Q&A with singer/songwriter and dobro player Cristian Basso, run across the width and breadth of the Roots-Rock spectrum.

"I think music will always be the true universal language. It crosses borders freely; its rhythms and melodies can be found in nature if you listen. The impact of music is enormous; it brings people together, it calms, it’s an escape, it heals, it enlightens, it makes people happy.  All you have to do is listen."

Cristian Basso: Roots Happiness

Lucky 13, the debut album from Babaux & The Peacemakers, brings together four of Colorado's most acclaimed musicians, songwriters, engineers and producers for an 11-song run across the width and breadth of the Roots-Rock spectrum. Led by singer/songwriter and dobro player Cristian Basso (aka, Babaux), The Peacemakers are Eric Martinez on guitar, along with Alana and Niek Velvis on drums and bass respectively. Basso, who cut his teeth paying bass alongside an array of icons from Bo Diddley to Leo Nocentelli (The Meters) to Papa Mali, and has songwriting credits with no less than Eric Lindell, picked up the dobro during the Covid quarantine and it sparked a tectonic shift in his songwriting approach and output.                   (Photo: Babaux & The Peacemakers)

While there may be more economy in word craftsmanship, the songs themselves are finely crafted in structure and feel, embracing an array of moods and styles from jamband-rootsy to swampy bayou blues with excursions that touch on vintage Laurel Canyon and acoustic funk. Babaux says: "Honesty is essential to me when writing songs on the resonator guitar. The music on our album “Lucky 13” is just that. It’s stripped down, bare bones, exposed."

Interview by Michael Limnios               Special Thanks: Larry Kay (Night Train PR)

How has the Blues/Roots and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken? 

I was raised in the Shenandoah valley in Virginia, USA. When I was a young boy, my mother was a small town concert promoter and introduced me to Piedmont blues musician John Jackson.  John is a local legend and an American treasure.  He would play music at gas stations, at the library and at our house. It didn’t matter where he was, he just wanted to play his music. John was my initial introduction to the blues/roots counter culture. The music was an extension of his unique life, and extension of his soul and a way to balance his inner self. He also was a gravedigger, a hard worker, and I listened to his music as if it was an ongoing conversation he was having with his spiritual side. It was specifically this spiritual delivery that hit me the hardest. It was the most honest, moving, heartbreaking and at the same time, uplifting combination of music that I have ever experienced. The combination of the spiritual depth, the rhythms, as well as the lyrics soothed my soul as it appeared to soothe him. The Piedmont blues music introduced me to empathy and how important it is for humans to have empathy for each other. I welcomed this message and accepted it as a gift from another side. Today, I focus on the spiritual balance of both life and death with my own music. It’s a wonderfully simple yet powerful way to live.

How do you describe your music philosophy and songbook? What touched you from the sound of Dobro? 

Honesty is essential to me when writing songs on the resonator guitar. The music on our album “Lucky 13” is just that. It’s stripped down, bare bones, exposed.  I’ve chosen to explore what’s inside me rather than be crafty when it comes to songwriting, and it feels good. It feels honest and true, like love can be. I surround myself with my family most of the time, they are my inspiration for much of my music. The dobro, especially when played with the finger slide, creates a deep connection to my soul that I think is tied to both sorrow and happiness. I think it’s a beautiful expression that has also opened up new song writing doors for me as an artist.

"I truly hope that people can continue to use all forms of music to learn from the mistakes of our past so history doesn’t keep repeating itself. At the very least, I hope that the music that is created in the future continues to give people strength to overcome adversity." (Photo: Cristian Basso aka Babaux)

Which meetings have been the most important experiences? Are there any memories which you’d like to share with us?

When I first started to play music, it became my best friend. It was always there for me during good and difficult times. When I was introduced to playing and creating music with a group of people, it was a mind-blowing experience. In 1986 some friends I met in Quaker high school, Darrin Hallowell and Josh Matthews, showed me how to be a part of a band and to make music together for the first time.  We loved to jam and looked forward all week to be able to play music on the weekends together.  It was at that same time that Josh introduced me to The Meters. I never heard any music like it! Hearing the glorious funk rhythms, dripping with that New Orleans syncopation became an immediate inspiration for me. As a result, the music of The Meters led me to New Orleans where I not only discovered a plethora of new music but also how the music could be a bonding agent for the diverse culture that lived there. Just like John Jackson’s music, there was a spiritual richness that was infectious and undeniably honest. Later in life, I ended up touring and recording with Leo Nocentelli of the Meters as a bass man. Crazy how life knows what you are after!

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

First and foremost, I learned at an early age that being accepting of all cultures creates spiritual awareness that will have a positive effect on the people around you as well as create a mirror for individual reflection and balance. The awareness taught me that by having an open mind towards each other's beliefs, it will lead you to a mindfulness state, which leads to creation, which leads to happiness. When various minds connect in a positive way, we have the power to heal. It’s that openness that creates the spiritual tools that help mankind build positive relationships with each other. I believe that music is a gift from above and it is meant to help us find our personal balance that in turn can be used to create a greater community balance.               (Photo: Cristian Basso aka Babaux)

"Creating music and lyrics to songs is something I have to do. It’s like breathing to me. It’s an endless exploration of my inner self as well as being aware of those around you who affect your life or need help. As we grow older, our thoughts change and grow too and the music I create follows suit."

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I don’t want people to mistreat other people. Here is no room in our world for bigoted, selfish behavior.  I believe that blues/roots music shines brightest when it shows us it can be a comforting, positive, spiritual force that can heal our spirit from the ghosts of the past. From that perspective, the blues aren’t going anywhere. I truly hope that people can continue to use all forms of music to learn from the mistakes of our past so history doesn’t keep repeating itself. At the very least, I hope that the music that is created in the future continues to give people strength to overcome adversity.

What would you say characterizes Colorado Roots music scene in comparison to other local US scenes and circuits?

In Colorado, I’ve been fortunate to have met a number of incredible musicians that are beautiful people too. The musicians in Babaux and the Peacemakers are Alana Velvis on drums, Eric Martinez on guitar and Niek Velvis on bass and keyboard. It’s hard for me to imagine that there is a better group of people to make music with anywhere else in the United States. Colorado seems to be a magnet for talented musicians that have hearts of gold. There are many similarities to the Colorado and New Orleans music communities which I believe stems from the fact that creating, performing and embracing music is a way of life in both regions.

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?

I think music will always be the true universal language. It crosses borders freely; its rhythms and melodies can be found in nature if you listen. The impact of music is enormous; it brings people together, it calms, it’s an escape, it heals, it enlightens, it makes people happy.  All you have to do is listen.

"I surround myself with my family most of the time, they are my inspiration for much of my music. The dobro, especially when played with the finger slide, creates a deep connection to my soul that I think is tied to both sorrow and happiness. I think it’s a beautiful expression that has also opened up new song writing doors for me as an artist." (Photo: Cristian Basso aka Babaux)

John Coltrane said "My music is the spiritual expression of what I am...". How do you understand the spirit, music, and the meaning of life?

I’ve alluded to this answer throughout this interview and I’m not sure I can explain it any better than John Coltrane did when he said, “my music is a spiritual expression of who I am…” Creating music and lyrics to songs is something I have to do. It’s like breathing to me. It’s an endless exploration of my inner self as well as being aware of those around you who affect your life or need help. As we grow older, our thoughts change and grow too and the music I create follows suit. Lyrically, “Lucky 13” is an assembly of spiritual conversations I’m having with myself about the world around and inside me.  I invite my fellow musicians to partake in these conversations. This is how we learn about each other. We solidify those conversations with recordings with the expectations that the same positive message that was given to us via blues/roots music in the past, will also be there for people who listen to our music of today in the future.

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