Movie star-handsome musician Diego Garcia first got noticed in the rock band Elefant, but these days it’s his solo work that’s garnering all the attention. Garcia’s sophomore album, Paradise, out October 8, makes it easy to see why: The tropical-tinged love songs are the sort to climb into a listener’s head and set up camp for days.
Garcia himself is inspired by the troubadours whose music his Argentinian parents played when he was a child. The connection’s easy to see in his well-crafted, eminently listenable crooning. But Paradise isn’t a throwback; Garcia has a high-energy presence that makes it clear his music is absolutely modern.
DuJour spoke to Garcia, en route to Pittsburgh to play a concert, about going solo, the importance of a broken heart and what paradise means to him.
You recently wrote an essay that said no kid ever thinks the music his parents listen to is cool. What were your parents listening to and did that ever change for you?
I think I was referring to the natural rebellion one has toward his parents’ generation. What my parents were playing over their parties eventually got into my subconscious and recently I’ve found myself connecting to some of that.
Mostly I’m talking about a movement in the 1960s and ’70s that came out of the Latin American troubadour scene, including artists like Julio Iglesias from Spain as well as Roberto Carlos from Brazil who were singing about love. When you’re young, that’s sort of impossible to understand since you’ve never had your heart broken. All of these records would play in my house, so when I started going down my solo path, it felt natural to connect to what they were doing since I had just had my own heart broken.
Those crooners of another generation seem to pop back up every now and again. What do you think that’s all about?
They all had lived life, so the music was genuine. It felt sincere and believable, yet when they would deliver the songs they seemed like superheroes. There is something amazing about a man who’s lived life a bit thinking about those experiences. What worked with that specific movement is that the production was so raw—it offered juxtaposition to the romantic, lyrical message. There was a balance that made what they did so special. Then the 1980s came and Michael Bolton ruined everything.
What holds the songs on Paradise together?
With my last album, Laura, we were focused on the styling of the songs. All of those songs were written on a guitar and touched on different feelings I was having at the time. On Paradise, our relationship is still essential inspiration, but I am opening up to the bigger picture of life and balancing a relationship. Lyrically, the songs on this album are on a similar tip, and stylistically we held on to similar techniques. Also, I did sing in Spanish for the first time on this record. Ultimately what we created was an escape.
You got your first break as the front man for the rock band Elefant. How is having a solo act with your own name on it different for you?
With Elefant I got to learn a lot, I got to make mistakes, but I was shielded by the band name. Going solo was a huge transition and I took my time. I took four years to write Laura and find a sound I thought was genuine and natural. It’s a nice thing to have my name on it because it puts a little more pressure on me to deliver quality. The irony is that as a solo act, I’m working with the most incredible band I’ve ever worked with.
This being your second solo album, what did you want to try that you didn’t on the first record?
On this new album, I felt it was time to stop thinking. We went with the flow of the studio and just let the magic happen. The other thing was having toured and played the songs live, I wanted to bring that energy into the studio. It brought in a new level of energy and so the record sounds larger.
What’s your own idea of paradise?
I like leaving it open and letting each person figure it out on his own. If I had to pick a paradise, it would be spending the day with my wife and children, maybe early in the morning when the kids come into our room. That’s it for me.
Watch the video for Garcia’s new single “Sunnier Days” below: