GILIARD LOPES // INTERVIEW
INTERVIEW BY: Emily May
Jazz musician Giliard Lopes has been impressing fans and critics alike with Caminhos, his debut album as a band leader. The album combines many different sounds, ranging from Brazilian, folk, world and jazz. Lopes was born in Brazil and was surrounded by music from an early age. Surrounded by the sounds of local music, bossa nova, samba and rock and roll, Lopes developed an eclectic musical palette, finding great joy at an early age in making music and sharing with others all across the world. He moved to Europe in 2001 and it was there that he really developed an appreciation of jazz. In 2009 he studied jazz at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and then moved to Berlin to study composition and arrangement at the Jazz Institute Berlin. Both experiences helped him to deepen his knowledge of jazz, as well as well as his native Brazilian influences. He has performed on some of the most prestigious stages in Europe and in far away locales like Qatar and has worked extensively with major artists all over the world. Lopes has since moved to France and will go on his first European tour this year in support of the new album. You can follow Lopes and stay up-to-date with his music and upcoming tour dates via the following links. Check out his video for “Caminhos” below.
You were born in Brazil and I read that you grew up listening to a wide variety of styles and were introduced to music through Brazilian Folklore. What were some of your favorite songs and stories growing up and who were the artists that influenced you? How do you feel that all of these influences shaped your music, as well as the musician you are today?
I remember at a very young age, standing on a stool to watch over the counter, musicians that would come and play all night at my grandmothers “boteco” (Brazilian version of a bar/tapas place). Their music was rural, festive and very inclusive, and they would bring portable instruments that would get passed around the room so everyone could sing their story. They played milongas, tangos, valses and other styles from across the border with Uruguay and Argentina.
Although I was born in a small town of the southernmost state, I feel that the plurality of the Brazilian culture was always present. For instance, I could hear from the neighbours house across the street, the rhythms and the canticles used for the invocation of orixás by the afro-religion Batuque (as we call it in the south). I always found fascinating the sense of mystery in the way they approached music and how their collective identity was deeply associated with those melodies. The radio played samba, bossa nova and rock and roll, and artists such as Radames Gnattali, Milton Nascimento, Vinicius de Moraes and Led Zeppelin were also a big influence on me back then.
At times, we would see parades where all of those different styles and cultures would blend together making a very powerful event. I think that I search for that in my music, the meeting point between different tribes. It was very beneficial as a musician, to be exposed to that environment, for its cultural variety, but above all, for its sense of community.
Were you raised in a musical family? I read that you really developed an appreciation for jazz later in Europe, but did you develop an interest in jazz at all while growing up in Brazil? Did you know then that you wanted to focus your musical interest on jazz?
I had no musicians in my family as I was growing up. My grand father, who passed away before I was born, was a saxophonist and had played his whole life with his dance band which was still around when I started playing. All musicians in that band had changed but the name was still the same and once they were playing in the town I was in and I got up on stage and sat in with them. It was a remarkable moment.
I had no connection with Jazz at that time. I was self taught and I was learning the music that was accessible to me, back in those days we would exchange records with friends and no one around me was into jazz. However, I always liked improvising music, I would take songs and reshape their structure and instinctively reharmonize the chords and lines.
You’ve been in Europe since 2001. What led you to move to Europe? What is the jazz scene like in Brazil and how do you feel that the scene in Europe is different? You have since worked with many inspiring artists from all over the world. Who have been some of your favourite artists to work with over the years?
I first went traveling to Europe on a gap year. I still had in my mind the idea of studying psychology in Brazil and the trip was supposed to be a backpacking adventure around several countries for a year or so. Then the course of everything changed and after a month in the old continent, I found myself playing a regular gig with a great band.
The Jazz scene in Brazil has developed tremendously over the years. There are festivals all over the country and the crowd seems to be growing more every time. The scene in Europe seems to me more stablished and it can be much easier for musicians to organise tours because its geography and lack of borders. One of my favourite artists that I have played with was the legendary Marcos Valle, one of the creators of Bossa Nova in Brazil and a great innovator in music to this day.
In 2009, you were invited to enhance your study of jazz at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, then moving to Berlin to study composition and arrangement at the Jazz Institute Berlin. How did your interest in composing begin? What was it like to learn from these great institutions and how do you feel that your studies helped you as a musician and composer?
My interest in composition started soon after I got the bug for music. I would work out some chords on guitar, then record them on a K7 recorder and experiment bass lines and melodies over the tracks to see the different effects I could get.
Studying music through institutions was very helpful to structure my practice routines and work schedules. I believe that the academic world doesn't substitute the learning that takes places on the band stand but on the other hand, it allows the musician to be surrounded by very talented and experienced people as well as having lots of time to work on ones craft. I had great teachers and colleagues who became friends for life and I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to be part of those great institutions.
You have performed on prestigious stages across Europe, as well as far away locales such as Qatar. What do you love most about being on stage and performing for others? Do you travel often for music? What have been some of your most memorable travels and favorite stages to play?
What I love the most about live performances is the energy exchange that takes place between the public and the band. How all of the sudden the music takes the whole room and everyone is connected through the same frequencies.
Traveling is my second passion after music, therefore I try to travel as much as possible for music and combine my two passions together. Probably the most epic travel I did, was when I went to play in the heart of the Brazilian Rain Forest. It was a very overwhelming feeling to combine the sounds of my music with the vast sounds of nature present there.
What are your thoughts on the current jazz scene/movement? It feels like jazz has had a bit of a resurgence in recent year and is drawing a younger crowd! With so many different styles of jazz being played, what is your favorite style? What do you think the future holds for jazz?
The way I see it is that there is a new cycle that has started. Jazz is played acoustic again in many places just as it used to be back in the old days, but with all the influences of what came in between. I like straight ahead jazz and I see indeed loads of young musicians all across Europe interested in the tradition. I think that experimenting is a big part of it too but it's important to connect with the basic elements of the style to understand where it comes from. As music is an ever changing art form, I believe that the future of Jazz will reflect all the reshaping we are seeing throughout the world into the sounds we hear.
You have recently settled in France. What led you to move to France and what do you find most inspiring about living there and about the jazz scene? Having been born in Brazil and lived and studied in Europe, what kinds of influences and inspirations did you bring with you? How do you feel your music has evolved over the years?
I moved to France because I love croissants. And also because I always felt at home every time I went there whether for gigs or vacation. France has a multitude of amazing musicians and has a dense musical culture that fascinates me. I think we are always searching to evolve as musicians and every place and culture that we get exposed to, adds some colours to the sounds we make.
You recently released your debut solo album Caminhos! Having been in many different bands/ensembles over the years, what led you to want to branch out on your own with this release? What was the inspiration and songwriting process behind the songs? How did writing songs for a solo release differ for you from writing music as part of a group?
Writing as part of a group requires a good amount of flexibility and some detachment from ones ideas, which is very important. I think writing for a solo release made me connect deeper with the message I wanted to bring out with my music. Caminhos was inspired in putting together an intimate blend of sounds that represented all walks of life. It was a personal feeling and I thought it would be better documented in a form of a solo album.
What’s next for you? What are your goals and plans for 2019?
So for this new year, I am in the process of organising a tour in Europe that will cover several cities in around 8 countries. It will be a quintet with Trombone and Tenor and we will be playing the music from my debut album as well as some new compositions I have been working on recently.