Lots of people think about the term restart around this time of year. The new year provokes an avalanche of resolutions and goal lists that may or may not ever get done. Restart has been a main part of the conversation here in post-Maria Puerto Rico for a while now. Even the most popular local beer has integrated the word restart into their beer can design. I’m thinking about it in a different way though. The concept of restarting has been part of my creative lifestyle since the very beginning.
I love the fact that when people find out I’m about to record a new album they come up to me and ask “what are you doing next?” I always tell them it’s a secret. Don’t want to ruin the surprise, you know? Their question means they understand that to me, music is very much about risk, adventure and discovery. That’s just how honesty works I think. It is risky business to openly share who you currently are, what you’ve lived, how those experiences have changed you, and what you’ve learned from them.
It feels incredible when you give yourself the opportunity to discover how to transform your life experiences into sounds you’ve never heard before, not even coming from you. There are no words to describe what it feels like to be able to surprise even yourself. But to be able to do this you need to risk going into the “danger zone”.
There is no true risk if what you’re doing doesn’t make you at least a little scared. Feeling scared is how I know I’m still moving and growing, as opposed to stuck. It means I’m going where I need to go. It also means that the passion that got me into music to begin with is still very much alive.
Scared (and excited) is how the idea for my new album “Puentes” made me feel. For “Puentes” I did many things for the first time. I had never recorded with singers before. All my previous albums are purely instrumental music. I had never recorded songs composed by others before either. Not only did I record other people’s music though. I decided to challenge myself to try to come up with innovative and unexpected arrangements of Puerto Rican and American classics.
Would I be able to succeed? Would these modern versions be well-received? Impossible to know beforehand. I just had to try because I’ve learned that it’s impossible for me to remain honest and repeat myself at the same time. I need to keep exploring. I need to keep risking. I need to keep discovering. I need to keep evolving.
I feel so lucky to be able to say that with each album I feel I’ve been able to step into my beloved “danger zone”. “Puentes” is certainly no exception. If you asked me years ago if I could see myself recording an album of Puerto Rican and American classics with people singing them I probably would’ve said no. That’s the thing about the “danger zone”. It’s not something you plan for. It is as if the map creates itself right beneath you. You just lift your foot to take the next step and a new “danger zone” reveals itself underneath.
Every time I finish an album I get a different kind of fear, the fear of wondering if I have any adventures or discoveries left in me. So far, so good. In the end, restart is just a place the music takes you to, if you let it.