In a dimly lit room — where the walls are decorated with individual shelves cradling some of the best wines of the earth and the ceiling is fashioned with countless corks in circular patterns — rhythmic and melodic sounds fill the air. The conga player, bassist, keyboardist, and most importantly, the feature performer are trying to make sure everything is just right with the sound for the much anticipated audience scheduled to arrive on this blustery Sunday night; Oscar Night no less.
“Hay un problema”, the dreadlocked singer of slender build says softly into the microphone. There seems to be a slight issue with the sound equipment according to the ears of twenty-seven year old Vicente Garcia, who happens to be ever the perfectionist with regard to his craft. After a few adjustments the band resumes its warm up routine. This isn’t your average sound check at Corcho Wine Room in the Washington Heights section of New York City. Garcia is in the middle of what has so far been a successful mini-tour of the metropolitan area while performing with session musicians who are not members of his customary traveling band.
“I was always influenced by music”, the Dominican born singer/songwriter confided as to his upbringing. At an early age Vicente was surrounded by the symphonic sounds fashioned by his father and uncles each of whom are classically trained musicians. It wasn’t an uncommon occurrence for the budding musician to hear the likes of Herbie Hancock or Joaquin Sabina emanating from the record player in his home as he grew up. “At twelve I just grabbed a guitar from my uncles’ house and I just started writing a song. That’s when I really became in love with music”, Garcia shared of his first formal musical experience. As time would move forward and he matured Vicente added more musical influences such as Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye and Juan Luis Guerra to bolster his range of taste. The latter has gone on to serve him well, as the legendary Guerra would eventually take the younger Garcia under his wing serving as a mentor of sorts.
“I met him when I was in Calor Urbano”, Garcia told me of his first encounter with the beloved superstar. “We did an R&B version of “Tu”, that’s how I met him. He then took us on tour and from there I started thinking about doing Dominican music because I became influenced by the reaction of the people in all the cities I went to go play. When Juan Luis plays merengue and bachata people go crazy. So I saw all that and I wanted my music to have a Dominican influence.” This move has obviously paid huge dividends for Vicente in the commercial and artistic realms as he went solo. In 2011 Garcia released his debut album “Melodrama” to much fanfare. Since the release of the album he has developed a cult following which is evident when one sees that extra dates are being added to his constant touring schedule.
With regard to his traveling efforts and what he hopes to accomplish with them Garcia states, “I hope to get people to come to my concerts and sing the songs. I’m really not into all this dream and stuff. I just want my music to get across to people and it makes them happy.” This can be seen when attending Vicente’s live shows as he dedicates himself to interacting with his audience not only during his performances but after they have concluded. Whether it’s a college auditorium or a quaint setting such as Corcho Wine Room, Garcia makes it his business to connect with people who attend his concerts.
As for new music Vicente divulged that he is currently perfecting songs while on the road. “I’ve been experimenting more with bachata and salsa”, Garcia mentioned of his current songwriting ventures. “I’ve been playing with a lot of Dominican rhythms and looking to go in a more roots oriented direction. I also want to have more guitar based merengue and more of a pop structure to my music.” In listening to his catalog thus far one should be able to understand the direction he is headed with his craft. The main objective of Garcia’s music is to maintain a cultural identity while exposing those who encounter it to his pop influences which hearken to the likes of Simon and Garfunkel.