Viva La Gente: Edna Vazquez's Mass-Funded Music

Portland's onetime mariachi queen wrote a record about loneliness—but it was a community of supporters that brought it to life. Next week she releases her new album at the Old Church. We caught up with her during the making of Sola Soy.

By Brandon Staley November 11, 2015

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Edna Vazquez. Photo by Lance Page. 

Cameras hum and mixing board lights flicker inside the dimmed control room of Kung Fu Bakery, an unmarked recording studio adorned with brick walls, a bamboo ceiling, and electric candles, discreetly tucked away just off SE Division St. One voice cuts through the warm bass, elegant piano, and sedate percussion: Edna Vazquez is breathing life into a subdued, jazzy love song. In an hour she’ll effortlessly transition to bouncy pop, and she’s just getting warmed up.

Between each recording, the Mexican-born, one-time mariachi musician is animated, tapping her feet, rhythmically drawing her fingers across the side of a coffee cup, or whistling fluently enough to put a Theremin to shame. It’s somewhat surprising, then, that her upcoming album was born out of a deep sense of loneliness, but brought to life by the very community Vazquez has been nurturing for years.

Vazquez was on tour for much of July and August, not promoting her upcoming album, Sola Soy, but rather the crowdfunding campaign that would enable her to record it. With the help of her manager Daniel Schollaert, she launched an Indiegogo campaign on July 13 with a goal of $20,000. The project was successfully funded on August 14, with a massive spike in donations towards the end.

The decision to launch the Indiegogo came at a critical moment in Vazquez’ career. Her quintet was falling apart. She was doubting her lifelong commitment to music. She was alone, but it was through embracing this profound sense of isolation that she found the will to persevere. The result of that journey is the title track “Sola Soy”—“I am alone.” More tracks followed, each similar in theme, until Vazquez realized she was building an album.

The majority of Vazquezs donations came from fans and local community members. It’s not surprising. Vazquez, whose genre expertise ranges from mariachi to rock, has been something of a musical philanthropist for years. She performed a pro bono concert after the massive 2014 Chilean earthquake. Vazquez never expected anything in return for the performance, but says her Indiegogo saw significant support from the local Chilean community. Vazquez also found support in those closest to her—a tight network of friends, including Schollaert, compelled her forward.

“I was like, 'Daniel, I just want to move on,'” says Vazquez. “'Maybe my parents were right. Maybe I need to do something else with my life and just set the music as a percentage of what I do.' Then my friends came up and they said, 'dude, you need to do your thing. You need to stand up.'”

Prior to the Indiegogo, Vazquez had been in talks with Javier Goyes, a producer who has worked with the likes of Hot Chip and Pink Floyd. The Indiegogo bump has allowed the two to collaborate on recent recording sessions, including the one at Kung Fu Bakery. She has also been singled-out for a short documentary-style piece by local filmmaker Guy Baker. 

Her success on Indiegogo may very well have altered the trajectory of her entire career, but for now she’s focused on the music and just thankful for the outpouring of support.

“I think the crowdfunding, it makes it more magical,” says Vazquez. “It makes me feel like people really liked my stuff, and I feel that support. I just have to focus more on making music, and that’s the best feeling I’ve ever felt.”

Vazquez releases Sola Soy at the Old Church on Wednesday, November 18.

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