Artist: Jorge Otolio
I was born in Cantabria (Spain), where I spend my childhood and teenage. After some years with my home divided between Spain and the Czech Republic, I moved to the later in 2002, where I’ve lived since. I am a teacher of Spanish in a great school and I love my job.
My family always liked listening to music and singing. As a child, I was exposed not only to Classical music, but also to boleros and other Latin American music, Spanish and Cantabrian folk songs, or even the Beatles.
My first melodies were composed in my early childhood, but I didn’t want to study music until I was in my twenties. At that time, I had more than one hundred songs and I thought it was time to take it seriously. And there I am now.
I am also an amateur writer, a translator, or a comic drawer, among others. I love children. And I believe creating a videogame can be a form of art of full value.
I prefer to talk about my art than about myself, so let’s move on.
I used to consider myself semi-professional years ago. I was a member in an association of songwriters, I sang in a choir, I was in a pop group, I gave small concerts alone or in group to pay for my studies… At present, music is “just” my hobby number one.
What Music activities are you involved in? Recording artist, songwriter, composer, producer, engineer?
On the long term, I’m a songwriter and a composer. However, my activity number 1 at the moment is learning: I am taking composition at The Open College of the Arts, while I continue my studies of piano and guitar.
What aspect of what you do musically, do you find challenging?
I think there are many challenges. Being fair to myself and critical enough is maybe number one: I tend to be either too critical or too self-admiring. Another one is to be able to express the ideas with both the right music and the right lyrics, plus make them match nicely – although this one gets better with practice. Recording, on the other hand, is still a pain. I don’t have the proper resources and it’s highly demotivating to have low quality or computer-performed recordings. Not being that good on the instruments myself (or not being able to play some of those I write for) is also a problem.
How would you describe your music?
I have folk, protest, pop or punk songs, lullabies and other children songs, chamber music, experimental music, some choral works,… On the other hand, I’m still at the beginning of my learning process. Therefore, I think my music can best be described as both varied and amateur.
How much of what goes into your music is life experience?
To a great extend, songs are a reflection of my life, whether describing it or narrating the events. Sometimes it’s not my personal experience, but the experiences, dreams, fears, and success of someone close to me. Having said that, this is more visible in the lyrics than in the notes. The notes themselves are quite often a way of overcoming my stress, anger, or sadness. Music alone helps me expressing joy, playfulness, or irony (it would be too long to explain here how to express irony with notes, but hey, it is possible!) Sometimes, I write one or more pieces for someone (my suite Montañeses is a cryptogram on the names of a bunch of my closest friends). So all in all, I think music does reflect my steps on this world.
How would you describe your sound?
Generally speaking, my older songs sound simple enough so my listeners can enjoy a surface listening. However, with the new songs, people tell me they have to listen to it several times to get used to it. Sometimes I tend to put too many voices, so it can become quite dense a sound. Give it a try and let me know!
How important is performing to you?
Not at all. My ability to play is limited. I also find performing very consuming and therefore, I don’t enjoy it and I don’t perform for an audience anymore.
What are your goals and aspirations as a musician?
I’d like to write beautiful music, one that is easy to be listened to by anybody, but also something that would challenge and inspire more demanding listeners; music with different readings; music for both the big mass and the initiated. It would be great if people felt better after listening to it and they found something in my “catalog” for every different mood and need, from parties and weddings or children songs to lullabies, meditation music, sport or funerals.
I prefer having a few people listen to my music and sing along rather than selling lots of copies to people that won’t listen to it ever again.
If nobody listened to your music, would it still be part of your life?
As I mentioned before, music is my reaction to many things. It comes automatically. Allow me to compare it to food: it’s great if I have visitors and they find tasty what I cook, but I have to cook anyway to feed myself, don’t I? Music, whether listened, written, played, studied, or sung, is a basic need for me. And I like my own music very much, so it definitely would still be part of my life even if everybody hated it.
As a musician do you ever think you’ll quit learning your art?
The day I quit learning music, I’ll be musically dead. One of the greatnesses of Humankind is that we are always evolving personally, growing spiritually. If we stay in a mere existence or expressing of feelings, sorry, but even quite simple animals can do that as well. Among others, Art is also progression, change. Now, how can there be any progression in my art if it isn’t in my learning? The day I quit learning, I’ll be stopping my progression. There will be no more art of mine. I hope I’ll never quit.
Do your family and friends support you pursuing your passion for music?
Yes, they do. I have a great family and I am very, very lucky with my friends. In fact, I have no chords to express my gratitude.
What advice would you give to young musicians starting out?
Sometimes I’m asked whether I regret refusing to take music earlier. I don’t – I had my reasons, and I think it was fully justified. Having said that, it was not too early when I wanted to change the situation, and still today I have some big limitations due to the late start. No matter how obvious it sounds, if you want to take music seriously, you have to be serious about it! Also, there is plenty of great musicians and composers and performers: you have to find your way of being different. And persevere: you may become a genius if you are constant!
Do you use social media to share your music with others?
Yes, I do. I am still a beginner there though. This question just reminded me I really need to do something with my videos…
What instrument or instruments do you play?
Apart from my voice, I have some rudiments of piano and guitar, both of which I’m still learning; and I want to start with clarinet this Summer.
How long does it take you to write a song from start to finish?
It really depends. When I was in my late teens, it was as fast as sit-down-write-record, with up to five “items” per day (some of them were surprisingly good, while others were rather forgettable). Now I’ve become more of a perfectionist (still not a perfect one, though). Longer pieces usually take me up to several weeks, but there are exceptions, like two-minute songs taking me several months, and then sometimes two or three rather complicated piano pieces being all three written over one single weekend.
Do you ever have trouble finding time to work on your music?
Sometimes it’s tough to combine writing music with work, studies, family, active sport, household, and some hours of sleep. Some other times, music is fed up with being ignored and assaults me to have a sleepless night of writing great stuff (and the following day I feel… in Heaven, don’t ask me why). Luckily, my partner is always there to give a hand – usually bringing to me some delicious meal to keep me going. Thanks to that help, I have some more time, more energy – and more love to write about!
Do you feel the music you listen to affects who you are?
Yes. Music affects how I behave. I believe that, if one listens to a certain kind of music constantly, it can lead to a deeper transformation of the person. I guess that is why I avoid certain works (mine or from others), especially if I realize I start feeling aggressive or sad. We live once. I want to be a good & happy person. I don’t want to suffer or make others suffer. I trust music is a gift we have to help us accomplish that.
How do you deal with writers block when writing music?
Physical activity is of big help: walking fast, and especially biking, can be very inspiring. Also doing relaxation, playing the guitar or the piano, and very recently I’ve discovered the wonderful effects of (sit down) cleaning my flat! I guess my ideas get ordered at the same time every object gets into its place. Cooking, however, is a muse-killer for me.
What sort of musical training do you have?
I was a self-taught musician until I was 23. Then I started piano with a private teacher. Official Music theory studies came later (25 y.o.), then guitar and voice as well. Composition as such came some time around the time I was 37 or 38, in the form of consultations. Then I wanted my learning to become more structured and I looked for several options on the net. After 2-3 years, I found The Open College of the Arts, where I was admitted in June 2013 – and it’s been the perfect step forward so far.
I should write many names of teachers that have pushed me forward musically, but allow me to write just one: Julio Jaurena, the first professional musician that made me feel I could do it, many years ago. His memory still helps me to move on.
My final thoughts to inspire young musicians:
Believe in yourselves. Never give up. Be better every day. You can do it! And thanks for reading!
Thank you on behalf of Listening Edge Records for taking time to share with us your thoughts on music, and helping inspire musicians of all ages.Trevor Baron President Listening Edge Records