Brooklyn native and the son of a Colombian political cartoonist and French singer Gabriel Garzón-Montano has already had one hell of a journey for an up and coming musician so far.
You’ve likely heard Garzón-Montano’s smooth melancholy voice on Drake’s “Jungle” which samples the singer’s “6 8” from his 2014 EP, Bishouné: Alma del Huila. Drizzy came across “6 8” thanks to Garzón-Montano’s childhood friend, Zoë Isabella Kravitz, who showed the Toronto rapper his track. Then, Bishouné: Alma del Huila caught the ears of Stones Throw alumni Mayer Hawthorne who brought the EP to the label’s founder, Peanut Butter Wolf, which ultimately led to Garzón-Montano’s signing to the institution that gave us J Dilla and MF Doom. Now, the multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter has just released his debut album titled Jardín which features Garzón-Montano’s unique and eclectic blend of funk, neo-soul, Latin, pop and even hip-hop.
Garzón-Montano chatted with the Weekly at Stones Throw headquarters in Highland Park this week to discuss his full-length debut, his French-Colombian upbringing and what to expect from his live shows this week at Amoeba Records and Fingerprints.
OC Weekly (Denise De La Cruz): How would you describe your music to new listeners?
Gabriel Garzón-Montano: It always starts in a bubble bath. I put different people in the bubble bath. I put someone in the living room…say someone is coming over for tea later. Erykah Badu and WC are in a bubble bath, WC is wearing shorts though and then Prince and Sly are playing chess in the living room and John Lennon is coming over for tea later. And Willie Colón is walking down the street in front of the house.
Gabriel Garzón-Montano is such a rad name, how do you properly pronounce it?
Like the state but ending with the letter O, a lot of people say “Tana”, so not like Tony. Montano is Italian and my mom substituted that for her original name which is Homo and everybody in the States would laugh and say, “Oh, Alexandra Homo!”The H is silent. She looked into her recent ancestry and found this guy Montano who was a photographer and fun fact, he was the first guy to photograph the king of the Philippines. And I guess in the beginning of photography people had the impression that you would take someone’s soul if you photographed them and that was very much the case in the Philippines. The guy died a month after his photo was taken. It was a coincidence or who knows. (Gabriel chuckles.) But yeah, I always liked that story.
Why did you name your debut album Jardín?
I’ve never answered this way, which is the real way. It comes from a poem written by Arthur Rimbaud called Jardin de L’enfance which is “Garden of Childhood” [in French.] It’s an incredible poem and it’s definitely like a palette or a starting point for what I wish I could do or what I want my whole poetry/music realm to be. It’s just really juicy imagery with lots of plants, colors and things from all over the world and it’s like this kaleidoscope World’s Fair. I think I wrote that down because I thought it was a really cool name. Like, “Garden of Childhood” seems like a really great little universe to live in. I didn’t want to title something verbatim so I took the first word that seemed already potent enough, garden. Then I switched it to Spanish to further remove it from the original and “la tidle” (accent) shows up in my name in the “Ó” so it adds a little continuity and Bishouné also has it.
I love that you keep the “tilde” in your written name not only does it look nice but it stands out. Most people drop their accents out of laziness to type in the proper letters or in an effort to assimilate.
Gabriel Garzón-Montano: That’s definitely the spirit like, ‘deal with this,’ and let it be as commercial as it can be given people’s little pea heads of wanting to anglicize everything. I love it.
Is Bishouné: Alma del Huila half Spanish, half French?
Yes, it’s an incorrect spelling, it’s my phonetic approximation of the diminutive for bishouné. Bishouné is like “
To me, Bishouné sounds rawer and sort of like bedroom music with a more notable hip hop influence where Jardín feels like it has much more polished melodies and a heavier R&B sound. Would you agree?
Hmm, I see what you mean—like Jardín is a little more vibrant? Yeah, I hear that. [Bishouné] is certainly rawer, Jardín sounds a little
Was the recording process the same?
Same exact everything. When I think of the bedroom part of Bishouné, I think of Pour Maman—I made that in GarageBand so that’s definitely that. I think what you’re speaking to is really from the audio standpoint. The mics that we used to record my vocals were the same. I think my performances were in a different vain, a little more punchy, a little more forward. The strings I think also bring it into this other realm where it’s not going to be bedroom, it implies something else. Jardín is a little more in your face and Bishouné is more dubby, more laid back.
Did becoming a part of Stones Throw influence Jardín‘s sound?
No, the record was finished before I actually showed it to them. I think it’s just refining the workflow with Henry Hirsch [Garzón-Montano’s collaborator and engineer] and just getting better. His skill set was more similar for the two projects than I would’ve been because he’s been in the game for 35 plus years. So, if anything, I was the one who grew.
How did you come together with Stones Throw in the first place?
I guess it started when I pressed up 500 copies of Bishouné with Styles Upon Styles (an NYC record label), one of those guys was my roommate at the time. They [Styles Upon Styles] went door to door to all the record shops in the city and put a couple of copies in everybody’s hand and Drew (Mayer Hawthorne) heard the album playing at A1 Records—which is my favorite store in New York—and took two copies back to [Stones Throw.] We e-mailed them my stuff a long time ago and never heard back and all of a sudden there was an email from Chris [aka Peanut Butter Wolf who founded Stones Throw.] Then he came and saw a live show and loved it and from that point we kept in touch. I came over here [Los Angeles] in March or May of 2016 and I played him the whole album in [Stones Throws’] studio and we talked about shit for a minute, he took me down to the basement gave me a bunch of records and a sweatshirt and said, ‘I hope we can work something out.’
What’s the vibe like at your shows?
I think people are always moved by it sometimes more silently than other times. We just did the release show in the city and people were like screaming and stuff and singing along—that was definitely new…It’s not like a dance party it’s like a dream.
Yeah, I agree that it’s dreamy. To me, your music seems like the perfect soundtrack for lying on a grassy knoll on a sunny day.
That’s definitely where I want to live, forever in the sun. I think it’s also because my mom is like that. She was a musician (a member of the Philip Glass Ensemble in the 1990s) and always wore bright colors and always had a lot of energy. Even though some of my stuff sounds kind of sad or more melancholy.
Yeah, but it’s the type of sadness that still makes you feel happy.
(Nodding) It’s a part of life.
Gabriel Garzón-Montano celebrates the release of his debut album “Jardín” (out now) with a live set and signing at Amoeba