In support of Bad Ass And Blind, Raul will be headlining at The Highline Ballroom on Mar. 24, the date of the album’s release. One day prior, on Mar. 23, Raul will also be doing a guitar clinic at Guitar Center in Times Square. Downtown had the pleasure of speaking with Raul about his history with our city — he is originally from New Mexico — and what he has coming up in his career. He also talked about his surprising passion for ham radio.
What do you remember about the first gig you ever played in New York? Where was it?
Raul Midón: As a musician? The first gig I ever played was with Shakira at Roseland. Then SNL. As a solo artist, the first gig I played was at a Chinese restaurant where the owner insisted on interrupting us during songs. She insisted that a guy had to sit in, the guy played spoons. It was also my last gig at a Chinese restaurant…
When did you first move to New York?
RM: I moved to NYC with my wife in May of 2002.
For you, is playing for a New York audience different than anywhere else?
RM: My mother was a New Yorker so it was in my blood, but since my mom passed when I was four, it was not actualized until I lived there. New York still remains one of the most relevant music scenes in the world.
For someone who hasn’t seen you live before, what should be expected from your show at The Highline Ballroom?
RM: I’m playing material from a new album where I continue to explore eclectic songwriting, rapping etc. But I also have a couple of tunes that I explore modal tunes, tunes in complex time signatures. I have a new band — young cats from Baltimore who grew up with the church and a jazz education. I’m told we’re a good-looking group!
A lot of people call you a “one-man band.” When did you transition from performing into the traditional sense into more of a self-reliant performer?
RM: When I first moved to NYC, I needed to stand out in order to be noticed, so I did my best to cultivate that by creating a rhythm section with my guitar and voice.
Aside from your gig at The Highline Ballroom, what’s coming up for you? What can you tell me about your followup to Don’t Hesitate?
RM: I just got back from Australia and Dubai. After that I am on tour for my new album, Bad Ass And Blind, on Artistry Records. I’ll be going to the Singapore Jazz Festival, Japan and the U.S. then Europe through the summer.
Is there anything you haven’t yet accomplished but still hope to?
RM: So many things! I want to write a book. I received a full scholarship for college to study writing but I chose music and went to the University of Miami.
When not busy with music, how do you like to spend your free time?
RM: You would find it boring. I’m an amateur radio enthusiast. I have a 55-foot tower in my yard in Maryland. I talk to people all over the world on the radio. Lots of times when I go abroad, a ham guy will come get me at the hotel and then we talk on their ham gear to people all over the world!
Do you have a favorite restaurant in New York?
Finally, Raul, any last words for the kids?
RM: Don’t do drugs! Just kidding. Kids, whatever you do, be good at it. Work at it. Study it. Be nice to each other.