Salvador: The Latin Pop Funksters Coming To Britain In June

Tuesday 27th February 2007

Tony Cummings questioned Chris Bevins about the Austin, Texas band SALVADOR and all things Latin music.


The mouth watering chance to see Salvador in concert in the UK is something British CCM buffs have been awaiting for over 10 years. The Latin pop rock band finally make their UK debut at the Passion '07 event at Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent on 9th June. Salvador's live debut promises to be a hugely memorable occasion for the Austin, Texas seven piece have long held a reputation in the States for being one of the best live units on the whole CCM scene - their artful mix of polyrhythmic salsa, Santana-styled rock, old school funk and vertical-directed lyrics making them live favourites. The band's keyboard player Chris Bevins was clearly excited at the chance for Salvador to finally visit Britain. He said, "It has taken us far too long to get to the UK, and we're so excited to finally make the trip! From a musician's perspective, so much great music has come from the UK in my generation, that I cannot imagine a world without such a rich contribution. And I'm not just talking about the Beatles or U2 here... Delirious? is one of the shining examples of what God can do with willing servants. Talent comes from God, but it is up to each person to make the most of what has been entrusted to us and to offer our lives back to God as living sacrifices, and when I see excellence that lifts up the name of God, and not just a particular person or group, that is very inspiring. We certainly hope to find people who are ready to worship God along with us as brothers and sisters, and it will be our honour to share our particular style of music with you."

Chris is encouraged by the way in which Latin-orientated music is today very much in the forefront of popular culture. "Latin music is just exploding in popularity throughout the world! When we were teenagers, country dancing was all the rage, and now it's salsa dancing and reggaeton on the radio. As for our band, I think we're more drawn to the traditional and complex side of Latin music, kind of the same way we're more drawn to old-school funk music. We seem to appreciate the masters from just before our time a little bit more, which has helped us find our own unique voice in music. I think we would listen to Arturo Sandoval or Earth Wind & Fire over just about anybody current today, and I think that's evident when you listen to Salvador. Having said that, the more Latin-influence that pop music can get, the better! Latin rhythms are so rich and joyful, it's a nice contrast to other styles."

Salvador consist of Nick Gonzales (lead vocals, guitar), Art Gonzales (drums), Josh Gonzales (bass), Eliot Torres (percussion), Chris Bevins (keyboard), Pablo Gabaldon (trumpet) and Billy Greigo (trombone). Their roots go back to a church in Austin. In their first press releases frontman Nick Gonzales explained the band's origins. "My brother Art and I grew up in a little church in Austin, Texas, led by my aunt and uncle and my parents. When I was around 12, we started complaining that we wanted music in our church. We didn't think they would even agree, much less decide that WE should be the musicians!"

Before the year was out, Art was playing drums, Nick had a guitar, their eight year old cousin Josh Gonzales was starting bass lessons, and the church with no music suddenly had a three-piece praise and worship band. Well. . . sort of. Laughed Nick, "I have to admit we were pretty awful back then. But we kept at it. I guess you have a reason to learn fast when you have to play in front of people every single Sunday."

Bit by bit Salvador became a local favourite, playing in area churches and coffee houses, and soon moved up to being the featured artist at major festivals like the long-running Christ-Fest in Austin and opening for noted evangelist Nicky Cruz. While playing at a Gospel Music Festival in Luckenbach, Texas in the autumn of 1998, the band caught the attention of Nashville industry executive Michael Smith of Michael Smith And Associates Management. "There were a lot of bands playing that night, so it was hard to notice everyone," recalled Smith. "But when Salvador took the stage, I knew instantly that I wanted to work with them. I went from sitting in the back of the room to standing right in front of the stage before they had even finished the first verse of their opening song."

Salvador: The Latin Pop Funksters Coming To Britain In June

Smith's involvement led the group to record their first album, 'Live In Austin'. In 2000 Word Records released 'Salvador', produced by Monroe Jones and Dan Posthuma. Its free flowing Latin vibe registered with the CCM audience and more albums followed, 'Into Motion' (2002), 'Con Poder' (2003), 'So Natural' (2004), 'Worship Live' (2004), 'Que Tan Lejos Esta El Cielo' (2005) and their most recent, and which many critics consider their best, 'Dismiss The Mystery' (2006). Said Nick Gonzales at the time of the album's release, "When I was writing the songs for the record, I wanted all of the songs to feel as if it were one collective thought, and that thought being the ability to give the love of Christ to people without insulting their intelligence. I wanted to show the public and myself that a lyric can be very powerful and useful. With each album we have the opportunity to change our sound, but each time, and especially this time, we chose not to. Along the same lines, however, we didn't exactly want to be at the same level as before. I think it was in our best interest to step up the level of excellence in order to continue to do what we do best, but also have the ability to bring something unique to the table."

'Dismiss The Mystery' was produced by Nic and co-produced by Chris Bevins. With its sassy horn riffs and tumultuous percussion breaks it showcases all that is exceptional in Salvador's turbulent Latin sound. The bulk of the album was tracked in Austin at the studio belonging to country giant Willie Nelson while much of the project was developed at Nick's studio at his home church, King Of Glory, which his parents still pastor. I asked Chris to name a couple of his favourite songs on the album. He responded, "'Now That I Have You' just sums up what Salvador is all about. The music slides easily between funk and Latin feels, and the horns and percussion both play very large roles in the arrangement. Lyrically, it's a celebration of the life-changing power and presence of God, and we shout it out in both English and Spanish. Josh proves once again that he's a genius on the bass guitar... just try to sit still during this song! Another favourite is 'Shine'. I love the message of this song. . . 'Here's my chance to spread the new/To introduce the good that's You.' it encourages me to pay attention to the people around me, even if I'm having a bad day, and to look for opportunities to let God's love shine through me. And Nic just kills that chorus. I may be in the band, but I'm still a fan!"

Feeling a bit cheeky, I asked the keyboard player to explain why his name is so clearly non-Hispanic. "Bevins. . . there's no accent, no pronunciation in the world that would make me sound Spanish! There's no hiding the fact that I'm a white boy, and sadly, I can't even get a decent tan! My grandfather is a bit of a family historian, and tells me that my ancestors come from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. So. . . I should feel right at home in the UK! As for how I got involved in Salvador, I met and became fast friends with the Salvador guys during their first year of touring, in 1999. I was playing for another artist at the time, and we were on a tour called Acquire The Fire together that lasted nearly nine months. Shortly after that tour's completion, the artist I was playing for decided to get out of the music business, and Salvador's keyboard player decided to quit in order to stay home with his family, so the timing was perfect and I was given the opportunity to join Salvador. That was definitely an answer to prayer since I was trusting in God to lead me to the next step in my life!"

With two successful Spanish-language albums under their belt I asked whether there was another planned. Replied Chris, "We certainly hope to do another Spanish-language album sometime, but we don't have a time-table for that yet. Everybody in Salvador speaks or understands Spanish to one degree or another. We have a few guys who are fluent, but some of us are still learning. Speaking for myself, I hope to be fluent someday, but I'm pretty timid around Spanish speaking people. I think I do fairly well at listening and understanding, but when it comes to joining a conversation, I'm still shy and lacking in confidence. It's too bad that being multi-lingual has not been a priority in American education, but I'm doing my best to change that in my own life! ¬°Del dicho al hecho hay mucho terecho!"

The recent marriage of Nick Gonzales to Latin and CCM star Jaci Velasquez took a lot of fans by surprise. I asked Chris whether we were going to see Jaci joining Salvador on stage sometime. "I'm very happy for Jaci and Nic, they are so great together and I wish them all the best as they begin their new life together. Jaci is such a tremendously talented artist, and I'm certainly looking forward to what she may be doing in the future. We in Salvador certainly look up to her as a pioneer in Spanish Christian music, and of course as part of the family now. I don't want to speculate about what she may have planned for her career, but she's a fantastic vocalist and I look forward to hearing more from her."

To wrap up our interview I asked Chris what plans Salvador have for the future. "Our future plans certainly include more trips to the UK! Right now we're discussing our options for a tour in the US this fall, and before that, we'll be playing on a cruise ship and making a trip to Costa Rica. This year has a lot lined up already, and we'll be going to a bunch of places that we've never been to before in our seven years as a band. God has given us some wonderful opportunities and we're just trying to keep listening to him and following his lead." CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
About Tony Cummings
Tony CummingsTony Cummings is the music editor for Cross Rhythms website and attends Grace Church in Stoke-on-Trent.


Reader Comments

Posted by Therese in Dublin Ireland @ 15:08 on Mar 2 2007

Just wondering if Salvador might pop into Dublin on their way to Britain this year??? would be really cool to hear some Christian bands over here!!

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