The fabulous story of the girl who missed her plane and waited alone all night after saying goodbye to the love of her life. She met him in Rome during a dinner without desert and even though they learnt to float and make Sundays last forever, they thought they had lost each other forever. But as plane took off without her, she heard him say: Shall I give you a lift? (La fabulosa historia de…). Zahara’s second album, with a title that is probably one of the longest in music history, is a small gem that has taken her from the unknown depths of Ubeda to launch her career on the national music scene.
“Viene un tren a toda velocidad, a lo lejos… / Lo noto por las hojas de los árboles, moviéndose. / Lo noto por el indio escuchando el temblor en las vías. / Lo noto porque el agua se mueve. / Porque el hombre sentado en los porches ha caído de su silla. / Apártense. Diablos. Háganme caso. / Es Zahara. Repito. Es Zahara. / Que conste que les avisé.”
“There’s a high-speed train on its way, in the distance… / I can tell because of the leaves on the trees, shaking. / I can tell because the Indian is listening to the tremor of the tracks. / I can tell because the water is trembling. / Because the man sitting on his porch just fell off his chair. / Stand back. Damn it. Pay attention to what I’m saying. / It’s Zahara. I repeat. It’s Zahara. / Let the record show that I warned you.”
“There aren’t any words remaining to be said, they followed you when you left,” she sings. Zahara manages to leave her audience speechless due to her ability to laugh in the face of sadness or fly with her feet placed firmly on the ground. Zahara’s come a long way since her first album Día913, when she still called herself Eléctrica. The owner of a distinctive, crystal-clear voice and star of our first Tertulia Luneada concert, we caught up with Zahara during her hectic schedule of events covering the length and breadth of Spain.
Q: What is it about the food in Ubeda that produces so many fabulous musicians? Sabina, Alis, Guadalupe Plata…
A: It’s probably the olive oil and the ochíos* (she laughs). It’s great to think that so many artists, and not just musicians, have come out of Ubeda and the province of Jaen. It’s really cool.
Q: Inspired by the lyrics of La Cancion Mas Fea Del Mundo (The Ugliest Song In The World) “hay que llamar a las cosas por su nombre” we’d like to know how you’d label your music?
A: I like calling my music pop, in the original meaning of the word pop… popular. These days people are obsessed by categorising music. Is it mainstream? Is it indie? Pop encompasses marvelous music such as songs created by The Beatles. My music is similar in the sense that I create songs that talk about everyday things and that are influenced by the essence of life.
Q: In what way have the likes of Toni Soprano, Faemino and Cansado (the latter two being Spanish comedians) affected your music?
A: Faemino and Cansado have helped me to understand the ins and outs of humour and inspired my way of seeing the world; I try to laugh at things that happen to me, the good and the bad. I’m indebted to both my father, who used to make me watch Faemino and Cansado videos, and my friend Aure, with whom I used to spend hours on YouTube. Toni Soprano is amazing! Even though he’s a gangster, you’re in love with him from the first episode. I enjoy programmes such as The Sopranos and Six Foot Under because they manage to reflect the way I see life and human relations.
Q: Are you trying to say that whatever happens, you view life with good humour? Your second album has some extremely sad songs…
A: Humour is a way of getting over sadness. You can either wallow or try to find the positive side of any given situation. When I write a song about something that hurts, I want to feel it, to get to the bottom of that pain, to understand and analyse it. But it’s important to know how to escape from those feelings. In my case, hitting rock bottom later helps to put things in perspective. I try to combine dramatic lyrics with happy melodies to try to maintain a positive note.
Q: What’s the difference between Zahara Eléctrica and Zahara y Los Fabulosos?
A: Zahara Eléctrica was a band I had in Granada, with Alfonso Alcalá on bass and Pablo García on drums. It was a first attempt at creating a band, of differentiating between my acoustic and electronic music. Zahara y Los Fabulosos is a totally different band, even though Alfonso is in it too. The rest of the band are Catalans. Los Fabulosos have managed to recreate the sounds I had in my head.
Q: If Día913 was the product of 913 days, exactly two and a half years of work, how many days would La fabulosa historia de… be?
A: Many more than I’d be able to count. In my latest album I’m telling stories that happened when I was making Día913 and much earlier too.
Q: In fact, the track Con las ganas on La fabulosa historia de… was also on your first album…
A: Yes. It’s the only track I’ve maintained. It’s an old song that people still ask me to play at concerts. I still get emotional when I sing it. It had to be on the album.
Q: In your song Merezco, where was the plane you missed meant to take you?
A: It was supposed to take me to Granada. Missing that plane led to many positive things. I remember that I felt I was going to die of sadness and I cried my eyes out. I felt a little silly, as I say in the song. But missing that plane has paved the way for many positive things. Who’d have thought that missing that plane would inspire not just a song, but an entire album? Missing that plane is a metaphor for everything that’s happened since then.
Q: You’ve had good company in making the album. Santi Balmes, Carlos Jean and Ricky Falkner… Do you find that everything is easier when you’ve got a big label backing you?
A: These colaborations have happened naturally. It’s got to be that way. I met Santi because he liked one of my videos on YouTube and asked to work with me. With Ricky it was the same. Universal introduced me to Carlos Jean, but he decided to work on the project. Having a label behind your work isn’t decisive, it’s just another component in the mix. Sometimes record labels only cause problems. That’s not my case, but working with a record label doesn’t come with any guarantees.
Q: Now that you’ve made it as a singer, do you still feel the need for what you’ve been know to call Calimero moments?
A: I do (laughs). I’ll always need them. Those moments of “I’m getting in under the covers and I don’t want anyone to bug me”.
Q: Did you have fun making the music video for Merezco?
A: (Laughs). It was the first time I rode a roller coaster and all the other amusement park attractions. I was really scared and suffered from terrible vertigo… but in the end I had a blast because the crew was fantastic.
Q: Any plans to return to jazz?
A: No. I learned a great deal from jazz music. I love it and when I’m home alone I still sing standards… But to be a professional jazz singer you’ve got to study a great deal. For now I’m completely focused on my own songs.
Q: I guess you’re a fervent believer in the Internet and its possiblities.
A: I’m online all day long. It’s what really works. Social networks are the most direct and sure way to be in contact with people. Sometimes I don’t have time to answer all the messages I get, but I try to stay connected whenever I can.
Q: Did you notice a big difference after making the advert for the Tour of Spain (Vuelta Ciclista a España)?
A: I suddenly got a lot of attention. The song was popular and it allowed me to book more concerts. But it wasn’t decisive. I’m still working at it: writing songs, surfing the net… This is a full-time job and I’ve been working at it for many years.
Q: How is your career indepted to venues such as the Pay Pay in Cadiz?
A: A great deal. They allowed me to play when no one else was interested. The Búho Real in Madrid, for instance, booked me month after month, even when only a handful of people came to see me play. That support and faith in my work, before even I believed in myself, gave me the confidence to pick up my guitar and play. They have given me the energy I needed to devote myself to music.
* Ochío: a traditional cake made in Ubeda (Jaen).
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