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Juan Zelada Interview July 2011

Catherine May

Triangle

You know when you hear a song on the radio and something inside your head just clicks? That’s how I felt when I first heard Juan Zelada’s Breakfast in Spitalfields. Fast forward a few weeks and the song’s been A listed on Radio 2 and Juan’s suddenly been thrust into the spotlight. Despite his unexpected rise to the nation’s attention, Juan took time out from a writing session to talk to MTTM. Oh, and yes, he does say ‘Phenomenal’ a lot.

MTTM: How do you feel about Radio 2’s support of your music? And how did that even come about?

Juan Zelada: It’s been phenomenal. And so unexpected. It happened through a very DIY method where, instead of waiting for labels to contact us, we got a team together of radio pluggers and a few press to help us. You know, people who really believed in the music we were making? It was a bit of a hunch, but it worked. I’ve been left lost for words really.

MTTM: You actually recorded your debut album last year but you’re still yet to release it. How did you go about recording your album being unsigned?

JZ: We record fifteen or sixteen songs last year. Because we were unsigned we got some amazing deals at places like Metropolis Studios and Rock Field in Wales. Actually, that’s the place where Freddie Mercury recorded Bohemian Rhapsody so I had a phenomenal ten days there with the sheep and the horses. This all culminated in recording three songs in Studio 2 at Abbey Road . It was amazing and we used a lot of favours from friends. It was a rollercoaster really.

MTTM: And why hasn’t it been released yet?

JZ: We’re waiting at the moment. We’re listening to industry advice but hopefully in the next couple of months. Probably around September we’ll release a second single and then the album.

MTTM: As you recorded it a while ago, have you written songs since that you really wish you could add to it?

JZ: Yeah, I’ve written maybe 50 songs since I recorded it. There’s a couple of gems sitting in my laptop which I’m really, really eager to share. We perform some in acoustic sessions and things and I’m sure there’ll be a few free downloads here and there.

MTTM: I see you’ve been using social media and the internet for a while to interact with fans. Can you tell us more about the #IConfess song?

JZ: It all started out in Spanish with the #yoconfieso hashtag. People on Twitter were confessing all these silly things and I was laughing my pants off. We were in Lisbon getting ready to play a gig and I copied and pasted about three pages of these confessions and made them into a song. A few weeks later we were back in Madrid and I recorded it. It really took of in Latin American. It was so surreal and phenomenal. I mean, we recorded a video and when else do you get to dress up as Superman in a church?

MTTM: That’s true. Can you tell us more about the next single and your sound in general?

JZ: Well, the next single will be more gusty. There’ll be a full band with brass sections and everything. Our live performances offer something quite different to Breakfast in Spitalfields and I think the next single will reflect that. Our live shows are energetic and sweaty as opposed to the acoustic sound of the current single. We haven’t confirmed the next single yet but I think it may be The Blues Remain.

As for my sound, I was born and bred embracing many different styles: Billy Joel, Ray Charles, Otis Reading… So soulful styles mixed with the things current bands are doing today. My Bass player, Oscar, described our sound as “Blues soul and good times”. He doesn’t say much, Oscar, but when he does we all listen because he speaks sense.

MTTM: You toured with Amy Winehouse several years ago, is there anyone you’d really like to tour with?

JZ: At the moment there are lots of exciting bands out there such as Arcade Fire, Noah and the Whale and Beirut. I’d also love to support the Dave Matthews Band or Ben Folds. I mean I’d obviously love to play alongside any of the legends such as Van Morrison. If they were around or interested.

MTTM: If they were around?

JZ: Well, you know dreaming is free.

MTTM: You’ve already sold out many London venues and have been doing so for several years. What’s next for you?

JZ: We’ve got this residence on the last Friday of every month at The Troubadour. And we’ve got my single launch party on July 28 at Hoxton Bar and Kitchen. That should be phenomenal. We’ve got Lottie Mullan supporting which I’m really excited about and there may be a special guest. Whatever happens, we’ll be putting in a great performance. After that there’s a few festivals and then hopefully we’ll be doing a regional tour in September. I want to get involved with the radio stations which have been supportive to us and take my music all around the country. I also really want to do a tour back in Spain as I’d planned to this month but have had to postpone the plans because of the unexpected reception here.

MTTM: Oh, I’m sorry but I do have to ask the obvious question. Where is the best place to go for breakfast in Spitalfields?

JZ: Well the place I wrote the song about has actually closed down and become a clothes shop. I’d advise going to any of the big greasy spoons around Brick Lane or Cheshire Street for the proper East London vibe. Since they’ve redone Spitalfields it’s lost it’s original charm, so I’d say venture outside the market.

www.juanzelada.com