Trail Mix – Zaq Suarez

Regrettably, I hopped on the Zaq Suarez train a bit late.

I fell in love with the former Asheville based songwriter’s last band, The Hermit Kings, just before they disbanded. Since then, I managed to catch him live just once, though it was a terrific songwriter showcase that so aptly put on display Suarez’s songwriting acumen.

Since I last saw him, Suarez his up and moved to Barcelona, Spain. According to Suarez, he just needed a change.

“At some point, I could feel that the sponge of my soul was clogged thick with gunk and muck. I moved to a place where I only knew one person and didn’t speak the language, hoping to find an opportunity to wring out that puppy and get back to a pure version of myself.”

Having been in Barcelona for a few months now, Suarez is experiencing a surge in creativity. He just released an EP with a project called Zaq Squares & In Between Jobs, which was recorded in Asheville last summer and features a cohort of musician friends. One of them, Raina Aguar, now lives in Spain and the two regularly collaborate still. And Suarez has yet another project in the works, Of The Stars, that is set to release an EP this summer.

I recently caught up with Zaq to chat about his move to Spain, his collaborations, and to drop my first ever Spanish Trail Mix question on him.

BRO – Tell me about that moment you stepped off the plane in Spain? What was going through your head?

ZS – People kept asking me, “What are your plans when you get to Spain. I generally replied with a shrug and, “Sometimes planes fall out of the sky.” It wasn’t until I was in line at the Newark airport that I found a place to stay here. A fan of my music that I’d only met once before offered me a room in his flat in Garcia (kind of like the Brooklyn of Barcelona) and we’ve become great friends since. For the kind of soul-searching I needed to do, I felt that I need to let fate sort of take the wheel. I guess when I stepped off the plane, the first thing I thought was, “I hope the jamon – a Spanish ham – is as good as they say it is.” And it totally is.

BRO – Has the move supercharged your songwriting?

ZS – Absolutely. I’d say 99% of the songs I’ve released solo or with The Hermit Kings, I wrote in the mountains of western North Carolina. Specifically Asheville. There’s a rhythm to those mountains and a soothing energy that shaped my songwriting in a way that really allowed me to play off of silence. They say that a writer’s medium is the page but a musician’s blank page is silence, and that really resonated with me back home. Here, there’s a natural rhythm as well, but it’s different. It’s livelier and older somehow. Some of the songs I brought with me felt unfamiliar when I first played them here. The songs I’m writing now, and there’s been about fifteen in the first three months, have a new soul to them. It’s pure and exposed and a little breathier than my earlier writing. I hope this new feeling is present in the EP I plan to release this summer.

BRO – What do you miss most about Asheville?

ZS – Damn. You trying to make me homesick? I really miss the mountains and my dear friends and, of course, that sweet lager bier, but what I maybe miss the most is the accent. I’ve made so many friends here from Belgium, Ukraine, France, Poland, England, Scotland, Uzbekistan, Canada, and Spain. They all tell me sooner or later that they couldn’t understand what I was saying until the second or third time we hung out. You don’t realize how many colloquialisms you use until you’re around people who can’t fathom them. My favorite thing that people don’t understand is the phrase “get outta here.” People get either really offended that you’re asking them to leave or they seem to get genuinely concerned that they have to leave where they are currently. It’s amazing and, after explained, always ends in a good laugh.

BRO – We are featuring “Desperate Man” on this month’s Trail Mix. What’s the story behind the song?

ZS – Well, this latest EP is a collaborative effort between myself and four of my best friends, two girls and two boys. We all had some time this summer and decided to make a record. We called ourselves “In Between Jobs” for the fun of it. “Desperate Man” was a fun tune to write. It’s meant to be from two perspectives. The first is a man pleading with a woman and offering to be anything for her. He’s desperate for her, but his desperation gets him nowhere. The second is the woman’s perspective. She hardly knows this guy and sees him as a stalker. His intentions are good, but he’s not putting the effort in that’s needed to start a friendship or relationship, so she threatens him out of self-preservation. The brige is meant to be the fear of an undefined threat. It’s just a desperate man in the story, and there’s no real bad guy, just a misunderstanding and a lesson to be confident in yourself and communicate clearly.

BRO – La próxima vez que esté en Barcelona, ¿puedo comprarte una cerveza?

ZS – Si Amigo y no le digas a mama pero … ¡la marihuana es legal aquí!

If you happen to find yourself in Barcelona next week, Zaq will be playing a set at Big Bang Bar. If you’re like me, you’ll be hoping he ends up stateside in the not so distant future, particularly in the Western North Carolina region, and you can catch his songwriting wit here.

In the meantime time, be sure to check out “Desperate Man” on this month’s Trail Mix. Take a listen to new cuts from Steve Poltz, The Moth & The Flame, Uncle Walt’s Band, and Over The Rhine while you are surfing through.

Places to Go, Things to See: