Below, you can read our interview with artist Pablo Embon, and listen to his latest album, Funky Side of the Road. Check out our full music review of Funky Side of the Road, HERE.
Q: You currently live in Israel, but you’re originally from Argentina! What brought you such a long distance away from your birthplace!
A: I come from a Jewish family residing in Argentina. Due to these influences it is very common for Jewish community members to immigrate to Israel at some point of time, as being considered their “Second Home”. My personal affection for Israel was significantly driven by my grandmother’s influence and my personal idealization of the country. However, Argentina is still my birth country, having spent almost 26 years of my life there, and specially my childhood, it is still a very important part of my life and of what I am today.
Q: You’ve been playing the guitar and piano since your were 7 years old! Did your parents insist on this, or was it your choice to become a musician at such a young age?
A: I was lucky enough that my two grandmothers were piano teachers. They both used to have pianos at their home and I was really fond of visiting them. The push for the music, I believe, came naturally by seeing the instrument standing in the living room. It brought a lot of curiosity and attention. I still remember sitting on my grandma’s lap, teaching me notes at the piano at age of 5. Later on, I just used to go to the piano by myself and jam around by ear. I was a self-learner who would hear records and tried to perform the music by myself (such as Beatles who I truly admired).
With regards to guitar playing, I got my neighbor teaching me chords in a non-conventional way. I love the idea of being able to sing songs and play along with the guitar, but it was a few years later when I began to learn music notation, instrumental technique, and so forth.
My true self-esteem as a musician came not actually from my parents, but from my grandmother who always had a very important part in my music. My mother appreciated the fact that, if I liked to improve at an instrument, I must have a more serious music education, which is something that came along years later.
Q: Can you please give us some insight, memories, and/or stories about your experience as a child under the tutelage of famed classical guitarist Eduardo Isaac?
A: I was 15 years old when one day my mother came to me and told me that she had found a very good guitar teacher who used to teach at the local music college in my city. Eduardo was at the emerging stages at the time, and he was still giving private lessons at home back in 1981. His lessons turned me into something totally different, and gave me a new perception of what the actual capabilities of the instruments are. I was actually astonished by realizing that I could play such beautiful pieces, and not just jam around with chords and singing. He was also willing to accommodate, as part of his lessons, duet jams with him on songs I used to bring for us to play together. It was an incredible experience. Later, I started incorporating all these techniques and classic flavors into my playing. I believe that even today, at my jazz playing, there is still all that under my skin, and it is a very important part of my playing identity.
Q: You’ve attributed some of your musical abilities—particularly the composing you’ve done—to intuition. Can you explain what that means?
A: When I was young, like lots of other people, I was pretty much intimidated by the idea that you need to study music theory, instrument techniques, etc., to succeed. At early stages, I used to play along by copying music patterns, chords, licks, scales, and some other music forms and concepts, from what I heard on the records. I was instinctively putting the pieces together without actually understanding formal music knowledge, such as key centers, alterations, chord progressions, etc. But I was able to figure it out myself. My compositions used all that knowledge acquired without actually being able to define it in musical terms. So, for example, if I heard a record using a I-vi-ii- V progression, I would mimic that in my compositions, using the actual chord sequence.
“I came to realize that, for me, the transition between contemporary music and Jazz style music was like changing a black and white picture to full color.”
Q: Though you can play in many genres and styles, you’ve seemed to really settle on fusion jazz. What is it about jazz that inspires you so much?
A: I spent several years playing modern pop music, and I enjoyed it very much. Specifically, I was a member of music bands in which I also used to be the vocal lead. At some point in time, I felt like the car was running out of gas in my musical career. I started listening to smooth jazz records at that time while I lived in the US. It was approachable music with a very cool sound from the harmony perspective. Slowly my music listening experience went in a different direction, more on George Benson, Al Di Meola, Pat Metheny, Al Jarreau, Acoustic Alchemy, Spiro Gira, and other great artists which filled my music vocabulary in a totally different way. I came to realize that, for me, the transition between contemporary music and Jazz style music was like changing a black and white picture to full color. I found that there is so much that can be done in this genre, and I am able to push the limits of music. I do not believe that there should be a categorization of jazz styles, as the jazz definition is very subjective and depends on the influences. Classic, Latin, Rock, etc., they all deserve to be played in a Jazz language to enhance the experience. In my mind, the Jazz language is virtually endless, and because of this, also very powerful.
Q: Can you tell us about the first moment you picked up a guitar?
A: I was probably 7 years old. It was my uncle’s guitar. I really didn’t know why it was that there are so many strings (6), particularly if you can play at least an octave in any of them, and that’s good enough for playing a melody. So, I just tried to remember some of the melodies I came up with at the piano and play them by ear on any string. It worked, and that was my first satisfaction at the instrument—without knowing anything about it.
Q: What was your first guitar? Do you still have/play it?
A: My uncle gave me his guitar as a birthday present. He mentioned it was a valuable classical concert guitar. The only impression I had from it at the beginning was that it took so much energy to press the strings on the left hand in order to make any decent sound! I do not have this guitar anymore. Since I moved to Israel, some of the music gear which I could not move, was left at my grandma’s, but it was used from time to time for our music band-jams.
Q: You have the ability to play multiple instruments very well. Do you have any advice for any young people who are just beginning with an instrument?
A: I believe that an instrument is the articulation of the music we hold in our brains. If you can create music in an instrument, you can create it in any other instrument if you are familiar with the techniques used to play it. There are several neurological studies performed demonstrating that musicians use almost all of their brain areas when performing an instrument. This tells us that we make music with our brain and just express it on the instrument. From the practical perspective, I have always believed that there is some sort of “core” instrument which is the guide and driver to produce and visualize our music, and this instrument must be really understood in the sense of how this instrument tells the story we want people to hear. Once this is fundamentally in control, exploring other instruments is like looking for new pallets to paint. Give these instruments the deserved time. However, do not let this dominate over your understanding of what you want to give to the world as a musician.
Q: You’ve recorded an astounding 15 albums! What makes your latest album, “Funky Side of the Road”, special to you? What is it that you’re trying to “say” with this album?
A: Funky Side of the Road is a way to tell everyone that, as we walk down a road, we always have the choice as to which side of the road we will use. Is it the bright side, the sunny side, the happy, sad, or dark side, the rainy side, or the obscure side? The album is dedicated to filling our self with joy and optimism—even at difficult moments—by choosing which side of the road we walk. Eventually, we will get to the same place. Never heard before in my music, this particular album has a notorious amount of Funk, which I consider to be an exciting genre.
Q: Perhaps in some unspecified amount of time, your musical career takes-off in the best of ways…what does that look like for you?
A: I define myself as a continuous learner. Before I choose a project to start with, I look at myself and ask what is it I would like to achieve this time. I spent a tremendous amount of time looking at my music from all angles, and I’m always asking what is next, and what is it that I would like to correct the next time. It may take me several months to come up with a concept before I go ahead with my next album. I really hope this is embedded in my music, and my listeners are able to enjoy the experience as much as I do when creating it.
Q: You get to collaborate with anyone of your choosing. Who is it?
A: I haven’t done much collaborating lately. My daily duties as a professional in engineering limit collaboration from a time perspective. However, after wrapping up this new album, I will be engaged in a collaborative effort with my former musical-partners in Argentina in order to complete a musical project which was started in 1987. Yes, it is quite exciting listening to the old master cassettes and producing new music on that. I’m planning to start this in early January.
Q: Your favorite album of all time? (Yup, you gotta choose one.)
A: Funky Side of the Road. This album is my new “me” with regards to what I have to offer to the public
Q: Your favorite song of all time? (Again, only one!)
A: “Legend of Duduk”
Q: What would you like fans to know about you that they’re most likely unaware of?
A: 10 years ago I suffered an ear impairment in my right ear, which left me permanently with 15% hearing in that ear. Since then, I’ve adapted to the condition. At that time, with all my concerns about my music, I had the feeling that I would not be able to continue playing or producing music. However, this is something that doesn’t affect what I do today. I learned how to compensate for the condition in order to continue to mix and produce my music. In keeping with the Funky Side of the Road vision, I chose to push forward and look at the bright side, and I feel wonderful about myself today.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: The most important thing about music is the emotions that can be transmitted to the listener. I have never compromised this when creating music. If I feel I have created something that doesn’t say anything, then it is a good candidate for the trash can. I look at each piece as a little journey, if it doesn’t go anywhere, then don’t even mention it.
I would like to give big thanks to all who have supported and appreciated my music.