Singer Rebeca Vallejo Turns to Community For Funds For Her Third Album, Azucar, Canela

Singer Rebeca Vallejo self-funded her first two albums. For her latest, Azucar, Canela, the Downtown Jersey City resident turned to Kickstarter. The Jersey City Independent got a chance to talk to Vallejo about her new project and her fundraising campaign, which hit its mark last night with contributions from more than 140 backers (but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to donate!)

Jersey City Independent: Tell us a little about your background and how Spanish culture influences your music.

Rebeca Vallejo: I was born in Madrid to a family of flamenco singers going back many generations. I grew up singing and hearing my family sing around me so, I guess it’s not a total surprise that I became a singer myself! While I grew up with very little means and in a less than privileged area in the outskirts of Madrid, I had a strong global vision of the world and an overwhelming sense that there was a whole universe out there that I needed to explore and conquer, and that’s been true ever since I was very little.

By the age of 19, through a scholarship from the European Union, I moved to the UK to pursue college studies in Wales. This experience marked an important milestone in my life (I discovered jazz!) but in my heart, I knew New York was the big goal.

Arriving in the U.S. in 2000, straight off the boat to Jersey City, was the beginning of a journey that exposed me to millions of life’s (and music’s) stimulants — among them, Brazilian music, which I fell deeply in love with. And as if the result of some strange karmic-boomerang effect, five years ago a deep yearning to dig into my flamenco roots came about, and the rest is history.

JCI: What is “jazz flamenco fusion”? Talk a little about your musical style.

RV: Many musicians and vocalists who have approached the mixing of flamenco music with jazz have approached it as music with a base of flamenco and added “sprinkles” of jazz on top. Since the vocal techniques that flamenco singing require are extremely peculiar and incredibly difficult to fuse with other musical genres, I decided to make my musical approach begin with a base of jazz and let my flamenco influences filter through.

Above, Vallejo’s video pitch on Kickstarter.

JCI: How did you choose the title of this album?

RV: “Azucar, Canela” is the title of my “hit song” for this album (my “cash cow” as I like to say… haha). While I don’t have a big sweet tooth per se, the combination of “sugar” (azucar) and “cinnamon” (canela) make for a distinctive textured flavor I find particularly Andalusian (not to even mention that they are the secret ingredient of my world-renowned sangrias!)

JCI: How will Azucar, Canela differ from your other two albums?

RV: A career in the arts, like life itself, is a powerful journey. I spent many years looking for a sound and one day, when I stopped looking, the sound found me! While my first album is a funkier and more Brazilian-influenced approach to my original compositions, my second album aimed to explore in more depth my flamenco approach to the jazz standard. This third album I believe is a much more balanced combination of the triangle of musical influences that dominates my heart — jazz, flamenco and Brazilian music — creating a sound in itself and expressed by mostly original compositions of mine.

JCI: Have you ever done a Kickstarter/crowd-funding project so far? How has it been going — has anything surprised you?

RV: Oh, my goodness… no! I haven’t done this before and I had no idea of what I was getting myself into! Surprises? I have had many, but the main one is the incredible amount of work that goes on behind the scenes (something I was not prepared for). The most incredible surprises have come from the discovery of a new whole world out there of people who believe in what I do (beyond my poor long-suffering closest circle of friends!), the re-connecting with people I’ve been apart from a long time, and the incredible amount of support I have received from the local community of artists and musicians. Overall, this has been a very human experience.

JCI: Tell us about your neighborhood. Also, where do you gig?

RV: I have the great luck of living one block away from the cutest little park in the world, Van Vorst Park. (Check this little jewel out, my dear people.) While I have always tried to stay connected to my local artist community in Jersey City, I have developed most of my career in Manhattan and abroad, mainly in Central Europe. But with this next album, we are going global, baby!

JCI: What are the biggest challenges of being a musician, and what do you like the best?

RV: The biggest challenge of being a musician is simply being a musician: the endless years of practicing and learning, the economic uncertainties, the lack of social recognition because you don’t have a “job,” the constant putting yourself out there, jumping without a net, opening up your heart and guts for 10 people or 300 people, the constant self-doubt of what is possibly your absolute delusion… should I continue?

What I like is best of being a musician is being a musician. I wouldn’t trade my moments on stage for anything in the whole wide world.

Visit Vallejo on the web at http://rebecavallejo.com. Click here to learn more about her Kickstarter campaign, which officially ends early Saturday morning.

Image courtesy of Rebeca Vallejo

a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in the The Wall Street Journal, and Agence France-Presse. She is also a former editor for Jersey City Independent.