Tucson singer-songwriter Brian Lopez maybe wrote his best album yet in just 2 weeks

Arizona News

Brian Lopez didn’t expect much from his year-old solo album “Prelude.”

It was the finale of a long, drawn-out record deal that dated to his early 20s and his first band, Mostly Bears. Frankly, he just wanted to finish the album and move on.

So every night for two weeks in the fall of 2017, the classically trained guitarist retreated to his room determined not to leave until he had written and recorded one song, using a lo-fi computer program that didn’t hide the imperfections.

One song a night for 10 nights — though he did take off a couple nights to rehearse with his latest band XIXA — sounds pretty crazy.

“Essentially every time I sat down to do a song, I finished the song in that night,” he said one afternoon last month, nursing a beer at the Royal Room downtown. “That was what had to happen because I was going on tour in France, and I had to get it done.”

At the end of the two weeks, after nights that stretched into early mornings, Lopez delivered “Prelude” to his record label. The CD came out in March 2018, and he hired a publicist to market it in Europe — he had no plans to push the project stateside — then hit the road for a two-week tour to promote it.

Funny thing happened as Lopez was sprinting to the finish line: The 36-year-old Tucson native created what might just be his most important album.

“I don’t think I have ever been more motivated to complete something in my life, and the fact that I felt good about the material,” he said. “I felt like, damn this might be my most important stuff I’ve done, and I’m going to take this as a lesson for how to write in the future, how to record.”

Lopez said he didn’t think anyone would care about this album.

“Well, I was wrong. … This little bedroom album seemed to please all who gave it a spin.”

The music press in Europe seemed to agree.

Germany’s online alternative music site Terrorverlag opined that “Prelude” “is an intimate, small sound cosmos that immediately captures its listener and invites to a peculiar journey of thought. … (It) is more than just a prelude, but a beguiling collection of distinctive song pearls — one more beautiful than the other.”

Germany’s Neon Ghosts said Lopez had the courage to record an album so lo-fi that you can distinguish the mistakes and those mistakes “bring a dusty-raw, incomplete, but always honest charm to the whole project.”

Even after its release, Lopez did not share the album with anyone in Tucson except his longtime girlfriend. He put it behind him and put his solo career on hold to focus on XIXA (prounced ZEEK- zah), the band he and Gabriel Sullivan had started several years ago as Chicha Dust.

But somehow, his friend and fellow Tucson musician Daniel Martin Diaz got his hands on it. And on a long drive, he listened to it.

He loved it.

“I felt that this is his true essence and where he shines as a singer-songwriter,” said Diaz. “I put it on, and it was just him being vulnerable in his home, and it captured his rawness in his voice and his songwriting.”

Then Diaz got to thinking that “Prelude” needed to be heard.

He had just launched Guided By Spirits Records in collaboration with downtown’s Wooden Tooth Records, and he proposed that Lopez let him re-release “Prelude” on vinyl.

“The concept behind the label is to release incredible music being produced here in Tucson,” Diaz explained, and Lopez certainly fits into that niche. “It has that scratchy raw sonic soul that only vinyl can conjure.”

“He kept telling me, ‘Brian, this album is excellent,’ ” Lopez said. “He would go out of his way to find me and tell me ‘That record is just blowing my mind. You have to put that on vinyl.’ And I’m always like that would be cool, but it costs money to put stuff on vinyl. Finally, one day after months of that he just called me and was like, ‘I got an idea. What if I just finance it, and we just do it and put it on vinyl? And we’ll get new artwork and just redo it?’ ”

The vinyl version of “Prelude,” with new cover art by Phoenix artist Eric Cox, will be released during an intimate, stripped-down concert at Exo Bar on Friday, Sept. 13. Diaz pressed 100 copies; 50 already have been pre-sold.

Friday’s vinyl release concert is how Lopez would have liked to have heralded in the project when he first released it on CD in spring 2018.

“I always really liked the album. I just didn’t have any resources to invest in the whole cycle of putting out an album, touring behind it and doing everything,” he said. “I was just, like, get it out and get rid of (the record deal) and move onto the next thing. … I am literally putting out the same music, different artwork, on a different format. It’s just a way more beautiful format, what I would have wanted to do in the first place.”

The word prelude means beginning, and for Lopez it is a beginning. A start of how he plans to approach his solo work in the future.

“I’m going to start writing songs and giving myself just one day to figure it out,” he said. “It’s an experiment, right? It’s a flicker of inspiration and not like questioning yourself too much. Because it’s so easy in production these days, with all the advancements these days in engineering and technologies. It’s so easy. Everything you could do with sound is so tempting to dive into that. What about just put something down with mistakes and everything? How do people respond to that? It’s so counterculture to what the younger generation is used to, what people are used to.”

“For me, this album was really eye-opening,” he added.

Lopez plans to invite a few friends to join him at Friday’s concert, but his goal is to replicate “Prelude” as close to the unfettered, lo-fi album he created in his bedroom one song, one night at a time.

“It will be sparse and hopefully as delicate and beautiful as the album,” he said. “ ‘Prelude,’ meaning the small idea before the big idea. And I don’t want to get to the big idea. I just want people to see the flick of inspiration.”

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