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Longmont’s Antonio Lopez breathes soul into song with new album ‘Roots and Wings’

Folk singer will perform virtual high-def album release show in Boulder Saturday

Longmont-based folk musician Antonio Lopez will perform a livestreamed show celebrating the release of his latest record “Roots and Wings” from Stone Cottage Studios in Boulder on Saturday at 7 p.m. Tickets for the livestream start at $15 and a part of proceeds from sales will go to benefit Sound Bridge Music, a nonprofit of which Lopez is executive director. (Cassidy Wayant/ Courtesy photo)
Longmont-based folk musician Antonio Lopez will perform a livestreamed show celebrating the release of his latest record “Roots and Wings” from Stone Cottage Studios in Boulder on Saturday at 7 p.m. Tickets for the livestream start at $15 and a part of proceeds from sales will go to benefit Sound Bridge Music, a nonprofit of which Lopez is executive director. (Cassidy Wayant/ Courtesy photo)

On New Year’s Day, Longmont-based folk musician Antonio Lopez dropped his fourth release, “Roots and Wings,” a stirring and emotionally rich 12-song album that pays homage to his lineage, champions the divine power of unity and encourages listeners to keep the faith.

The Antonio Lopez band, from left, Chad E. Mathis, Joshua Thomas, Jonathan Sadler, Antonio Lopez, Kyle Donovan and Kate Farmer gather prior to the pandemic. Each member contributed to Lopez’s latest album “Roots and Wings.” In order to adhere to safety guidelines, Lopez will perform with Joshua Thomas and Chad E. Mathis as part of a Stone Cottage Studios livestream show in Boulder on Saturday at 7 p.m. (Gerardo Brucker/ Courtesy photo)

Recorded at Wind Over The Earth Studios in Longmont and produced and engineered by Mark Venezia, “Roots and Wings” is just the sort of much-welcomed audio offering fans crave after a year marked by sickness, financial hardship and racial injustice. It’s a salve to the chaos — a wise echo of comfort that cuts through the chatter with soulful strums and soft vocals.

On Saturday, at 7 p.m., Lopez will perform from in Boulder’s Stone Cottage Studios — a space that has been delivering high-definition livestreams — from artists such as Sean Kelly and Joel Ansett — throughout venue closures.

When Lopez first moved to The Front Range in 2012 from Alamosa, he found work as a night janitor in area public schools and also managed to rack up gigs treating folks in barrooms and coffeehouses to his understated brand of folk. From shaping a song inspired by the mass urbanization of the earth (“Going to The City”) to penning a tune about a high schooler saving money to buy a car so he can take his crush to the drive-in movies, only to be drafted in WWII (“‘42 Ford”), Lopez’s songwriting remains deeply multifaceted.

Prior to the pandemic, Lopez played around 250 shows a year from Boulder’s eTown Hall to Rayback Collective.

Saturday’s livestream — sponsored by Dry Land Distillers — will be the first time in nearly a year that he’s gathered with a couple of his bandmates to perform.

Various tiers of tickets range from $15-$100.

We caught up with the songwriter to dive into the layered inspiration behind his latest record and find out how he is helping other musicians impacted by COVID as executive director of the nonprofit Sound Bridge Music — an organization founded in 2017 to harness the power of music to make a positive difference in communities across the Front Range.

Daily Camera: Congrats on your latest album “Roots and Wings.” I understand the inspiration actually came from a newspaper article you read while on a plane returning from your honeymoon in Vancouver Island. Tell us more about this record’s inception.

Antonio Lopez: The seeds of this album were planted in the late summer of 2018. My wife Georgia and I were flying back from our honeymoon. I picked up a free newspaper called The New Agora with an article about stepping into this new form of masculinity and fatherhood. In it was a quote from Goethe that hit me in the gut, “There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children, one of these is roots, the other, wings.”

I read these words as I was in the airplane, flying miles above the ground. I teared up as I reminisced on my childhood and all the sacrifices my parents made for me to have a better life than they had. I am the youngest of five children. My mother is a retired second-grade schoolteacher who dedicated her life to educating generations of youth. She grew up the youngest of 11 children. Her father never learned to read or write and started working in the coal mines of Southern Colorado at a young age. My father is an activist and attorney. He and his brother Reyes became lawyers to amplify the voices of oppressed people during the Chicano Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and ’70s.

During this time, the FBI formed a secret branch called COINTELPRO aimed at infiltrating and disrupting domestic social movements. They often used illegal tactics and it is believed that these operations lead to the death of my uncle Reyes (Martinez) in a mysterious car bombing at Chautauqua Park in 1974. The way they tried to silence my dad was trumping up false charges, forcing him into exile and into relinquishing his license to practice law for over 10 years. He was later exonerated of all charges and gained his license back, but the shadows of these events still loom over my family. Even though these events happened before I was born, they are an essential part of my story. I choose to share them with you because I feel the past informs the present. However, I believe the past does not define the future.

Each of us alive right now is the link between the past and the future. It is now our time — our time to speak our truth. My songs come from my ancestors. My ancestors still exist because I am here. They exist inside of me. They exist through me. I am their dream. The life I am able to lead is a life they could only dream of having. When I sing, I’m adding my voice to their voice — joining them in both words and actions for a better tomorrow. A better tomorrow for me. A better tomorrow for you. A better tomorrow for all of us.

Antonio Lopez released a 12-song album “Roots and Wings” on New Year’s Day. He is the executive director of Longmont-based nonprofit Sound Bridge Music. (Gerardo Brucker/ Courtesy photo)

DC: Really love the title track off of the album and how it pays homage to your parents and other family members. What can fans expect from the other tunes on the record?

AL: The thematic threads that weave throughout the 12 tracks on the album are hope, healing, tenderness and honesty. The album opens with a piano prelude inspired by the visual artist Alex Grey and his “Sacred Mirrors” series of paintings. It serves as a palate cleanser and its duration is perfect for the listener to take a few calming inhalations and exhalations. After the last chord of the piano prelude rings out, the lyrics are at the forefront for the rest of the album.

I like to think of music as an onion that has many layers. If you do a good job of crafting all the elements, there are many layers that a listener can keep discovering and coming back to. I’m a music geek through and through, having studied music composition and classical guitar in college, so the way that all the components come together is something I take great care in.

Several of the songs address the complexities of relationship dynamics within a family. “The Truth We Tell” is an open letter of hope to all of my kin. The resonant swells of Jonathan Sadler’s marimba and vibraphone reinforce the emotional sincerity of the track.

Another song I’d like to talk about is “The New Warrior.” This song’s inspiration comes from a cross-generational friendship I had with a quadriplegic woman I was a personal caregiver for, named Tetsuko of Cold Mountain. The first Buddhist I ever met, she told me about a prophecy in which a new warrior emerges to help society in times similar to now. This warrior is not a savior that will save us — instead, this warrior quality is inside everyone. The weapons the new warrior wields are compassion, insight and wisdom on how all things are interconnected.

DC: What are you most looking forward to about your upcoming livestream from Stone Cottage?

AL: This album release livestream will be the first time my band has performed together for over 11 months due to the pandemic. What I am most looking forward to is making music with my friends. We usually are a five-piece band, but for proper COVID precautions, we will be performing as a trio with Joshua Thomas on drums and Chad E. Mathis on bass guitar and harmony vocals.  Another aspect I am thrilled about is we will be broadcasting in hi-def video with studio-quality sound.

DC: Do you have plans to play any upcoming in-person shows that should be on our radar?

AL: My band will be performing at The Meadowgrass Music Festival in Colorado Springs over Memorial Day weekend. Besides that, we do not have anything in the books.

A part of proceeds from ticket sales from Antonio Lopez’s Stone Cottage Studios livestream will go to Longmont-based nonprofit Sound Bridge School. (Cassidy Wayant/ Courtesy photo)

DC: As executive director of nonprofit Sound Bridge Music, what steps are you taking to help musicians navigate the restrictions brought on by the pandemic? I know you’ve hosted roundtable talks with artists, but are there any fundraising efforts in the mix?

AL: Since the early days, I’ve been on the board but stepped into the executive director role in April of 2020. We are all volunteers and it is a labor of love. The musician community that our organization serves is one of the hardest-hit industries by COVID-19.

Currently, we are building partnerships with like-minded organizations and applying for grants. In forging these partnerships, we are maximizing the impact of our limited budget while also helping to foster new opportunities for working musicians.

Later this winter, we will be rolling out a pilot program called “The Common Thread,” whose aim is to bring work to musicians — remote and safe work, not live performance. A portion of the proceeds from my album release show will benefit Sound Bridge Music.



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