Living So Natural

Artist: Salvador
Published: 2005-05-05

They have been referred to as perhaps the greatest worship band of our day and rightfully so. Salvador fronted by Nic Gonzales combines a sound reminiscent of artists like Carlos Santana and Earth Wind and Fire and wraps it in adoration for God. Soul Shine spoke to lead vocalist and guitarist Nic Gonzales about Salvador's latest album 'So Natural' and more generally about what gives the band a distinctly different sound than most other groups out there today.

Gonzales says it is the band's use of horns (trombone and trumpet) that gives them a distinct sound. "I think we pay attention to details like that (horns) when it comes to things like that especially in our live performances. That's what has got us a long way. We feel as though the brass section is something that makes us original. It's expensive to take that many guys on the road but we're getting by. We could split up the money four ways if we wanted to or we can take out a really big band and give people what they are expecting to hear. We just try and pay attention to details. We love horns." Gonzales says he was influenced earlier in life by the way Stevie Wonder made use of horns in his music.

He says incorporating the brass sound in their music leaves the band in the enviable position of being considered unique. "We aren't usually compared to anyone in Christian music. That makes us feel pretty cool. That makes us feel original."

Gonzales says the album 'So Natural' is the band's most personal production so far. This project marked the first time that Gonzales was in the producer's chair. He combined efforts with his long time friend Chris Rodriguez.

It is not hard to detect the pride and the enthusiasm in the Texan's voice as he talks about creating "So Natural". "I think it was a different effort that we used. This time when we talked about going into the studio we talked about doing all the songs by hand. What that means is no computer generated loops. Everything that is played is natural, hence the name. We made an effort on this record to just do things a little bit differently, kind of our own way. I figure that really drew us into a different mind set when we actually started playing. I think we all felt it was more personal. I think we all felt we had more control over things. It made things a lot sweeter when we ended up finishing it. I think the guys are most proud of this record for that reason because it is only them, no outside help. Obviously with me being in the producer's chair for the first time it sounds exactly like I wanted it to so it makes me feel kind of warm inside."

Many of the songs from "So Natural" were written at a time when Gonzales was forced to take three months off from touring due to exhaustion. One of those songs, 'This is My Life' has become something of a personal testimony for him. He says like most of the other songs on the CD, "It touches upon all the things that I have been dealing with and working on myself."

'This Is My Life' stands out as a unique song on a unique album. Gonzales talks about the decision to use words from the old hymn 'How Great Thou Art'. "When we were writing the song we were just sitting around talking about all the old hymns that we had learned as kids and as we went along recording the song there was a little break where we were going to use a bridge. We started singing a hymn in between there. It just kind of stuck with us. A lot of things that you hear on the record are things that just came naturally. "'How Great Thou Art', being the classic that it is we just thought it would be cool to include it."

Since the band members of Salvador are Christian, it's probably a fair question to ask the lead vocalist to define what worship means in his life. "Worship for me is fairly simple. Worship for me is the moment you sift away in your mind all the things that have to do with superficial things, when it becomes about you actually, melodically loving the Lord. That's worship. Worship does not only have to be about music. It's only the way that I express myself", he says. Gonzales realizes worship takes different forms in people's daily lives. In his own life music is that road to God. "It is the way that I have been gifted. I feel that God has gifted me with a chance to do these things in this way and so it is the way that I do worship."

Many people would take for granted that a band of Christian musicians would, well for lack of a better way of saying it, would just find it easy to be Christian or holy or whatever other adjective you want to use to describe the perception that you might have of these artists. Try getting alone with God when you are doing 230 gigs in one year as Salvador did five years ago or when you perform in excess of 200 as they did in years two and three. Now in their fifth year the band has tapered down their travel schedule feeling they have put in the necessary volume of gigs to lay down a strong foundation of fans. The challenge of finding time to get alone with God is still there but to a lesser extent. Gonzales however gives you the kind of answer you would hope to hear from this talented musician. "We have access to God all the time. The really cool thing about that is wherever we are, whether it is our bunk, sitting in the back of the bus or whether we are in church it is really a good time to spend quality time with God. It's a mixture. It's not one thing and it's not necessarily five things, it is ten different things when we get alone with Him. Our closet has to be everywhere."

It should therefore come as no surprise to hear Gonzales say "Playing with Dr Billy Graham was a highlight for me and we played with him in San Diego at Qualcomm Stadium where they had the Superbowl a few years back. That was a huge highlight for me."

Despite the success of Salvador, Nic Gonzales and the other members of the band have not lost sight of the really important things in life. He says too many young musicians place the emphasis on cutting a deal with a record label. He says it is a mistake to think that signing a record deal means that you have made it and that is the only measuring stick for success.

"The truth of the matter is even without a record deal you can make it. As long as you are doing the right thing in the right place, you are in the right spot. It doesn't have to be a record deal to be the right thing. Of course it's easy for me to say because we are on a record label, but we weren't necessarily looking for a record deal at all. It just happened. We were extremely happy and extremely excited about doing what we were doing at that time. It's just one of those things (where) record labels make you feel like you've made it but the truth of it is people right now are making great music and they will never be on a record label. That doesn't mean it is not amazing and that doesn't mean that God doesn't look down upon them and say that's awesome. We are here to please. We are here to please the Father. All this other stuff is just kind of extra."

Writer: Joe Montague

Photo:Lesa G

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