Queens-based singer-songwriter Juan Wauters will be performing at Art House tomorrow, February 14, at 10 p.m. The New York Observer recently wrote that he was “one of the most idiosyncratic and inventive songwriters in New York today.” He was born in Uruguay before relocating with his family to the neighborhood of Jackson Heights in Queens, NY, and now considers Queens his home.
On February 4, Wauters released his first solo album, N.A.P. North American Poetry — an album full of good vibes, captivating lyrics, and a sound that you can drown into. In anticipation of his show at Wes tomorrow, Natasha spoke with the artist about his music, his experiences as musician, and about his home.
How would you describe your sound?
It’s pop music that talks about myself. I started writing music by chance, I would write a song about whatever I was thinking about or feeling or seeing. All the songs come like that to me, so music describes me and creates me. For example, when I want something, I’d write a song about it, and now a song exists with me talking about it. Kind of like using it as a tool to manipulate my future, and to express my present and the past as well.
How long did it take you to write your new album, North American Poetry? Where did you write and record the album?
I recorded it at my friend’s studio in Brooklyn, NY. I wrote here and there, it’s hard to say because when you make an album, some songs are those you record for the album and some songs you have laying around, that maybe you wrote two years ago. Some songs I have on the album are older, but some songs were from that time when I was writing the album. So I would say maybe a year.
What are your expectations for playing at Wesleyan for Valentine’s Day?
I hope that a lot of people come out and enjoy the show. I’m thrilled to try something new. I don’t know what to expect, and that’s the good thing about going on tour, that I’m going to a place where I have no idea what’s going to happen. I’m expecting to have a good time. I’m coming with three really good friends of mine.
What are some of your musical influences?
I like songwriting a lot, like the Beatles and the Ramones, but I’m really into 90s hip-hop music like Snoop Dogg and Biggie Smalls. I also like a lot of Uruguayan artists because I grew up there and was born there. I like pretty much all different kinds of music, but I got very much influenced by the idea of a song, and the masters of that are the Beatles, so I would say they are my biggest influences. But I like the different vibes from different kinds of music. From hip-hop I really like the lyrics and the content of the lyrics, they’re about hanging out, and sometimes they’re about interesting things happening.
What kind of venues do you like to play?
I like all kinds. I’ve played really big venues, and that I haven’t really gotten used to yet. I think I like more of a medium sized venue, with a good sound system and a good place for people to watch the show. I usually like it where this is a place after a show people where can hang out and have fun, or even play music.
You represent Jackson Heights, Queens, really strongly in other interviews that you give. What do you love about the neighborhood? How have you seen it change over time?
When we first came to the States with my family, it used to be like the kind of New York you’d see from a movie in the 90s, people hanging out on the stoop, drugs, prostitution. But having a neighborhood like that meant there were a lot of really exciting characters to hang out with and meet. I met friends with whom I started playing music with. I feel at home there, and it’s very familiar to me, and the fact that there are people from all over the world. Everyone there is minding their own business. It’s like hustle town, and everyone’s going to work, going home, picking up money to send back to their country. It has a very exciting and thrilling vibe. There’s a lot of little things about it, like Scrabble was invented there, and Howard Stern was born there as well. You know when you think of America, like a place where a lot of people can be themselves, and make money, where they feel at home. My neighborhood is a place that represents that. It’s kind of like world peace.
Juan Wauters plays Art House tomorrow (Saturday, Feb. 14) at 10 p.m. with Rachel Connor’s Picture Show. You can listen to more of his music and watch his videos on his website.