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Take Five with Debora Galan

Debora Galan By

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Your sound and approach to music.
If I'm doing someone else's songs I ask myself if I relate to the tune in a personal way. Does it make me feel a particular emotion or bring back a memory? What images does the music conjure up in my mind? Sometimes songs bring visual images for me. They help set the tone for my approach.

What's most useful to me in songwriting is spending time journaling, and many of my best ideas come on a car ride. Something about quieting the mind and being so focused on the road allows my creative spirit to be open to receiving. I say receiving because I feel that every idea for a song is a gift—sometimes it's just a melody line or a hook, other times it could be lyrics with the melody all wrapped in one. I am often astounded at what comes out, and that usually means I have to pull out my digital recorder or pull over if I'm alone in the car. It makes for some interesting road trips.

My sound is a fusion of Latin and jazzy R&B. I absolutely love listening to music from other parts of the world. Growing up listening to music by groups like Intillimani, Quilapayun, (Andean music), and other styles gave me a beautiful palette of sounds and beats to spike my imagination.

Your teaching approach
I don't teach. I think teachers are extraordinary people with an incredible gift. They have a way of communicating something complex and simplifying it for students to understand. They also have a great deal of patience. While I may have that, I just don't feel the calling. Most of my musical training comes from my family and years of gigging with great musicians. That said, I love to encourage others.

Your dream band
I love the musicians I work with onstage and in the studio, and making the CD was the realization of a dream for me. Some key players are Allan Phillips (producer/keys), Ricardo "Tiki" Pasillas (drums/percussion) and Nathan Brown (bass). Allan, really captured my passion for Latin music. I'm a huge fan of percussion and usually have a shaker or guiro in my hands when performing, so I can really appreciate Tiki's contributions. Nathan Brown is like a brother to me and his playing is always in the pocket! I'm grateful for his friendship and encouragement.

For straight-ahead gigs I would add players like Kamau Kenyatta, Curtis Taylor and Gregory Porter. Kamau is a multi-instrumentalist (keys and horns) and Curtis is a fantastic trumpet player. Gregory Porter's voice and rich soulful style is amazing. Going more Latin I'd love to work with artists like Arturo Sandoval, Chucho Valdes, and vocalists Mark Anthony, Concha Buika and Gilberto Santa Rosa.

Road story:
My worst experience was pretty recent. I was singing at a high-end venue and performing a flamenco jazz rendition of "It's Impossible." Some music fans may not know that it was composed by the renowned Mexican composer, Armando Manzanero. I sang it in the language it was written, in and a female guest walked up to me and asked me why I was singing it in Spanish.

After I educated her on the origins of the song, she commented: "This is America" and that she didn't understand why I sang so many songs in Spanish. She clearly displayed her ignorance on so many levels. If she had been paying attention, she would have realized that we had been singing songs by American composers mixed in with our Latin jazz selections. She walked away in a huff but other guests who overheard began saying how much they liked everything we were doing and encouraged us to keep it up!

In all my years singing, I've never had that happen during a show. It's a sad reflection of how polarized this nation has become when even in the arts, some folks feel the need to try to humiliate and demean others simply because they are different.

One of my favorite moments: Having someone tell me that one of my songs was her life story. It was exciting to hear someone actually be touched by my music.

Favorite venue
In the San Diego area, I love the Fairmont Grand Del Mar Hotel Lobby Lounge. It's a beautiful room with excellent acoustics. The setting is like sitting in a living room with comfy couches, big fireplaces, and great staff. Other favorites are The Music Box (formerly Anthology), The California Center for the Arts, and the MGM Las Vegas, but I'm looking forward to performing back East again.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
My favorite depends on my mood: different moods different favorites. I love all types of music so it's difficult to choose, but my fallback is always Pat Metheny. That may seem strange because I'm a singer. But I enjoy being quiet and allowing the music to carry me somewhere. His music does that for me.

One of my favorite recordings that I've participated in: I would say is "Bahia" by Greg Manning on his album, Dance With You. I had the opportunity to sing with him and James East and we had a blast.

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