Light eyed and slender built, 29 year old Fernando Franco, from the ever charming and lovely Guatemala is a soul you don’t meet every day. If you think talent, the magnificent six letter word was some random connotation for doing something ‘out of the box’, then meeting Fernando would change your idea about the term altogether. Often, those who are gifted with a trait or talent use wackiness or some sort to stand out. Not this charming lad.
While at What’s Up Life, we aren’t huge fans of generalizing things, often when our paths cross with souls such as Fernando who leave behind some palatable ‘food for the mind’, we ponder about why distances exist in the world! Why can’t we all live in unison, unseparated by geographical divide to experience the enchantment of the world?
No it wasn’t that I met with a superstar rock musician. Nor did I come across a space traveler or a warrior for some indigestible social cause. But, meeting Fernando Franco, the lovely Guatemalan was proof enough that while most youth we find around us may be talented or even recklessly driven toward finding its purpose, not everyone lets go of the ‘music’ that exists within.
Really, if you come to think of it, there is so much to see in this whole wide world, one colored by biases at the outset and ascertainment’s about the way people generally are. But, truth be told, if you ever get time and are up for it, you must for sure, make it to Guatemala, a beautiful paradise in Central America.
Known as the ‘land of trees’, I didn’t find it too ironical to think why Guatemala may be called so! For talking to Fernando was as lovely as it was peaceful, and I must confess there were certain strands of wisdom in this bright youngster that made me think about how lovely it is to encounter a young man who is as driven as he is charming, as intelligent as he is quite. Soft spoken, a bit shy, never a reclusive but not driven to announce himself to a crowd, there is a certain reservoir of talent in Fernando Franco, musician, entrepreneur and actor that swishes out before you can even notice. And quite like the man himself; akin to that unperturbed lake that doesn’t show needless movement despite being trickled for questions.
Extracts from a young and passionate musician and rising actor’s life:
What place does music have in your life.How important is it to stay connected to music.
Since I can remember, music has had a central place in my life. It all started with my maternal grandfather; he was a guitarist and a singer. I have very fond childhood memories sitting with him in his music room listening to old records and from time to time, his own compositions (Boleros, a type of Latin-American folk music).
Music has and continues to mark the pace of my life, I feel like I progress as a human being through experiencing music, being it: writing, recording, performing or simply appreciating the works of others. I guess we can confidently say it is VERY important for me to stay connected haha.
Guatemala is one he’ll of a destination. There’s so much to see..so much to explore. Being this magnificent Central American paradise what personally excites you about the place Fernando and also, what do you love the most about the country?
Guatemala is a country of contrasts in every sense of the word. For example, within a couple of hundred miles you can go from a City surrounded by active volcanoes, to driving through deserts and evergreen forests and visit either the Atlantic or Pacific coasts. Contrasts are also present in the people, our culture, history, values and traditions, something that makes this small country very interesting due to its diversity. I agree with what you say, it is a paradise! hahaha.
Personally, the thing that excites me most about the country has to be related to recent changes in people’s perspective towards our local creative and cultural industries. It seems that there’s an increasing sense of pride in what we do and what we have; pride to be Guatemalan and create works of art keeping our identity very present but also daring to innovate and try new things.
There’s this ‘buzz’ in the environment, it feels like for the first time in our generation, people are plunging into having creative careers and not being put off by the uncertainties that such lifestyle usually brings. Its very inspiring and exciting to see how some of these young entrepreneurs are daring to follow a passion and pursue it with hard work and dedication. A good example is a very close friend of mine who is a sound designer for film, by the time he was 21 he already had his own business and had worked in films presented at Cannes!
I’ll choose two things that I love most about the country, one is our sense of humor and the other has to be an old colonial city called Antigua Guatemala…
Have you stayed in different parts of the world other than Guatemala and what did you learn from there in terms of life and living and culture and this beautiful intermingling with people who aren’t from your own land. Did this help you evolve your music and add to your creativity?
I’ve lived in Manchester on and off for about four years now. English culture (more specifically music and literature) has had a big impact in my life, I feel affinity to some core values and a few of my favorite musicians are of course British. I’ve been very lucky to be able to make music in the UK, explore bits of Manchester’s scene and record and produce in some fantastic studios in MCR and London (something that I could only dream of when I was growing up).
Meeting people from different backgrounds but who share the same passions as myself has been invaluable! I’ve learned a lot in terms of the craft of songwriting and producing, but also from sharing different approaches to creating and life in general. I think every new connection adds to your life and this will have an impact in whatever you do, in how you express yourself and what you conceive as ‘possible’.
How important is it for you to connect with music? I mean, does it fit in everyday life as opposed to what regular folks understand as jamming with people?
Very, it’s a huge part of my everyday life, I try to practice for an hour or so in the morning. Then, whenever I’m working I’m usually listening to music.
Often I take some time to listen to new stuff and daydream how to apply the things that I find inspiring to current and future work.
I reckon Jazz has a special place for you in your heart. Could you share some thoughts, impressions or just anything related to this ecstatic form of melody?
I’d like to say that I love jazz and I’ve studied jazz guitar and piano on and off over the past 9 years but I’m no jazzist nor expert of any kind, so my opinion is very limited.
In terms of what I personally listen when we talk of jazz music, I stick to the classics (Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, Bill Evans, etc.). I feel this is the period when jazz had a life of its own, rules were being broken and this form of expression was being pushed to its limits; a perfect balance between passion and technical proficiency.
I’ll be controversial and say that I think some of that passion and ‘roughness’ were lost as this became a more established art form (inevitable, this might the case for every genre!). To me, some of the more exciting musicians taking jazz elements and pushing them further are Alice and John Coltrane’s great-nephew Flying Lotus and bassist Thundercat.
On a different note, I often apply jazz chords and harmonies to my own style of playing, this has to do with the fact that I learned how to play guitar under the guidance of Mr. German Giordano, an amazing jazz guitarist from Berklee College of Music(Boston, Massachusetta). So, even when I mostly play rock and electronic music, I’ll often throw in a major 7th or minor 9th somewhere to create wider chords and richer harmonic textures.
Where all have you performed and at what stage in your life did you realize that Jazz music is what you were looking for.
I’ve performed with a wide range of musicians and ensembles, from a band where everything was improvised live, to rock acts and a wedding! hahaha.
Some of the most memorable performances would have to be: Green Man Festival 2012, with Cosmos Collapse and Festival Eucalipto, 2010 in 300 year old church in Antigua Guatemala with Fraaek.
Since the first gig I had (2006, in my house and probably the most DIY scenario you can have) I’ve enjoyed playing live.
Do you think music and art still has that magnificent power to influence people in today’s age? The point being, today’s an age where most of our anxieties, likes or desires are often fulfilled by technology and other means that cater to instant gratification.
Of course! I think music and art will always have the power to attract people; art is what allows us to connect with the deepest part of ourselves, our dreams and passions.
However, I do think there are pro’s and con’s that come with some of the elements that characterize our time (technology and instant gratification).
On one side, because there is so much out there, I think art has become more ephemeral; for example, music now is almost disposable, you listen to a song or album for a week and then you find yourself thinking “Ok that was good, what else is new?”, I remember that when I was growing up buying an album was such a special occasion, and that piece of music would be treasured for months if not years, that doesn’t seem to be the case with current generations.
On the other, we’re more connected than ever before and the possibilities for sharing and collaborating in works of art are unprecedented! In the past, technology has enabled me to write songs with people living simultaneously in four different countries through file sharing and skype chats. Also, once we found out that a song of ours was being played in Japan, none of us had any connections with that place! Someone just ‘found it’.
So as with anything, I suppose there are good bits and bad ones, but I think art will always have a place in our lives, it’s one of the best bits of being alive and being human.
What are your favorite forms of music apart from Jazz. Could you list any icons or heroes?
Difficult question to answer as it’s quite broad really and the music I listen to changes over time. But I listen to a lot of African music (mainly from Mali and Nigeria), Alternative Rock, Krautrock, some electronic, folk, etc. Legends / biggest influences definitively are: Radiohead, Neil Young, Scott Walker, Caribou, Damon Albarn, Interpol, Tony Allen to name a few.
I believe you’re not just a musician but also an actor right? Could you please talk to us through the movie Hunting Party?
So, the film (Hunting Party) is a romantic comedy / coming of age about three friends that go to Antigua Guatemala (that beautiful city I mentioned before!) ‘To hunt for love, cheap drinks and salvation.’
It was a really interesting process because the three main characters (myself included) are close friends in real life and the story is loosely based on events that happened during our early 20’s. So on one side, it felt very familiar / nostalgic, but on the other we allowed ourselves to develop the characters and explore traits that weren’t our own.
In terms of production, my friend Chris Kummerfeldt (writer / director) started this project back in 2010, but it was not until 2014 that he and the producers managed to secure permits, resources and a team of individuals crazy enough to plunge into this! I say crazy, because none of us had ever done a feature-length film and this is perhaps one of the most intense / demanding situations I’ve ever put myself in…
We started shooting in November 2014 and the film was released on Guatemalan cinemas August – September 2015. So far its been showcased in Festival Ícaro in Guatemala (winning best photography!) and we’re currently applying to other festivals around the world.
Finally, I also played a role in co-writing the original score with my brother, something I loved as writing music for film is a very different animal than what I’m used to. You need to respond to the story’s context / emotions / photography, and create something that enhances the scene, meeting your own vision as a composer but also that of the director and music supervisor.