Monday, March 23, 2009

Dan Torres: Breaking the Silence

In this constantly evolving community one path inevitably leads to another, opening our eyes and ears to the talent that lies right in front of us.  A few weeks ago at The Living Room, the trail of scattered postcards strewn across tables at Madi Diaz's show guided me to the CD/DVD Release Party of yet another audibly stimulating artist, Dan Torres.

On Friday, March 13 at 9pm, an aura of respect hovered over the record release party at The Living Room, carefully slithering through the audience's anticipation of the next striking note.  Promoting "Dan Torres: Live," an acoustic mix of both previously recorded and brand new songs, Dan commanded the jam-packed crowd with a powerful voice and impressive guitar skills that rocked listeners into a silent trance, only to be awoken by the finale of egg shakers percussively highlighting an outstanding collaborative finale.  The exquisitely packaged CD/DVD offers a gorgeous arrangement of live music that takes its listeners through every emotion and back again; it's a collection that speaks of life, love, and the human condition that is raw, stripped and relatable. 

Stage presence and vocal control come so naturally to this performer, it's hard to believe Dan just started playing the NYC circuit in 2005.  With formal training in music and composition, his guitar skills were self-taught and vocals came much later in life.  Torres started writing a bit in high school, more in college, but preferred to seek out others to perform his songs.  "I was very reluctant, I hated it," Dan says about singing, "I was just figuring it out." Influenced musically by the big chords and interesting voicings of guitarists from Stone Temple Pilots, Tonic, and Nirvana, it was singers like Jimmy Gnecco, Bono, Matthew Bellamy, Freddie Mercury, and Jeff Buckley who guided his voice.  In singing along with albums like Buckley's "Grace," Torres learned more about his range and vocal capabilities, developing a style uniquely his own.

Digging through the layers of Torres' striking music, a journal of lyrics sits peacefully, composed on mostly real-life events, with a bit of fantasizing over how things could have happened.  When first starting the writing process Dan claimed, "I had no experience with writing, I had experience with living."  As life moved on, new lyrics became more imaginative, letting the listeners take away what they wanted from it.  "I tell a lot of secrets very publicly, and that's kind of a relief, " Torres admits.  "Everything is a metaphor for something else."  

Enticing for spectators, who are captured by the artistic and comfortable flow of the live acoustic album, Dan's writing offers something for everyone.  "I try to write music where musicians will respect it and the average listener will still enjoy it."  Mission accomplished, as evident by the blend of people who find pleasure, excitement, and a little piece of themselves in each of Torres' songs.

Dan Torres' musical journey began not too long ago, in New York City circa 2005.  Recording started immediately, his first album "Where I Stand" was released in Fall 2006 and a tour was booked by Summer 2007.  The country-wide tour ended in Portland, Oregon, where Torres ended up living for a year. In October 2007, Dan's manager set up a performance at CMJ in New York, followed by a 6-week tour in England with percussionist Ryan Vaughn, before finally returning to NYC last summer. 

While being on the road can be tough, this 25-year-old understands the importance of moving around, meeting new people, and treating this career path like the business it is.  Success has come naturally because of this attitude, with Torres filling listening rooms and clubs all over New York City in the past year.  Perhaps its because he truly gets the scene, from understanding the different neighborhoods, time slots, and venues to realizing starting at the bottom and working your way up, just like any other job.  Favorite places to play include Rockwood Music Hall and The Living Room, despite the fact these free venues pull in little income.  "For the artists who need to make money it sucks, but at the same time we meet so many more people," Torres explains, "It's more important for me to have a line out the door than to force people to buy my CD."

Dan acknowledges while NYC is vast in opportunities, it's also pertinent to an artist's progression to leave, go on tour, and meet "normal" people.  These "normal" people include music lovers, not just music players; the average downloader or listener who simply respect and like music.  "I would like to play for 1,000 strangers every night," Torres states as his personal goal.  "Beyond that it's not intimate anymore."  Specific venue types include concert halls where classical musicians play, where "you don't need a mic because they are so well built."  

To think this musician's career began in a small TriBeca bar that no longer exists called "The Orange Bear."  Over spring break in college, Dan placed a call to the owner asking if he could play an open mic on a random weekday night.  The owner agreed, leading to his first gig where the audience consisted of three friends, the bartender and the owner.  Instead of being disheartened, the young Torres saw this as a business opportunity, and started organizing gigs, advertising, and bringing in other bands.  Eventually more night gigs, including weekends, were added and crowds grew; a fantastic discovery into gaining fans and incorporating musicians.  Over time Dan began playing at larger, more established venues in the city, and now practically calls Rockwood home.  "Thanks [to that opportunity] I figured out how to promote bigger things," Torres states. "I want to be able to call a venue and say I want to play tomorrow."

One of the most impressive aspects of Dan's show for both the listeners and the artist is how breathtakingly quiet a room becomes.  Listing this as his favorite part of performing, Torres declares, "Silence.  When the audience is totally silent when I'm singing.  Because it's really hard for people to sit quietly and it must mean what I'm doing really means something to them."  A true observer of human nature, Dan doesn't always come with a set list prepared, opting to watch the audience to figure out what to play next; probably the reason why songs resonate so personally to each individual eagerly hanging on the next chord.

Above all, it's the natural, genuine nature of Dan Torres, a man who values the importance of being a good person, that will keep drawing audiences and filling those 1,000 person concert halls.  People often forget that artists are regular people, placing them on pedestals or idolizing them for the wrong reasons.  Dan makes it clear that is not his intent.  "I make it a point when I play to ask everyone to come say hello, and I mean it."

Check out Dan Torres at or  And the next time you are at a show, be sure to say hello. 

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