You know when you just feel like someone is bound for great things? That the ceiling for them is somewhere among the stars? That’s Gene Evaro Jr.
When you look at Evaro, there is a sense of “where the hell did this guy come from?” And, that’s not cynical, it is pure curiosity. On the cover of his latest album, “Too Good To Believe,” he looks like the most stylish shaman east of L.A. as he stands stoic in an unbuttoned, silk, sports jacket wearing a dreamcatcher-like pendant over his bare chest as auburn locks fall to his shoulders. He’s just as snazzy on stage and struts across it with the best of them. Then you hear Evaro’s voice and it is as passionate as a lover’s touch. You hear him play guitar and it as smooth and definite as a fine crystal. You watch him play piano to an enthralled crowd and you realize he has them all dancing in his hands. Then it’s not just “where the hell did this guy come from,” but also “how do I get there?”
The thing is you can’t. You don’t get on Evaro’s level but rather you are born on it, like the Olympian Gods who dwell on the sacred summit of Mount Olympus. The 27-year-old musician was born into a family that has music running through its veins. Evaro is one of 11 children and is a fifth-generation professional musician along with three other siblings. His father was a music producer and used to play in a family band along with seven other cousins and at one point was signed to an off-shoot of Motown. His grandfather played in a touring jazz band full of cousins and uncles. The way Evaro sees it, between his family’s lineage, and a mobile childhood that left him to entertain himself, he didn’t really have a choice in the matter.
“I was marinated in the passion and I resonated with it and didn’t stop. Another thing is my family moved around a lot. I lived in Cali, Tennessee, Miami for a little while. I didn’t keep a lot of friends so I stuck to myself and my family and played my guitar and produced music. I grew up in the studio, so as soon I could I started recording music and taking apart my dad’s old electronics that he had and making my own little studio. He was really supportive. I couldn’t have done it without growing up with that kind of environment,” Evaro said.
Following in his family’s tradition, he began to tour when he was 19 in a family band with some of his sisters and found themselves hopping between Hawaii and Southern California in a Sly and the Family Stone-inspired group. After a couple years, the family members went down their separate paths to fulfill the Evaro legacy in their own unique ways. “Everybody is so obviously independent and strong as their own artist, it’s hard to keep that many badasses in the same building, you know? It’s hard to stick to one thing when everyone has so much to offer,” Evaro said.
And what does Gene offer, exactly? He is a sonic Swiss-Army knife who can play guitar, piano, drums and just about any instrument he touches and sings with a wonderful proficiency. His talent is complemented by a deep understanding of his idols. His musical instincts are geared toward the Earth, Wind, & Fire’s and Stevie Wonder’s of this world, music that moves the soul as much as it does the hips.
“I always resonated with music that made you feel good and was celebratory, kind of made you celebrate life in general. When I started playing guitar and learning chords, I was like, there are chords but the chords don’t make that song and don’t have much spirit. You can’t really teach that. That was something I realized, that you can’t teach and can’t really learn in school or in a book how to make people vibrant or celebratory just from hearing a song. I’ve been trying my whole life to make music that was meaningful that made people not just happy but all sorts of feelings that are valuable and have goodness,” Evaro said.
His musical prowess is even more impressive when you consider he writes all of the lyrics and arrangements for his songs before he brings them to his band. Like Paul McCartney or Prince or Stephen Stills, he has an uncompromising vision of what he wants his music to be and how he wants it to sound, which can be different depending on the venue. Live, he offers a white-hot show that can melt one’s face with its dexterous musicality and luminous delivery, while his studio work is filled with intricate nuance that flows from the speakers. Combining the two is the ultimate goal.
“I’d say right now that last album is a great example of me as a songwriter and producer and then our live show is a great example of me as a bandleader. They’re two different things but I am trying to bridge them and make that perfect combination of live vibe and that awesome vibe that we have live, but also clean, professional, studio badass,” Evaro said.
So what does the multi-instrumentalist want to do with all of this kinetic, musical energy? Become a mainstream success, of course. Evaro would be reminiscent of the greatest of pop stars, such as Stevie Wonder or Prince, where pop songs were the most potent pieces of musical genius presented to the world by a band of live musicians. Music that felt deeply committed to capturing the most celebratory of emotions in song. Evaro’s success in the mainstream would be an elevation of the where pop music is now. You want people like that to get that attention, to have all ears tuned to them.
It’s also hard to doubt the musician when he says he’ll be a success, though it’s unclear how that will necessarily manifest itself. But you can sense it in his drive to build the perfect set list to wow a crowd, his talent to find the magic in the song, his incessant rehearsing to refine the band’s performance. He has Grammys and gold records on his to-do list. Evaro understands that life is made up of a series of opportunities and he’s just preparing for his.
“I try and be prepared for when the spotlight is on me, it’s on and I’m not taken by surprise. The best thing is to be prepared for great opportunities and keeping myself and my band ready for when it shows itself. You gotta live like it’s happening and if you were to ask me what I’d like to accomplish, I’d like to get a song out there that gets on the charts. I’d like to be known in the mainstream world, for sure. I don’t plan on being in jam bands or in Cali forever,” Evaro said.
He won’t be.