Musiquita is the multi-talented, multi-lingual, multi-instrumental team of vocalist and violinist extraordinaire Blanca Cecilia González and pianist/singer/composer Jesse Elder; their debut album, aptly titled “Musiquita,” is set for release on September 24, 2022.
Blanca Cecilia González is a native of Colombia. She holds a Master of Music degree from The Juilliard School, and her husband, Jesse Elder, is music director of the globetrotting ensemble Postmodern Jukebox. Together, the spouses bring ferocious musical skills to “Musiquita,” underscored by a lively sense of humor befitting their experience as parents of two young children in a bilingual Spanish-English family.
Blanca Cecilia González and Jesse Elder recently discussed this album via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you get interested in music and songwriting and did you always gravitate towards the children’s genre?
Jesse Elder (JE): We’ve been studying music since we were children. It’s our life blood. We have been performing professionally our entire adult lives. Blanca was a Music Together teacher before we started Musiquita, but it was a side job. I was touring the world, performing with Postmodern Jukebox and Music Directing all of their productions. It wasn’t until the pandemic hit and we lost our work that we turned to family music as our full-time profession/passion. We discovered very quickly that it was an amazing fit for us and that we had a talent for it, as our audience kept returning and expanding!
MM: How did you meet and what’s it like to create music with your spouse?
JE: Blanca came out to a jazz gig I was doing with a band called the Candy Shop Boys. She had just finished a concert. We were instantly drawn to each other. When I heard her play violin (“Tzigane” by Ravel), I was floored. She was an absolute beast! A force of nature! We come from such different musical backgrounds that we didn’t play together for the first 6 months of our relationship. When we finally did, it was a profound joy and challenge. We had so much to learn from each other. We started making music in quite a unique way as a result of our differences.
MM: What comes to you first, the lyrics or the melodies?
JE: We have explored both approaches but find that we’re most successful when we’re getting both lyrics and melody at the same time. Every thought has a feeling, and every feeling a thought. They’re two parts of the same thing. Blanca often bursts out in song with the kids while doing something like brushing teeth. She narrates the experience within the context of a melody. We hone in later and craft a song. I do the same, but for me it’s often a solitary experience.
MM: How did you break into the industry and how would you describe your style?
JE: As mentioned above, we started during the pandemic out of necessity. The families kept coming and the demand kept growing. We now have 1-3 events per day (seriously!) and opportunities keep flooding in. Our style is joyful, original, and inspired by the moment. We rarely have a setlist, as we enjoy responding to our crowd and flowing with them, with probably around 100 tunes memorized and ready to go! We often improvise medleys, never repeating the same show twice.
MM: How tough is it to create songs that appeal to both Spanish and English speaking audiences?
JE: Pretty easy! A lot of the families that attend our events actually don’t speak either of these languages primarily, but they just go with the flow! We also incorporate songs in Mandarin, French, and Russian. That’s challenging for us as we don’t speak these languages, but it doesn’t stop us from giving it a go! We aim to learn songs in many other languages. We’ve received requests to cover tunes in Japanese, Polish, and many other languages. The hardest part is finding the time to study!
MM: How long did it take you to complete this recent album?
JE: We’ve been performing the music live for 2 years. We did a fundraiser, which helped us figure out the size ensemble we could afford, then we spent a month arranging. We were only in the studio for 2 days, followed by 2 days of editing and mixing and 1 day of mastering.
MM: Out of all songs on the album, do you have any personal favorites? If so, which ones and why?
JE: Blanca loves “Me Gusta La Lluvia” because so many kids love it. It’s playful and interactive. I love “Un Besito” because Blanca and the accordionist sound so great. I also love “Unique New York” because of all of the different feels and the horn section. The horn players are 3 of my favorite people/players. I’ve done a lot of time on the bandstand locally and on tour with these cats and am so thrilled to have their sounds on the album. The bassist and drummer also sound amazing on this track, and all of the others!
MM: What are you thinking music-video-wise for these songs?
JE: A videographer documented every moment in the studio. We’ll release every single track as a studio video. We’ll probably also weave in videos of Blanca and I singing and moving along with the tracks, as that will be a fun way to engage with the little ones.
MM: You have won awards, so what were those experiences like?
JE: When I was younger, winning awards meant a lot to me, but not so much anymore. We’re both finding that we’re most successful in our performances when we’re most liberated from our egos. This may sound heady, but in practice it’s very simple. We just have to be there for/with our audience. I’m happy about awards and such insofar as they help us get more and better gigs, but that’s about it!
MM: What’s the best fan feedback you’ve gotten about your music?
JE: We are thrilled when we see families singing along to every word of an original and doing all of the choreography. Sometimes they know the words better than we do! It’s quite something.
MM: How would you describe your live performances?
JE: Outrageous and in the moment. Anything can happen. We often find ourselves dancing or marching around with the audience or rolling around on the grass (when outside) with the kids while playing. We play numerous instruments, even the ones we aren’t very good at, and constantly take chances. We have often had contagious laughing fits in the middle of a show to the point where we have to stop playing, regroup, and continue. It’s always a party. Blanca brings that Latin fire that is so infectious. We also enjoy peaceful and intimate moments.
MM: How do you hope your career evolves over the next five years?
JE: We’d like to find a Mary Poppins-level nanny who can help us homeschool while we travel the world performing. Unlike the rigorous bus tours I’ve done for so many years where you hit one city per day, we’d like to have reoccurring residencies in locations all over the globe. We imagine spending a week in each place doing small classes, community outreach events, private lessons, etc, culminating in a concert. We hope to afford to be able to travel with a full band and welcome them to bring their spouses and little ones along as well! Thinking big here…
MM: What are your ultimate goals for the future and is there anything else that you would like to mention?
JE: In addition to the above, we love producing content. One day, if we could have a team behind us so that we could create elaborate video productions, that would be amazing. We also imagine having incredible artists make each song we release into a picture book. In general, we want to explore as many artistic collaborations as possible! Dance, theater, visual art, etc… let the creative juices flow! We’ve done a lot of multimedia collaborations in the past and feel that Musiquita is a perfect match for this kind of exploration. I’d like to be surprised by the kinds of things we’re creating in 5-10 years. I hope that the projects we get into are beyond my ability to currently imagine, inspired by the community that evolves.
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