Gaby Moreno is a Guatemalan singer-songwriter who combines blues, jazz and soul into a beautiful concoction.
She is a 37-year-old touring musician with accolades and accomplishments galore. She has opened for Ricky Martin, she wrote the theme to “Parks and Recreation,” her voice was featured on Ricardo Arjona’s “Fuiste Tú” and she recently worked with country rock legend Jackson Browne. She also has a new album ¡Spangled! set to be released on Oct. 4.
The daughter of a music promoter and radio and TV personality, Moreno had access to a recording studio from a young age to record all her favorite Disney songs.
At 9 years old, she took the stage to sing at a radio station award show. She was incredibly nervous at first, but once she sang, she realized her passion. Before she was 10 , she couldn’t see herself doing anything else except for music.
“I never stopped,” Moreno said during an interview in her green room after her first appearance at High Sierra Music Festival in the Northern California town Quincy. “I sang all the time.”
Moreno discovered the blues when she was 13 years old.
“I say ‘discovered’ because I was not exposed to it growing up in Guatemala,” Moreno said. “It captivated me in a way that no music had before.”
A few compilation albums purchased on a family trip to New York City changed her life. From blues greats Koko Taylor and Muddy Waters to jazz to soul, she found herself deep in a rabbit hole. Moreno credits 90 percent of her musical influence to artists from the United States.
“I was longing for something deeper than the pop music on the radio in Guatemala,” Moreno said. “Then the blues spoke loud and clear to me.”
Moreno is fluent in Spanish and English, but she can also dish out some Portuguese and French in her tunes.
“Being a bilingual artist has opened a lot of doors for me,” Moreno said. “People ask if I’ve had obstacles because I’m Latin or a women, and I say, ‘Actually, no. I feel like it’s worked to my benefit.”
When she sings and speaks in Spanish on tour, the crowd receives it with open ears and hearts.
“I realize people have no idea what’s coming out of my mouth, but I can only hope they can connect with me musically.”
Emotion is transferred through music in more ways than lyrical content. Even if you don’t speak a word of German, the metal group Rammstein is going to make you feel exactly what they feel.
On Friday, Oct. 4, Gaby Moreno is releasing a new album, “¡Spangled!” with Van Dyke Parks. She currently is overseas, touring in India, Hungary and Germany.
— Tony Contini