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Leila Lopez gets under your skin

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Weekend music

Leila Lopez gets under your skin

  • Leila Lopez
    Leila Lopez
  • Bryan Thomas Parker
    Bryan Thomas Parker

With a voice as strong and soft as spider silk and a guitar style that is equal parts rhythmic urgency and a tone as clear as church bells, Leila Lopez has come a long way from her early days as a coffee shop folkie. The Tucson singer-songwriter's third studio release, "Our Animal Skins," drops this Friday. We caught up with her this week to talk about creative inspiration, local haunts and the merits of playing live with a band vs. studio performance.

Q: You've been active in the Tucson music scene for many years. What's changed for the better and what do you miss about the "musical" Tucson of a few years ago?

A: I feel like there are now more venues for music in the downtown area than before. At the very beginning of my performing experience I played at a lot of coffee shops. I really liked the vibe! Not to be a total technophobe — I am also now a phone/computer over user — but back then people in coffee shops were more likely to listen to live tunes then my more recent experiences. I feel like my most recent experience playing in a coffee shop has been to a sea of computers. It’s just different.

Now there are a lot of cool new breweries and bars/venues open downtown that host live music, and the scene has been really social and appreciative. I also kind of miss the unique, old school places that have sort of faded away from the downtown area. The Red Room, Vaudeville, 7 Black Cats, The Casbah, and does anyone remember the Ant Farm Artist Collective? ​It ​used to be the building that is now the Mr. Heads patio​!

​Tell us about the new album? Where did it come from and what do you love about this body of work?​

The new album is me being more open and less worried about outcome. I put too much pressure on the process before. I truly just had fun, I played around more (both literally and figuratively) and left it up to others to make of it what they will.

It genuinely felt like a weight was lifted, and so I would have to say that my favorite thing about this album is the reflection of the ease I feel when listening back. I am not afraid of imperfection any more. We are all perfectly imperfect.

Your live band is pretty awesome and has been playing with you for a while, right? But they are also very different in sound and style than your studio work. What can you tell us about the difference between the two? And what's it like to work with these lovely folks?

The experience playing live vs. recording all on my own in the studio is like night and day. I appreciate both so much, but for different reasons. Playing with my band offers me a lot of really cool insights and ideas for the music that I would have never come up with on my own while interacting with really great friends. Being in the studio is more introspective and experimental. I really love the balance.

My current live band is a total dream. They are open, fun, serious when need be, but mostly just fun, carefree and relaxed.  It should be for fun, and it really has been. Not to mention their unbelievable talent. I couldn’t be any luckier. [Bassist Brian Green] and I have been playing together the longest- about 11 years. Christabelle [Merrill] and I probably for about 7 or 8, and Julius [Scholsburg] maybe for about a year or so. The experience feels really natural and organic.

Origin story time! How did you get the ​ bug to write and perform? Who have been your mentors and muses musically and creatively?

My musical journey started at home. We had a piano, my dad plays guitar and would play nearly every night. My mom has always been supportive, always encouraging me to continue playing and to keep growing musically. I think they really inspired me and sparked genuine interest for me as a child that I have carried with me my whole life. I don’t think I would be doing what I do now if it weren’t for them!

Any last thoughts for our readers, especially fellow artists, musicians and creative folks?

"I think with all that is going on in the world, even though it can feel paralyzing at times, it is so important to keep creating. Don’t let them take this from us too. We are so powerful with our own unique contributions to this world, both locally and beyond."

Leila Lopez  and her band will celebrate the release of "Our Animal Skins" at 9 p.m. Friday night at The Flycatcher, 340 E 6th St (Downtown).

Recording the revolution with Bryan Thomas Parker

When he's not playing guitar in bass in local bands, fronting his own live band at local venues several nights a week, or playing the role of stay-at-home dad to two (and soon three) precocious ginger-haired little girls, Bryan Thomas Parker somehow still finds time to record. We caught up with "BTP" to chat about his latest release, "Cliffs."

Tell me about your new release! What inspired these recordings? Did you accomplish what you were hoping to?

I am really happy about the scope and vision I was able to maintain. Very early on in the year I knew I wanted to make a "resistance" record and something with a full band. A focused project with a stated intention and a clear soundscape. I think we nailed it.

You've played with a lot of Tucson musicians in the past few years. Who was in the band this time around?

The "Cliffs" band includes Mike Monzel from The Whiskey Knuckles, Joe Miller of Sucker For The Sour, Fed Penacchini, who's been in just about every band ever, and Cody Hudman of Brokedown Palace.

I have done the solo, folksy thing for so long and I know how to work a room and pay my bills... But, damn, these guys all take it up a notch or five. The truth is, this record would not exist if it wasn't for these guys.

Also, I have to give major kudos to Levi Hudman (Brokedown Palace) for co-producing the record and Eric Matchett for engineering.

Your record release party is happening this Saturday at the Flycatcher. What can we expect at the show?

This is going to be part family reunion, part record release party. The 'BTP band' is gonna swell to an eight-piece as we add in keys, percussion, and Ted Riviera sitting in on his iconic psychedelic slide. And I am totally stoked to share a stage with The Eulogy Project and Blue Collar Criminals.

Bryan Thomas Parker record release show with The Eulogy Project, Blue Collar Criminals and Ted Riviera's Gunrunners, 9 p.m. Saturday at The Flycatcher (Downtown) 

Check your local listings...

Friday, September 22

  • ​​Leila Lopez Record Release Party - 9 p.m. The Flycatcher, 340 E 6th St (Downtown)
  • Natalie Pohanic - 6 p.m. Even Stevens, 180 E Broadway (Downtown)
  • Adara Rae and the Homewreckers - 7 p.m. Culinary Dropout, 2543 E Grant Rd (North)
  • Moodie Black - 7 p.m. at Club Congress, 311 E Congress (Downtown)
  • Spider Cider - 9 p.m. at Saint Charles Tavern, 1632 S 4th Ave (S of Downtown)
  • SZA - 8 p.m. at Rialto Theatre, 318 E Congress St (Downtown)

Saturday,  September 23

  • ​Young Mother -  7 p.m. at Club Congress (Downtown)
  • Bryan Thomas Parker Record Release Show  -  9 p.m. at The Flycatcher
  • Still Life Telescope  -  9 p.m. at Saint Charles Tavern (S of Downtown) 

Sunday,  September 24

  • Irma Relief Benefit Show - 12 p.m. Saint Charles Tavern (S of Downtown)
  • Kicking Leaves & BreakingGlass (Mario's Birthday) - 4 p.m. Saint Charles Tavern (S of Downtown)
  • This Will Destroy You - 9 p.m. at The Flycatcher (Downtown)
  • Ice Balloons & Sun Foot - 7 p.m. Club Congress (Downtown)
  • The Bronx, Plaque Vendor, '69 (All Ages Show) - 8 p.m. at 191 Toole (Downtown)

Wednesday, September 27

  • WTF AF w/ Briana Marela, Snackbirdy & Lano  -  8 p.m. at Club Congress(Downtown)


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