Recently we got to chat with twenty-four year old singer/songwriter, JC Villafan about his upcoming debut album, America’s For Dreamers, which is set to be released on May 17th. Hailing from Los Angeles, JC has been writing music since he was sixteen years old and has since earnt a nomination at the L.A. Music Critic Awards in 2012 and led him to be featured across major media outlets internationally. Over the past few years he has built up a dedicated fan base through playing shows around America and Europe. Following the release of his debut, JC is setting off to Belgium on June 2nd apart of his upcoming tour across Germany, France, the UK and then flying back for a couple of shows in California.
America’s For Dreamers is a musical journey that is a reflection of his own story, his heritage and the challenges that his parents overcame. The first half of the album follows his mother, who was five months pregnant when she climbed the fence separating Mexico from the United States in pursuit of a brighter future for her and JC. In the second half of the album, JC explores his own personal story, explaining that the album is about his “ceaseless pursuit of a dream.” He shares that his ultimate dream is to encourage others, saying he has, “a selfless dream that oversights fame and fortune for making a difference and uplifting those who stop to listen.” He is not only an incredibly talented musician, but one who cares about his involvement in the community and to inspire others to reach their dreams.
Image Courtesy of the Artist
JC’s debut album opens with the title track, America’s For Dreamers, which immediately sends shivers down your spine with the atmospheric synths paired with light guitar strums and gorgeous vocal melodies, before a strong drum beat takes the track into a more anthemic direction. Following is The Moment, which is definitely one of the most uplifting and inspirational tracks on the album, accompanied by a more folk sound coming from the guitar and upbeat percussion. Your Love takes the album in a slower, more soul direction, with gorgeous harmonies and delicate backing vocals with pulled back instrumentals. It is definitely obvious that JC has drawn on elements of pop, rock, folk and soul to curate a completely unique sound that certainly takes a stunningly positive approach.
On the second half of the album, we have Be Free, which is an instant stand out with the opening organ keys before heavy, rock guitar riffs enter, accompanied with weighty percussion. The vocals are huskier on this track, with a more mature pop sound coming through which juxtapose the gospel piano chords and rocky guitar riffs. Be Free lyrically is quite strong and presents a confidence within oneself, with lyrics such as, ‘I want to stand up to whatever holds me down.’ Personally my favourite track on the album is You Are Mine, which is one of the slower songs on the album. The track opens with delicate guitar strums before JC’s heartfelt vocals start to croon, with emotive lyrics about a lover.
The album closes with Hold On, which perfectly rounds the album up with a final uplifting track. The opening of Hold On features pulled back instrumentation, with JC’s compelling vocals at the forefront. The track then picks up about three minutes in with an instrumental breakdown filled with strong percussion and heavy guitar riffs before he finally bursts into the chorus of America’s For Dreamers, which then closes with a continuous hum and simple, electronic keys. JC Villafan’s entire album is perfect for those days where you need a pick-me-up and musically is tremendous as he explores multiple genres to create his own unique sound. Read our interview with JC below!
Courtesy of the Artist
For those just discovering your music, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you developed an interest in becoming a musician?
JC Villafan: Gladly, I started playing guitar at age 12. Initially I did it to swoon the girls in my 6th grade class; actually just one in particular. However, through that process, I realized how much I actually enjoyed the essence of music—the idea that you could feel something through melodies and chords. At age 16 I went on my first tour across country with a band and from then on out I realized I wanted to be a performing/recording artist.
In your own words, how would you describe your sound?
JC: My sound is a cross between Coldplay and Brian McKnight. I play a lot of finger style guitar that reminds people of John Mayer (which I hate), but the essence of that style is there. I developed that style mostly because I was playing on my own and I wanted to keep my playing more interesting than that of a typical up down strum. In essence, it’s a pop/soul sound. Some songs make you cry, others make you feel motivated and inspired.
What music did you listen to when you were younger and who are your biggest musical influences?
JC: Growing up I listened to Hip Hop such as the Fugees. I also listened to Brian McKnight, and then got into alternative hard rock music such as Tool, Deftones, Thrice, and eventually Coldplay. Currently my major influences are Coldplay and Brian McKnight.
How do you feel your sound has developed since the release of your Sweet Time EP in 2012?
JC: I think the depth of my lyrical content has developed significantly due to my experiences in life through being on the road, and life responsibilities; like taking care of my grandmother and becoming the legal guardian of my 2 month old cousin at age 17. I also dedicate myself to expanding my creativity so my melodies have become more defined and my guitar playing more solid. Getting older is fun.
What can fans expect from your upcoming debut album?
JC: My fans can expect an honest and introspective album that will get them through their journey of life. This new album is my story, chronologically ordered, in relation to the story of my parents and the sacrifice they made to give me the opportunities I have today.
How long has the album been in the works and have you come across any challenges during that time?
JC: I have been working on my album for 1 year, and the only real challenges I experienced while making it where finding the time to make the album. As we get older, I find this can be a common theme.
The album discusses your journey and your family’s heritage, how has it been writing about such personal experiences?
JC: It’s actually been quite liberating. I’ve thrown out the window the idea of writing what I think people want to hear and essentially decided to write about what means something to me—the idea that I’m where I am because of my parent’s crazy adventure to get to America. It’s been exciting and I’m now beyond the point of feeling nervous about people “accepting” my story. I think we all have a dream, and being first generation American or eight, the truth remains that sometimes when we chase our passion, we must leave old things behind to find something new.
What was the decision behind pre-releasing the acoustic versions of ‘The Moment’ and ‘Be Free’, and how do you feel the listening experience of the acoustic versions differ to the originals?
JC: I’ve always been a fan of “alternative” releases to a song. I thought releasing a different rendition of my songs would be fun and give my fans a different perspective to the songs on the new album. When listening to the songs, I feel they are exactly what they need to be at this point in time.
My favourite track off your album is ‘You Are Mine’, can you tell us a little bit about that track?
JC: I’m glad you like this one! This song is about my relationship with my wife, who at the time of writing, was my girlfriend. The song says in the bridge, “Sometimes it isn’t easy being alone, but the thoughts of you they soothe me because soon you’ll be home.” This song is the second part to a song I wrote called “When We Try.” It’s a love song for long distance relationships, and depicted perfectly where my relationship with my wife was at the time.
You have quite a large fan base abroad, are there any differences in the international fans in comparison to the ones at home?
JC: At times I think I give so much credit to fans overseas that I fail to mention how amazing my fans at home are, but there has definitely been a larger group of fans overseas that have consistently come to my shows and offered me so much of themselves. No matter where they are, all my fans are so special to me, and my hope is that my songs will simply get them through their day.
Finally, you are about to kick off a European tour in celebration of the album, what can fans expect from the upcoming tour?
JC: I’ll be performing several new songs, that’s for sure. In fact I’ll even be playing new-er songs that can be anticipated on my album after this one! I’ll have a small band backing me on selected shows, and we will be expecting people to leave different than they came.
JC Villafan’s debut album is released on May 17th and you can pre-order your copy on iTunes now!