In the last couple of years, Juan Wauters has covered a lot of ground, both artistically and geographically. The year 2016 saw him performing his music in his native Uruguay for the first time as well as directing a film, Romane en Juin, in the South West of France; and, since then, he has been traveling throughout Latin America extensively, taking time to press pause and rethink his life, his art and his career after releasing two critically acclaimed albums on Captured Tracks, 2014’s N.A.P.: North American Poetry and 2015’s Who Me?.
As both time and place often have a unique influence on his music, Wauters originally planned to record his next album while traveling, seeking a break from his life in New York City, the city he has called home since moving from Montevideo in 2002. In 2017, no sooner had he settled in Mexico City to focus on writing when he was suddenly offered a role in an independent film being shot in Argentina. Ever the happy wanderer, Wauters repacked his 100-pound mobile recording studio into two suitcases and took off for Buenos Aires. When filming was complete, Wauters wound up writing and recording all over Latin America — from Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, and Chile to Mexico and Puerto Rico — seeking collaboration at every stop with local musicians who embody the traditions and energies specific to each region.
Puerto Rico was one of his first destinations. At a restaurant on the way to Charco Azul in Guavate - a natural swimming hole - Wauters heard a duo playing boleros, music he has been familiar with since his early childhood, but had never experienced in its original context. Those boleros would inspire the repeating melody that makes up the infectious love song, “Guapa”. Later, Mexico City was to become the birthplace of “A Volar”, a beautiful, buoyant track about dreaming wildly that features multiple musicians that Wauters met in Garibaldi, a popular square in Mexico City where musicians for hire gather. Later, he would trek to Buenos Aires, Santiago and Montevideo, creating music and incorporating the local traditions into his yarns.
Until this point in his career, most of his songs had been sung in English, but revisiting his Latin roots inspired him to record songs in his native tongue. Thus, Wauters gives us the wonderful La Onda de Juan Pablo, the world of Juan Pablo Wauters.
La Onda de Juan Pablo was a travelogue of sorts, with its anthropological efforts, its parade of Latin American musicians and its choice to only feature Wauters native tongue. Introducing Juan Pablo, on the other hand, goes back and forth between Spanish and English. It is, in short, more faithful to the interculturalism that Wauters experiences daily. "In my house, among my family, we speak in Spanish. But outside in the neighborhood, we speak in English with my friends. Several of them speak in Spanish with their parents, but not all. It doesn't cause me any trouble to go from one language to another. I can express myself in the same way: everything is music." In a nod to both his home country and his adopted home, he includes an English version of "El Hombre de la Calle" ("The Man on the Street") by Jaime Roos, one of the most popular Uruguayan songwriters. The references to the land where he was born are her on the surface. Between the first track ("Super Talking") and the last ("Greetings"), songs run in both languages, culminating with "Lora", which opens like a pop kaleidoscope and ends in a kind of cosmic brotherhood between Eduardo Mateo and Syd Barrett.His immigrant's side. His sense of belonging. His social life and his use of language. His need to work. And the even stronger need that his work doesn't become monotonous. His dream of another possible world: a world where all worlds fit. Juan Wauters went through all this to introduce us to Juan Pablo. They are the same person: one among the whole crowd.
Who Me? is the next chapter in the ongoing story of Juan Wauters. Whereas his debut solo record was recorded casually over the course of one year, his new album was crafted in under two weeks at Future Apple Tree in Rock Island, Illinois. Inspired by both the arrangements of Uruguayan songwriter Jaime Roos and the production of American master Dr. Dre, this collection of songs presents his continued approach to existential questioning through pop music. Tracks like "She Might Get Shot" and "I Was Well," which may seem like wisdom addressed to the listener, are in fact part of Juan's reciprocal process of self-actualization through songwriting and performing. Bringing new sounds to his repertoire, "This Is I" and "Through That Red" add a spiritual tone with ethereal string arrangements. Juan's voice - which has risen to the forefront of his music since his first recordings with The Beets - intensifies with added nuance. This year Juan Wauters will continue to tour the world in support of his second solo record.
In his debut solo record, N.A.P. North-American Poetry, Wauters dreams big; coming into his own as a singer. Building on his songwriting, popularized by The Beets, Juan presents introspective tracks, like Water and Sanity, and reflections on humans' relationship with technology in songs like Breathing—which features Carmelle Safdie. The record is completed, as always, by the artwork of dear friend and longtime collaborator Matthew Volz, who has honed the trademark visual aesthetic of Juan's music. This album is a selection of recordings made between the fall of 2010 and the summer of 2012 at Marlborough Farms. N.A.P. delivers a fresh sound and lyrical candor from one of Queens' most idiosyncratic adoptive sons.