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David Longoria: Embracing Innovation

Kathy Sanborn By

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Popular trumpeter, songwriter, and producer David Longoria has achieved success in music by refusing to follow the musical crowd. Growing up in relatively poor circumstances, Longoria learned to trust his instincts and to embrace innovation as he set his sights on becoming the internationally respected musician that he is today.

At the age of ten, Longoria chose the trumpet as his primary instrument. It took the youth over a year to raise sixty-five dollars, the amount required to purchase an old golden trumpet that would be the catalyst to start his dreams in motion.

With a new album, The Journey, and an inspiring ethic of hard work, Longoria graciously shares his own success tips for jazz musicians in the modern era.

All About Jazz: In this changing music biz world, how do you manage to stay in the game with a positive attitude?

David Longoria: Music is always changing, as are our lives. It is important to understand what people are seeking and gravitating toward so you are not creating something that will only be understood long after you're dead. But, even with that, the most important thing for me is to remember why I do music. It's great to make a living and seek rewards and awards, but the true goal for me is always to make great music. Everything else falls into place behind that. I know a lot of friends and colleagues who chase after all the awards every year. They minimize the importance of the greatness of the music and put their efforts into the marketing. That sometimes works toward getting the awards, but the music is very bland and lifeless. I have no desire to do that. If something in music has already been done, I don't want to do it again. I want to always be out there innovating, not imitating.

AAJ: I totally agree that jazz in the modern era is all about innovating, and not mimicking somebody else. Is gigging an important factor for a successful career in music?

DL: Yes! It keeps me in touch with the audience and keeps me on top of my skills. The energy of the audience and their reaction to our work is important in the communication between them and me. Plus, it's good to eat every day and performing helps toward that goal.

AAJ: How often are you out there performing?

DL: I tend to do it in seasons. I'll be locked in the studio for months, then I get out and perform for a while. This is great for me as it keeps me balanced and never bored.

AAJ: Do you think that performing is necessary today?

DL: Yes! The recent negative changes in the ways music is consumed has made it difficult to make your entire living from the recordings. I don't care where my revenues come from as long as I can make my living and enjoy a lifestyle from it, but that means always watching to see there are enough revenue streams between live performing, music sales, publishing, merchandise, and anything else.

AAJ: Please tell us a bit about your latest album, The Journey.

DL: I wanted to make a modern album that would engage the listener enough so they would want the entire album, not just the song or two that hit the Billboard charts. Back in the '70s and '80s, bands and artists did that and their fans loved the whole album. Stevie Wonder's Songs In The Key Of Life, Weather Report's first album, Steely Dan's and many others had hit singles but fans loved the whole album as a collection. So I came up with the concept that started with the idea that our lives are a journey. We share many similar milestones along the way. Childhood, coming of age, self-realization, learning to love, developing confidence, and more. Each event became a modern but melodic song. Even though this album has a lot of edgy dance elements, I'm still a jazz musician. I improvise, and because I love melody so much, the songs tend to be catchy right away. At the point of our lives where we start thinking about standing up for one another, I took inspiration from Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie's iconic song "We Are The World" which did so much for the hungry in Africa. I decided to take on the issue of our day where we are so divided by race and culture today. I thought we needed to stand up for each other and get back to that mentality. I wrote a song to do that called "We Are One," and invited a few artists to join me singing on it. It got out of hand and a year and a half later there are 600 artists singing with me on one song about unity! It's crazy but very powerful. The message is even bigger than the number.

AAJ: That must have been a hard song to mix, with 600 voices. What an amazing accomplishment. How are you promoting The Journey?

DL: We always look for innovative ways to promote and it always comes back to the simple elements of just getting it in front of the audience and looking for ways they might not expect it to appear. Social media are paramount these days. I've got a few surprises as well coming up. Shhh!

AAJ: What works best for you: radio promoter, publicist, self-promotion—or all of the above?

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