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Ximena Sariñana. Photo: Emily Shur.
Ximena Sariñana. Photo: Emily Shur.

If you go
What: Ximena Sariñana
When: 8 p.m. Monday
Where: Larimer Lounge, 2721 Larimer St., Denver, 303-291-1007
Cost: $12

For Ximena Sariñana, the best part of performing live is sharing with her fans and seeing their reactions to her music.

“I love playing live,” she said. “I think my favorite part is experimenting with different musicians and getting to play the songs live and try different things from them and get the vibe from the audience and see what they like.”

That attitude will serve her well over the next few weeks on her first headlining solo tour. She’ll do a lap around the country — with her beautifully unblemished alto in tow — that will end just before Christmas. 

Part of what makes Sariñana so interesting is that she’s bilingual, recorded her first album, Mediocre, in Spanish and her second, self-titled album in English. Sure, it’s something that others have done before and will do again, but that doesn’t make it any less of a challenge to put emotions into lyrics. It’s harder than just speaking.

“It was definitely challenging, especially to develop your own sound in a different language, that was kind of hard for me at first,” Sariñana said. “When you’re completely bilingual you kind of assume you’ll be able to go back and forth, but when it comes to writing it’s just a completely different situation. You learn a lot from it. I learned the complications of each language.”

It’s an especially brave move considering how well Sariñana recorded in Spanish. Mediocre quickly went platinum when it debuted in Mexico, reached No. 10 on the Billboard Latin Pop Chart and received a Grammy nomination for Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album. Sariñana won Best New Artist Award at the Latin MTV Awards in 2008 and received three Latin Grammy Nominations for Best New Artist, Best Alternative Song and Producer of the Year.

But complications and challenges didn’t stand a chance. Sariñana’s English debut is beautiful and fun, and she’s become an indie critic’s darling. The record is charmingly upbeat and seamlessly blends traditional-sounding elements — like Sariñana’s voice and piano playing — with some modern edge, courtesy of looping and synths. There are also some brassy jazz moments — signs of the way Sariñana first learned about music.

“It’s the first thing that I will hear, it’s just simply my school. It’s just naturally the place for me to go to,” she said. “I’m glad that I went through with that sound. It’s definitely something that I was happy with. It was a big jump for me, to try.”

Sariñana said she probably won’t start work on a third album until the middle of next year, which gives her a few months to relax. However, she’s already thinking about what that record might be, and hopes to try out some new ideas on audiences during her tour.

“I’ve already started thinking about [the album], that’s just the way that I work,” she said. “That’s definitely one of the areas that I’m most curious about — to play new songs for people while I’m on the road. 

“I can’t wait.”