Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Christian Lopez of the Christian Lopez Band, and upcoming artist in the Americana scene. We talked about songwriting, how he came to having his own band and being a full time touring musician, and the exciting news of headlining this year’s Shepherdstown Street Fest.
Visual Victoria (VV): How did you get into playing country music and whose styles do you think show in your music?
Christian Lopez (CL): We don’t really classify ourselves as country per say, more folk rock, part of the revival that’s happening now, classic country, folk music and americana music. That’s how we define ourselves. That inspiration has come from bands like The Band, classic artists like Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Willie, and of course music today. We try to keep up with what’s going on, listening to our friends and the bands at the festivals that we play. There’s a lot of great music happening now, a lot of old qualities coming back into the modern sounds. It’s a mixture of past artists and artists today, but definitely more in the americana, folk, classic country world.
VV: What is your history with music and how did you get started?
CL: My mom started me on piano when I was five, I got a guitar when I was nine and have been playing music ever since. I tried to learn every string instrument that I could up until I started putting bands together in middle school.
I had 70s rock and roll cover bands going until I started writing songs at sixteen or seventeen. I started to listen to classic country music, I had always played electric guitar but then I picked up the acoustic guitar and started writing my own songs in the folk rock genre. I never really wanted to be a singer, I just never could find one so I figured I’d start singing. It all stemmed from there.
VV: What I was really interested in was your songwriting, I really enjoyed it and your lyrics. Where did you start writing songs? What inspired you to start?
CL: I was listening to old country and folk music and for the first time in my life at sixteen, seventeen years old I started to really care about the stories. It really hit me around that age in high school and I wanted to write songs that moved people the way I was moved by the artists that I was listening to. It was as if I felt like I needed to be doing what they were doing because it really impacted me and then I started writing and trying to come up with something that could connect.
VV: What is your songwriting process?
CL: It’s a tough question, I’m not the kind of guy who will sit down and say i’m going to come up with a song in the next three hours. It hits me out of nowhere so I need to be ready at all times. I usually have a guitar somewhere nearby me and whenever I feel it I find a place to sit down and get to work.
It usually starts with a melody in my head and from there I work on the chord progressions and whatever vibe gets created is usually what helps me find what the lyrics should be about.
VV: From what I’ve seen you have had a lot of success the last few years, how did you go about getting more successful and getting your band more well known?
CL: I think the main thing is we just worked really hard. We got a great band and we’ve been on the road everyday all year long and have just been out there grassroots style, playing for new people in new places every night. I think that’s what it really comes down to, the work you put in. For me there is no plan b. This is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life, this is how I want to live my life. I don’t stop and I try to work harder than anyone else to get it done. I have been lucky enough to have a good team in Nashville who help me to get better shows and make great records, it’s a team effort, but in the end it comes down to how committed you are, how much you love it and how hard you work. It’s all about putting in the time.
VV: Who are the other bandmates and how did they come about being in the band?
CL: Chelsea, she’s from Shepherdstown, WV and we actually met four years ago when we were brought together to host a young artists event in Shepherdstown. Which is kind of cool because we are talking about Shepherdstown. She’s awesome.
My bass player is the second to most recent addition, he’s from DC and he’s our third bass player. We had put out that we were looking, he responded and turned out to be the perfect fit. He’s great.
My drummer is from Nashville, he was actually playing in some other bands that I was working with and had become friends with. When they started doing other things we took him at the right time, they were ready to do their own thing and we were looking for a drummer so it worked out really well.
It’s the best gang we have had so far. We all get along the best. Nowadays it’s more how we are at getting along on these ten hour car rides or waiting all day for a forty five minutes set. How well we get along together rather than the skill, because they play the songs great, but these days we are on the road so much, it’s do we love each other, and we do. It’s the best gang we’ve ever had. It feels good.
VV: What have been your favorite experiences being a traveling musician?
CL: Not one in particular. It’s getting to see new places all the time, yesterday we were in New Orleans, I hadn’t been there since i was a little kid, and we get to go to Oxford, Mississppi and Birmingham, Hattiesburg, all these places we would never get to go. We play at night time and we have all day to mill around these cool little towns and big cities. It’s just awesome to be able to explore and see the places we’ve always wanted to see and at the same time working on our music. It’s a pretty rewarding career when you get to do what you love and so see new places at the same time.
VV: What does it mean to headline a hometown festival such as Shepherdstown Street Fest?
CL: To be honest with you we’ve been trying to get this slot for a long time because we love this festival. Well, I’ve loved it and have been going for the last ten years. When we come home it’s our favorite show of the year. It’s what we look forward to the most, we are with our family and friends. We make sure it is unlike any other show, we give more than we ever give.
Every show we do is going to be better than the last and for this one in particular, right now it’s going to be our focus. We are pumped, we can’t wait. It means a lot that we are headlining this festival. I have been thinking about it ever since I was a little kid. It’s a goal come true. Chelsea and I being from the panhandle, it’s an emotional event for us. We started out playing little coffee houses right there in town, now we get to headline and give our friends and family the best show we possibly can give.