Uncharted Wauters

By Tammy Scileppi


CarmelleSafdie2Jackson Heights singer-songwriter branches out on his own with his first solo record.

In photos promoting his debut solo album, NAP: North American Poetry on Captured Tracks, Juan Wauters sits in front of the iconic Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Corona Park and kneels before the shops of nearby Willets Point. His Queens pride was also evident when he was frontman for The Beets, and the group would display “We are from Jackson Heights!” banners during its performances.
Popular among the DIY music crowd, The Beets were often described as “folk,” “punk” and “garage.” But that was then. These days, Wauters has put that crazy world behind him for good and moved on, finding himself again musically, soul-searching and coming into his own after a recent break with the band.
“At the end of 2011, our group was very unstable and we weren’t getting along,” Wauters told It’s Queens during a recent interview. “Therefore, I decided to step aside for some time to reevaluate the purpose. During this time, I recorded some stuff on my own. These recordings are what turned out to be my new record, N.A.P.

“In 2013, I played a lot with The Beets and also under my own name,” he continued. “After months of playing with both projects and comparing their positive and negative attributes, I decided that it was best to focus on my music career as a solo artist.”
And focus he did. Pushing his creative boundaries, Wauters’ characteristic sound and new attitude have been captured in the heart of his new album, which took its name from a poetry magazine that he and his collaborator, former Beets member Matthew Volz, once published. “When we had the opportunity to release this record, we were discussing different titles and this is the one that stood out the most,” Wauters explained.

True to its name, the album is a poetic-sounding collection of recordings he made between 2010 and 2012. “The meanings and feelings behind them are meanings and feelings that I felt when writing them, and I do not try to make them public as a way to encourage the listener to make their own assumptions about what these mean to them,” Wauters says.

Mellow, introspective tracks like “Water” and “Sanity” are filled with lyrics that make you pause and reflect, so you have to read between the words to really get the subtle nuances. Wauter’s lyrics are somewhat reminiscent of ‘60’s folk music, but he’s truly in a category all his own; the truth is, it’s tough to nail his down to a specific genre, and that’s what makes his sound so different and fresh.
“I try to write music that talks about myself, and I try to be as sincere as possible,” he says. “I’m a big fan of the idea of crafting songs, so I focus on that and try to make them personal to me by creating my own language.”

In “Water,” he’s seeking answers to life’s important questions. It starts off with fluid guitar strums, followed by Wauters’ warm voice:  “Woke up early; felt that itch, what am I doing now with this niche? Do I belong? Who is it that I am? What is that I’m for? Who’s that in my skin?”

Like his singing voice and musical style, the talented musician is warm and approachable; very down to earth and real. Friends and family matter a lot to him, and he has chosen his close circle carefully, being very selective down to his pets.  He talks about meeting his dog near a bakery in Jackson Heights. “We have an artistic partnership,” he says jokingly.

When he was 17, Wauters left his Uruguay home in 2002 to join his father, who had come to New York earlier to find work. The creative young man turned to music and socializing to ease the boredom and loneliness he was feeling working in a factory.

“My family left Uruguay because of economic reasons, and came to New York because my father’s brother and his family had been here for over 20 years,” Wauters recalls. “When I first got here (Jackson Heights), besides working, I concentrated on learning English. Once I felt confident enough, I got a G.E.D. and then started taking classes at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City.”
And what does he like most about Queens? Wauters says, “It has the real feeling of the working class, and there is a strong middle class. I also like how we are all able to live together, accepting each other’s qualities. I enjoy walking on 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights and going into La Nueva Bakery, walking down 82nd Street, or riding the No. 7 train and going to Flushing Meadows.”

Eventually, he and a friend got together and formed The Beets, who would go on to release several albums, beginning in 2009.

The songwriter insists he’s “trying to write New York music, not rock or folk, or anything like that,” and you get the sense that at 30, a pivotal age for most, he’s also trying to figure out his place in the universe – as we all are at one time or another – living together on this spinning orb and wondering, Who am I really and what’s my purpose here?

What’s next? The eccentric singer has been performing over the past year and says he’s going to keep performing and working on the promotion for NAP over the next couple of months. As of now he’s playing mostly by himself on the guitar, while Volz “sets the stage with a light show and banners that create a very special show.”

“I will be going into the studio pretty soon to record a new record,” he says. “The project is just picking up form, so it will be molding over time, which is very exciting.”

NAP: North American Poetry is on iTunes to preview, buy, and download, and on Amazon.com. The album is available in a special gatefold edition, with artwork (and a comic) by longtime visual collaborator Matthew Volz. You can stream the whole thing via Rdio.


Short URL: http://itsqueens.com/?p=703

Posted by on Jun 27 2014. Filed under Featured Articles, Features, Main Story. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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