Tomás Pagán Motta Wants To ‘Leave Space For The Listener’ In His Music

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7min 12sec

Tomás Pagán Motta has been a favorite artist of 91.5 KRCC DJs since he released his impressive self-titled debut album in 2015. Now, the Maryland native has a new album, Living A Lie, and is embarking on a national tour in support. His first stop will be here in Colorado Springs for a special 91.5 KRCC concert with in/PLANES at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center on Friday, August 11.

In advance of that (sold out) show, Pagán Motta spoke with Vicky Gregor about his new album, his approach to songwriting, and how his song "My My (Living a Lie)" found its way into an episode of the Netflix comedy, Flaked.

On collaboration and how he developed the instrumental arrangements for the guitar-based songs on Living a Lie

So, I had the songs, and I sort of knew exactly what I wanted to do with them. I could hear what was happening. I am a great collaborator, in the sense that I have a very fluid sort of relationship with people, so I said, OK, let's go. I met this amazing guy at a coffee shop -- yeah, that still happens, you can still meet amazing artists at coffee shops -- bring him into the studio, he sounds incredible. Let's bring his buddy who's a drummer, sounds incredible. Let's bring the bass player who I've known for a while... If players have a sound and a style that I like, I just know where it's going to fit. 

"It's a blessing that came out of nowhere, and it's because of people who really listen to music."

On translating his songs for live performance

We've actually prepared the songs in trio form for this tour, and I think it's going to be pretty interesting. We're taking a couple instruments, and making a lot with them -- and still leaving a lot of space for the listener. I get blown away by too much sound. When people speak to you, there's a natural overtone to it. I like music that contains this overtone. Where there's space, I can digest it.

On how his song, "My My (Living a Lie)" ended up on the Netflix show, Flaked

There was a particular DJ [at Sirius XM] who was also a DJ at KCRW in Los Angeles who was taken aback by the album. He sent me a message expressing that sentiment, and we went back and forth and talked. When I performed in Los Angeles for the tour of that last album, he showed up with a crew and we talked more... Out of nowhere he said, "this song is so cool, I want to use it for this project I'm working on." He has a company where he and another KCRW staff member curate some of these shows in Hollywood. So he said, "There's this new show with Will Arnett, it's called Flaked, it's a Netflix comedy, and this song is perfect. I pitched it." A couple weeks went by... and then he just called and said, "Here's a contract, they love it, they're going to put it on this episode." So, yea money! I was like, great, I can now tour a little more extensively... It's a blessing that came out of nowhere, and it's because of people who really listen to music.

Listen to the full interview, from this month's episode of Air Check, in the player above.