Walter Salas-Humara says he wanted his most recent solo album—his first on Rhyme & Reason Records—to have his name all over it, literally and figuratively. “Walterio” (August 2018) embodies the singer-songwriter’s Cuban-American heritage and multicultural influences from growing up in South Florida. He even features two songs written and performed in Spanish—Castilian Spanish, to be exact.
“I find Castilian a very melodious language, and the music to accompany it comes quite easily to me,” Salas-Humara offers about the dialect from northern and central Spain. “Lyrically, I find it better suited to broad concepts and universal landscapes. Perhaps because I have a far larger vocabulary in English, I find the English language, for me at least, better suited to more complex storytelling.”
One of his Spanish tracks, “Hecho En Galicia,” is about Galicia, a place from which his ancestors hail. It’s a harmonious tune, according to the musician. “I speak a little bit about the culture and my heritage,” he explains, “but mostly it’s a fun psychedelic dance song.”
Longtime fans know Salas-Humara from his roots as the cofounding frontman of The Silos. For more than 30 years, the artist has dabbled in various iterations of the group, releasing more than a dozen albums since 1985. As a solo musician, he also has another dozen or so projects, but lately he has been working on several new songs.
“One is about the people and activities typical to the Western mountains,” he shares, “another set is inspired by improvisational music, and finally [another] new project in collaboration with the novelist Jonathan Lethem.”
encore asked the artist to share more about his current works and influences Wilmingtonians will hear on Saturday at Satellite.
encore (e): As a Cuban-American, how do you continue to marry multiple cultural influences and genres in your music?
Walter Salas-Humara (WSH): As a child I heard my parents and their friends playing a style of Cuban music most recently associated with Buena Vista Social Club. I digested many of those rhythms, but as a teenager and a young adult, I was a rock ‘n’ roll guy and identify as such. That is the music that has influenced me the most. Now that I am a mature writer, I try to derive inferences from all places—musical, literary, visual and conceptual.
e: Can you describe distinctly Cuban influence(s) in your music, as well any other cultural influences on the album?
WSH: It’s definitely earlier African rhythms that influence not only the Cuban and other Caribbean music styles, but American blues and rock ‘n’ roll.
e: Songs like “Here We Go” and “She’s a Caveman” stand apart as more electric rockin’ tunes. Tell us about these songs…
WSH: I wrote “She’s a Caveman” with a 15-year-old kid, Tarl Knight, from Green Bay, Wisconsin. Many of the hilarious yet prescient phrases came from his young mind and scholarly approach. The primitive rock environment is a logical tongue-in-cheek extension of the song’s female empowerment message.
I wrote “Here We Go” with my investigative journalist friend Paul Cullum. It’s a bucket list of idealistic travelogues, sung in a very strident manner. The powerful rock beat seems natural to the ultra-confident personality of the lyrics. Of course we snuck some humor and mockery in there underneath.
e: As someone who’s been creating music for decades, as part of a band and a solo artist, what has been the most significant form of your growth?
WSH: Growth as an artist and songwriter is parallel to growth in one’s life and peace of mind. No matter how hard you try fiction, one’s life and inner view of life always informs art. Since moving from New York City to the Mountain West, I have gained a deeper experience with the totality of the natural world and our interconnectivity. It brings peace of mind and nonjudgment. The feeling of interconnectedness makes the work effortless and wonderful.
e: You seem to be drawn to intimate shows. Is a certain level of intimacy important to the overall experience of your music?
WSH: When you are performing, it is an all inclusive event. The audience is as important as the performer. Connecting with the audience on a deeper personal level, making eye contact, and sharing emotions is so important.