Salvador Santana knows a thing or two about music. Not just its past, present or even the direction in which it is going; rather, the keyboardist, vocalist, composer and songwriter knows, as an artist, how to steer clear of being boxed into any one genre and utilize his passion for music to its fullest potential. It was his father, Carlos Santana, who taught him at an early age to maximize his love of beautiful sounds. Sal’s musical background has led him to take a full-throttle approach toward what he feels will be pleasing to the ear; and his jazz, pop, Latin and hip-hop influences are apparent on his new album, Keyboard City.
URB: Let’s talk about your album. What was going on while you were making your first solo project?
SALVADOR SANTANA: A lot was going on, a lot was going through my head, you know, a whole lot of different emotions, and I wanted to turn it around and incorporate all of it and make it so that people can relate to it when they take a listen. When I decided to call it “Keyboard City” everything started to fall into the correct place. I’m really grateful. I know people will totally appreciate it and have just as much fun as I had when I was creating it.
URB: Clearly, a lot was going on during the production of the album.
SANTANA: Yeah, there was, I could get into it, but the basic rundown is that there was just family, trying to figure out certain forks in the road, while at the same time I did my best to just stay positive and hone in and figure out what I wanted to offer as the overall message of this record. I guess change is the one constant that happens with everyone. The overall message is that no matter what happens, no matter what kind of day you’re having, just keep a smile on your face, it gets you by. That’s what I want people to walk away knowing when they pop in the CD or leave a show.
URB: Keep it business savvy while keeping it real.
SANTANA: That’s right. I like how you said it way better.
URB: The album has been extremely well-received, mainly because of the way you delve into the pristine depths of music, and fail to get stuck in one genre. What is your favorite song, or which ones, have you found, have been your audiences’ favorites?
SANTANA: Let’s see, I have a personal relationship and some form of sentimental value to each song and hold dearly in a certain way. My two favorites, well my second favorite happens to be a song called “Under the Sun.” To me, it’s just catchy. Even as the creator, I do my best to get that song out of my head. But I just can’t! It has all the elements of being a classic song that someone can just put on no matter what kind of day they’re having, and forget about the stresses, forget about the bills, and just for a second, enjoy the day that God blessed us with. I just love the lyrics. In the process of creating this song, I was listening to the music, and at that particular song I was stressing about what I wanted to write about, and then, while the track was playing, the producer said, “Hey, just go for it! Say whatever! I just want to get a level.” I said, “Okay!” I started freestyling, not actually rapping, but sapping, singing and rapping. Out of nowhere, all these lyrics just came down. I just said “everything is so beautiful/ love is all we need after all.” The producer said, “This is all great! Just go with it! Don’t stop!” Eventually we recorded all of the music that I laid down. I think people will be able to walk away and enjoy the song, and enjoy their day. My first favorite is “Keep Smiling.” It’s my favorite because, I want people to, at the very end, walk away with a song that’s very laid back. It’s a Bob Marley, meets Jay-Z, meets Ella Fitzgerald’s style. The message is again, keep smiling, and it’s about inspiration. It’s about no matter what kind of day you’re having, just keep smiling and you’ll live longer and appreciate life.
URB: There have been dozens of remixes of your music since the release of your album. Have you been pleased with the results?
SANTANA: Absolutely. My goodness, where do I start? GZA helped me out with Keyboard City, the title of my upcoming record, [my] solo project. Del the Funky Homosapien helped me out with a remix for the last record, and then he and I got together and collaborated a little bit within the last few months. Hopefully people will be able to see things online or we’ll leak something online at some point soon. The list goes on and on. I’m super-pleased that people want to put their own style on things. Some of these people were not only co-producers, but people of whom I am a fan. So it’s even more of an honor to have them come in and remix my songs. I guess I’ve died and gone to musicians’ heaven. I do my best to stay grateful and stay appreciative, and maintain a clean conscience.