Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Song By Song: Carlos Arzate Explains the Sonoran Soul of Got Me Wrong

Posted By on Tue, Oct 13, 2015 at 10:59 AM

The Tucson Weekly profiled singer-songwriter Carlos Arzate in September for the official release of Got Me Wrong, his debut album with The Kind Souls. 

Arzate and his bandmates blend folk, soul, country, blues, rock and gospel into a sound he’s termed “Sonoran soul.” The album is produced by Ryan Alfred, who also serves as bandleader for The Kind Souls.

Now, in anticipation of the Arzate’s release show on Saturday at Flycatcher, the Weekly asked Arzate to discuss the album, song by song.

1. Got Me Wrong
“That song is about begging for a second chance, but he doesn't get a second chance,” Arzate says.
The metaphor comes from a man sleeping around, but Arzate is planning a music video about corrupt politicians with kids acting out the story.

2. The Ballad of Louis Taylor
Wrongfully convicted of setting the 1970 Pioneer Hotel fire that killed 28 people, Louis Taylor was released from prison in 2013 after serving 42 years.

“I always was curious about the story. I heard about it growing up in Tucson. My grandmother said downtown was this epic meeting point for everybody. The fire kind of turned downtown into a ghost town because it was such a painful event."

“I read about the Arizona Justice Project taking up the case and I wanted to write some topical folk songs to challenge myself as a songwriter...I wanted to get his blessing before I started to perform it. I wrote the Arizona Justice Project and they contacted me back right away and set up a meeting. I got to know him over the course of an hour and played the song for him and he gave me his blessing right there.”

3. No More
“It’s about coming to terms with the phrase 'Be the change you want to see in the world.' I was tired of apathy. It’s so easy for everybody to get cynical and apathetic. I’m turning the page. The stuff I grew up believing in wasn’t true to me any more.”

4. Coyotes of Sasabe
Before he died, the late songwriter Cyril Barrett asked Arzate to sing “Coyotes of Sasabe” for the compilation The Banks of the Ship Canal. The song “humanizes the plight of the migrant who braves the Sonoran Desert in search of a better life,” Arzate says. “That was awesome to be asked to do that song and for him to like it was great. It totally fit the aesthetic of the CD and it’s a way to keep that song going.”

5. Burn Out (Take It Back)
A heavier rock song, the lyrics imagine a constable coming to foreclose on a home, while the family flees out the back door as they set the home on fire.

“It was about the crash, about investing in the American dream and losing your ass on it."

6. Lay Your Burden Down
“I was inspired to write that for the prolonged hospital stay my sister had,” he says. His sister got sick in Palm Springs and “that trip back to Tucson was the last time she’d ever see a blue sky...It’s a heavy tune about mourning and it sets the tone for ‘My Darlin’ Dear.’”

7. My Darlin’ Dear
“That song was inspired by a time I was really sick, after my sister passed. I woke up in the middle of the night and I was so cold my wife ran a bath for me and I was rocking back and forth to find some peace and calm myself down. The warmth brought me comfort and the melody came to me and when I got out I typed the lyrics...I love gospel choir music I was able to bring the gospel influence into the vocal harmonies. The crescendo is a real payoff for the listener.”

8. From Here
“It ties to ‘Burn Out.’ During the recession, it was a real tight time for my family. When money gets tight, relationships get harder and my wife and I were mentally tired. I retreated to a room one night after everybody was asleep and I wondered what our future would hold. I thought about what if we could run away and start fresh and that’s how the song came. It’s everything I was feeling then and it was a catharsis to work that notion out.

“After showing it to Ryan (Alfred), I thought it could be a duet and I could get Kelly (Carpenter) more involved in the song, so I wrote another verse to come from the other side of the relationship.”

9. Devils Highway Waltz
“I wrote that right before we did the recording session. We ended up tracking it at the end of the first day and we did three takes and got it. I don’t know what it was for, I just knew it was something. It wound up being the perfect piece to set up On & On & On and when I perform it now, I do it that way.”

10. On & On & On
“It’s become the crowd pleaser. I wrote it when I was tired of hearing about immigration as a political football. It’s not an easy thing. I was reading “The Devil’s Highway” by Luis Alberto Urrea and about how arduous the journey is.

“When we recorded it, I talked to Salvador (Duran) about putting a personal narrative on the journey. I told him, ‘Picture yourself on this journey, you’ve sacrificed everything and you’re going to die. You’ve come to grips with that fact, alone, and you find whatever comfort you can in your last moments.’ He came up with this beautiful narrative and it’s a really poignant piece.”

11. Tell Me Lies
“I wrote it about the things we have to believe in to be Americans...There are lies we have to believe to be relatively comfortable in our country. There are these things that aren’t true, but it’s simple and easy and they don’t want to care about how our freedom is achieved. I was frustrated with our media culture. Any alternate view of the status quo in Red-Blue America is easily marginalized.”

The song features Gabriel Sullivan and Brian Lopez on guest vocals.

Carlos Arzate and The Kind Souls perform Saturday, Oct. 17 at Flycatcher, 340 E. Sixth St. Doors at 7:30. Huckleberry (from Phoenix) opens and the Sweet Ghosts celebrate the release of their new single "Wreckage" at 9:30 and Arzate takes the stage at 10:30. Cover is $10. 

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