David Hidalgo has been the singer, songwriter, and guitarist for the venerable roots rock band Los Lobos since its inception over 40 years ago. Ahead of the group’s latest album, the terrific Gates of Gold, Hidalgo spoke to us from the road about the motivation for the quintet’s 19th studio collection, the process behind its creation, and the challenges of promoting new music in the age of social media.
What motivated the band to put out a new album?
It had been five years since we’d done a studio record. People don’t buy CDs like they used to. We depend on the live shows, so we figured we needed some new stuff to keep the ball rolling.
As you add to the repertoire, are you trying to do something that fits in with what you’ve done before or are you trying to do something you haven’t done?
We always do. Ultimately it ends up sounding like us. We’ve always tried to go somewhere we haven’t been before; go back to some older ideas, maybe. We try to keep it moving forward. Or backward. Moving somewhere. (laughs)
Was there a particular creative spark or did it just feel like you were due for another studio effort?
We work all the time. We’re always on the road. When we did the Disconnected record, we had signed up for a two-record thing. We put out the live record, and now the studio album as part of the deal. We put aside some time between February and April. We need deadlines. That’s the way we work. It’s not like we’re constantly writing and storing this material. Between family and the road, all the time is taken up.
So, did any of the inspiration come from touring?
Over the years, in hotel rooms or whatever, if I have an idea for a riff or melody or chord progression, I’ll tape it on my phone. I went through them and found a few that worked. That was the starting point.
Did working on the Disconnected record, which was an acoustic record in a Los Lobos way, inform any of the writing for this album?
Well, maybe it did. A third of the songs, at least, started off as acoustic ideas. That was the foundation. They eventually ended up the way they ended up.
How was it decided where to record the album?
We all live east of L.A. We didn’t want to be driving into Hollywood every day, 50 miles in traffic one-way. We found a studio in Santa Ana called Blue Velvet; just a small studio in an industrial complex that had great gear. What we recorded we got on playback. It was true to what the sound was in the room. It was a good little studio to work in. And, it was convenient so that took some of the pressure off. Plus, we had an engineer, Shane Smith, who worked with us on Tin Can Trust.
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