by Gary Hess
Mention Christian Lopez to someone and the response is often something like: “Yeah, I’ve heard of him, he’s from West Virginia, right? Doesn’t he play country?”
I first saw Christian perform at the Blue Parrot in Charleston, back in March, 2013. He was 17 years old. While he did play some country classics that night, even those were done with his own branding – including a unique medley/mashup of Johnny Cash. He also did some more bluesy stuff and a cover of “Lochloosa” by swamp-rocker JJ Grey. What really stood out, though, were his original songs.
I was completely blown away when I saw Christian again the next night at Sam’s Uptown Cafe, where a small crowd was partying for hours to a similar set. A rendition of Sublime’s “What I Got” was icing on the cake. Americana seems to be where he most often lands in the media, but what is “Americana?” As Christian told Rolling Stone recently, “It’s been hard for me to categorize myself and I’m kind of proud of that, but at the same time I’m happy that Americana is becoming a home for the genre misfits out there.”
For his first full-length record, Onward, Christian worked with star producer Dave Cobb, whose “almost-live” recording style fit perfectly with Christian at the time. Except for hanging around long enough to finish high school and a brief stint with college, he has toured for about six straight years, taking just one other brief break to squeeze in those recordings.
Christian’s live shows are not to be missed. Those who do know him will remember his performance at Live-on-the-Levee during Festivall 2016. The after-party rock event at Boulevard Tavern later that night is now the stuff of legend. You can catch Christian with Porch 40 at Clay Center’s all-ages Sound Checks show on Thanksgiving Eve so bring the whole crew. Expect to hear many songs from the new record, but you can bet there will be a surprise at some point in his set as well.
At 22, Christian Lopez has only begun to unleash his natural talent and what promises to be a rewarding career. Wanting to learn everything about music production, he chose to record his sophomore album with Marshall Altman at Blackbird Studios. Red Arrow took nearly a year to record. While there are a couple of songs that could arguably be played on country radio, the “country” of today is not at all what Christian plays. Some have even pegged him as a legit pop star. He has turned his back on opportunities simply to follow his heart and play his own way, something that would be considered a mistake by many. However, as a multi-instrumentalist and respected guitar player, he could have chosen any number of paths. Ironically, it’s his vocals that have brought him a new wealth of admiration with his sophomore release.
Visit the “about” page on his website to learn about his early influences, how a week at sea last year with 5000 sailors inspired a new song, what names like The Milk Carton Kids and Vince Gill have to do with the new record, and much more.