The following is an exclusive Independent Spotlight interview with Marcelo Camela, a Mexican instrumentalist with a new contemporary Christian record.
Marcelo, you’re an incredibly intriguing artist with a remarkable new record, ‘Praise & Strings.’ My first question for you is rather simple. You’re from Puebla, Mexico, and much of your content online is in Spanish. You are, however, fluent in English as a result of your work as a professional interpreter. Is your music designed for a specific audience or do you want it to transcend both American, English speaking culture and Mexican Spanish speaking culture?
As a Christian, everything I do is for the glory and praise of my Lord Jesus Christ. What I do with my music is to worship Him in the most genuine way I can with the talents He's bestowed on me. However, I create songs for the enjoyment of every listener, regardless of their beliefs; In other words, no, my music is not designed for one specific audience. My tunes are instrumental because music knows no language barriers. Yes, the song titles are mostly in English, but I wish to transcend cultural frontiers through the pure language of music.
Your work is a religious piece. You cite it as an “intimate experience with vibrant worship.” How do you perform religious music without vocals? As an instrumental performer, what do you do to convey its spiritual content?
Interesting question! There are three aspects to the album that will help explain how religious music can be performed without vocals.
1) I tried to convey everything I feel while praising God, e.g., peace, joy, solace, love, etc. Songs like “Praising”, “There Is Joy” and “Arms Of Grace” portray all those sentiments.
2) I aimed to create melodies that would make my Lord smile. In a way, some of the tracks are love songs for Jesus. “To Him Who Loves Us”, “Te Amo Jesus”, “From My Heart To Your Ears” and “A Song For My Saviour” were composed with the sole purpose of telling Christ how thankful I am for everything He's done for me, and how much I love Him.
3) I wanted to represent what Jesus is. I believe in a powerful God. “Lord Of All”, “Might And Glory” and “Invincible” are my musical representation of His greatness. “Light Of The World” is the most peaceful track, meaning that God is not only power and strength, but also the light of my life.
Like many aspiring indie artists, you self-recorded and produced the record at home in your own studio. What was this experience like for you? Did you have any background in production or did you start from scratch? Was it a rewarding experience you’d continue pursuing?
It was a lot of fun! I really enjoy the whole process, but I admit, it can be challenging, tiring, and even annoying at times. Be that as it may, I love recording and working at my studio. It is very satisfying.
No, I don't have a background in production. I had some experience with minor recording software in high school, but nothing special. When I was 19, I bought a nice little M-Audio interface with Pro Tools and started practicing on my own. My first recording experiences were a “trial and error” thing. Thank God for the Internet! I learned quite a lot from YouTube tutorials and online readings, and while I still have much to learn, I've made a lot of progress. I've acquired very useful, inexpensive equipment over time, and now I can make decent recordings.
Yes! It was a very rewarding experience! Especially because I am in charge of everything, and I rather like that. It is something I definitely will be doing as long as I can.
Your album elegantly mashes rock and roll influence into your praise with searing electric guitars and riffing. Needless to say, it feels refreshingly contemporary. What are your thoughts on the modern state of worship music?
I think modern worship music has become quite simplistic and clichéd, with the main focus being showmanship instead of musicianship. Almost every act sounds the same nowadays.
Back in the early 2000's, bands like Hillsong (Australia) and Delirious? (UK) were known for their great musical skills and solid songwriting. They created timeless songs that are sung every Sunday at churches all around the world, and pretty much changed the way Christian music sounds. Today, we get all these new acts that play the most overused chord progressions and sing the laziest lyrics. Seems to me that they're not even trying! I'm not saying Christian music has to be super technical or intricate, but there´s got to be some effort put into it.
As previously mentioned, you worked as a professional interpreter for missionaries. That sounds like it would be a rewarding and unique experience. Has it had any impact on your music and creativity?
As a matter of fact, yes! I've been blessed with the opportunity of visiting various places and meet tons of wonderful people, and that definitely has impacted my life as a whole. To see all the great things God has been doing in the humblest communities inspires me big time! Meeting other musicians and worship ministers from other places has enriched my life a lot.
Instrumentalists often face the same problem: creating a record that’s consistently interesting. You don’t want your songs to blend together or lose their distinct nature. This is very difficult for many indie instrumentalists, and often results in albums that blur from song to song. How do you work to overcome this?
The great flamenco legend, Paco de Lucia, once said: “if you're impressed by the music you're creating, your listeners will be even more! Impress yourself before you can impress others.” I believe that, so I strive to make every song unique and easily identifiable. By making use of repetition, certain “themes” or motifs are established that help distinguish the songs from one another. When I listen back, and can say “man, did I play this? WOW!” then, and only then, will a song be complete.
You seem to have a good handle on both sides of your brain, or so to speak. You’re constantly tapping your creativity on the right, but you’re also a lawyer who specializes in intellectual property. Does your work as a lawyer have any impact on your music? (I imagine you must be much more aware of the legal red tape surrounding than most artists.)
I wouldn't say it has a direct impact on the music itself, but it is convenient to know how to protect my work and release it knowing it will be safe. I think it is important for every aspiring artist to learn at least some rudimentary IP law!
Are you involved with any church worship performances? Or do you have a history with them? It seems like that would right up your alley.
I've been my church's worship leader for almost 8 years now. Have been serving there for 13 years. We have services all week, so I spend a lot of time at church. Love it!
Let’s briefly touch on the future: Where do you go from here? How do you progress your music and continue to create original content, and what are your aspirations?
Well, in the next couple of months I will be touring southern Mexico, imparting free worship clinics, music workshops and performing my album, too. I'm also working on two albums by bands I'm currently involved with. Hopefully we'll release them soon, as well as a Christmas EP of my own later this year.
What I want is to bless people and starting musicians with the aforementioned clinics, and to reach as many people as I can with my music. Fame is futile and recognition is frivolous if I'm not doing something for others. I intend to use what God has given me to bless others.
Finally, I love to ask this of every artist we talk to here on the Spotlight. It’s always compelling to see an artist not just as a producer of music, but a consumer as well. If you were to shuffle your Spotify or iPod, what five songs may appear?
Oh, man! I have over 5000 songs by over 600 artists, but you may find this:
“The Wake” – August Burns Red | “Our God Is Love” – Hillsong | “El Mar De Mi Ventana” – Niño Josele | “Concerto in C for Flute and Harp” – Mozart | “All Ends Well” – Alter Bridge
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