenue, or any of the art deco hotels such as the Betsy. A walk along Miracle Mile is always fun, the Spanish Monastery on Biscayne, and the typical walk in Little Havana near the domino park for a Cuban sandwich at El Exquisito and a Cuban cigar at CubaOcho, and a typical Cuban coffee at Versailles. For fusion restaurants, you have SushiSake, SushiMaki, Umami, Ceviche305, Suviche Wynwood, Kaori by Walter Martino, Nomade, and so many others. For a musical evening, I would recommend Le Chat Noir, Lagniappe, and then for dance, Ball and Chain, and for flamenco lovers, Cava in Coral Gables, which also has homemade Spanish food.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would dedicate this shoutout especially to my first instructors, Manuel Sierra and Antonio Sousa, and my mentor Mario Escudero, but I have to thank my father, Dr. Jose Luis Rodriguez, who gave me my first guitar when I was less than a year old, making this path inevitable.
Youtube: jose luis de la paz
Gabriel Rodriguez Pablo Croce