Arts & Entertainment

Press Pass: Alex Cuba

It appears the musical life of Alex Cuba is a bit of a contradiction. For starters, Cuba emigrated from his namesake island for Smithers, British Columbia several years ago. His residency in Canada also allowed him (and collaborative partner Nelly Furtado) to become the first-ever Canadians to win a Latin Grammy. Second contradiction: The Latin Grammy Cuba claimed this past November was for “Best New Artist,” despite the fact he’s been pumping out albums since 2004. Go figure. Before Cuba takes the stage Nov. 24 at Jammin’ Java, we sat him down for a one-on-one.

 

4S6R2210-copy2It appears the musical life of Alex Cuba is a bit of a contradiction. For starters, Cuba emigrated from his namesake island for Smithers, British Columbia several years ago. His residency in Canada also allowed him (and collaborative partner Nelly Furtado) to become the first-ever Canadians to win a Latin Grammy. Second contradiction: The Latin Grammy Cuba claimed this past November was for “Best New Artist,” despite the fact he’s been pumping out albums since 2004. Go figure.

Either way, the smooth-singing songwriter has been creating quite a stir. In addition to partnering with Furtado for the title track on her album Mi Plan, his latest, self-title album is making waves as well. Before Cuba takes the stage Nov. 24 at Jammin’ Java, we sat him down for a one-on-one.

Mike Hume: Starting with the latest news, what was the experience like to win the Latin Grammy for Best New Artist?

Alex Cuba: It was amazing. It was a night of success.

MH: Now, you’ve been around putting out albums since 2004, so do you consider yourself a new artist?

AC: Of course not! I have to say, it did feel a little bit weird. But as they say, it takes 10 years to become an overnight success. I think I’m just in time!

MH: How do you see your sound differing from traditional Latin music?

AC: When people think of Cuban music, the first thing they think of is salsa, for example, or anything similar to it. Same with Latin, most people think of it as only danceable kind of stuff. Mine works in different levels and I mix it up so much. I go from one style to another. I think in that polarity my songs are created. People seem to view what I write as authentic and I guess that comes from feeling comfortable in what you’re doing. We call what I write, Latin/soul/rock. We think that those three words probably give a good idea about what we do.

MH: I think most people think of Latin or Cuban bands as big with lots and lots of performers. What is it about the way you’ve set up your band, as a trio, that lends itself so well to your sound?

AC: I think it took me some time to finally get where we are today, completely confident and doing more with them. But the biggest thing I’ve discovered during that process is that my music works best with the least around it, at least on stage. When you do that, it actually creates a lot of illusions and actually makes the band sound bigger than only three people. That’s to my advantage. Plus with a lot of people in the band, you have to rely a lot on rehearsals. And the way we perform, we leave a lot of room for what’s happening in the moment. That’s easier to do when you have a small ensemble. That keeps it fresh on the road.

MH: You’ve collaborated with a number of well known artists like Nelly Furtado and Jason Mraz. What is it that you like about collaborating and working with established musicians like that?

AC: You mean, besides how much money it puts on the table? No, just kidding. I like collaborating because in terms of songwriting … before I did the Nelly [Furtado] collaboration they were different. They weren’t getting together, face to face, and finding the lyrics. When the Nelly album came to be, one of the things I enjoyed so much was that nothing was arranged, nothing was prepared. I gave her my CD. She loved it and we came together because she wanted to write with me. And the chemistry was beautiful. When I write like that, I enjoy it. So I don’t think I should force any of that. I just want to let it be and let it happen. You don’t have chemistry with everybody. It’s very special.

Showtime for the Nov. 24 show at Jammin’ Java is 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance, $13 the day of the show. For more on Alex Cuba, visit www.alexcuba.com.

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