Having produced one of our favorite albums of 2019 – in a year when great music seems to be hitting at an astonishing clip – Juan Antonio Lopez, aka Sofa City Sweetheart, flew in under the radar with the release of “Super(b) Exitos” when it dropped last week. A masterful songwriter who also recorded and engineered the album himself, the trumpet player-turned-multihypenate delivered in ways that we could have never anticipated, ensuring that we will not only be standing in line for his future follow-ups, but that Lopez will no longer be flying under the radar when that happens.
We recently sat down with Lopez to discuss internal creative conflicts, never giving up on your dreams, and why he and music are in it for the long haul.
TrunkSpace: You wore pretty much every hat imaginable in bringing “Super(b) Exitos” to life. Did Songwriter Juan and Engineer Juan ever butt heads in terms of what one wanted creatively and what the other could achieve in the studio? How did you compartmentalize?
Lopez: Oh yeah, all the time. There were lots of times when producer Juan would tell all the other Juans, “That’s not good enough.” (That guy’s a jerk) There were several times I hit a wall on something, and I’d have to step away for a little while. There was one guitar solo (on “The Instrumental”) that took forever because I felt like I didn’t have the skills needed to be able to pull of what I wanted. I almost hired someone else to do it, but I took a few days off just to work on scales/exercises and eventually pulled it off (and I’m glad I did). This actually happened often when mixing the bigger songs, too. I couldn’t get the intro to “Stanley Waited” to work, then took some time off to study the soundtrack to “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” noticed how they mixed things, and got inspired to try an old school approach and that worked perfectly on that song.
TrunkSpace: What goals did you set for yourself when you first decided to make this album a reality and do you feel like you accomplished them once you called wrap on everything?
Lopez: I wanted to make the best album I could make, that flowed well from start to finish, showed all of my best talents, gave it everything I had, and put it on vinyl. I didn’t stop working until I did exactly that.
TrunkSpace: In going through the process of writing and recording “Super(b) Exitos,” what did it teach you about yourself, both as an artist and as a person?
Lopez: Hmm, this is a good question. First off, that everything takes way longer than I imagine. But more importantly, that it’s okay to stick to your vision and fight for what you believe in. There are a million hurdles that will come up at every turn when doing a large project (especially a subjective work of art), but you have to face each one, handle it, and keep working toward your dream. Never let any one thing or person stop you from achieving your dreams. I’ve done that before, and never again I say!
TrunkSpace: There’s a great feel to the album that gives it that classic front-to-back cohesiveness. How important was it to you that it felt like an album as opposed to a collection of songs?
Lopez: Thanks for noticing! This was one of my main goals from the beginning, and was thinking of that at every stage, even when I was choosing which songs to record. All of my favorite artists put out great cohesive records, and I wanted to throw my hat into that ring. Plus, I feel like there are fewer records like this being made these days, and I want to help keep this art form alive for as long as possible.
TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Lopez: Not one singular thing comes to mind, but simply the fact that it exists is kind of amazing to me since it was just a dream for so long. It is the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done in my life.
TrunkSpace: You perform under the name Sofa City Sweetheart. Why take up that moniker instead of writing and recording as Juan Antonio Lopez?
Lopez: It’s kind of funny, but I’m naturally a very shy person, so I didn’t want to do the whole “Dave Matthews Band, starring Dave Matthews” kind of thing. I think it’s kind of tacky, and I would never want it to seem like I’m braggy or self-centered. (I’ve actually had low self-esteem for most of my life) Plus, I make records that sound like a full band, so I thought having a band name would work better anyway. Even though I’m a “singer-songwriter,” I feel like that label has a different “sound” and expectation from the type of music I actually make.
But maybe the best reason is that choosing a band name is always fun and more creative than using your given name! Like, you may be wondering where did these bands come from and how did they come up with their names. These are some of the biggest bands in the world and their names are so recognizable so sometimes it’s good to be a little creative.
TrunkSpace: We read that there were moments in your life where walking away from music would have been an easy choice given the circumstances surrounding you. Why stick with it and continue to tap into that creative outlet? What keeps you coming back to music?
Lopez: Music heals all! I would have never been able to get through the toughest times in my life without either absorbing or creating art, especially music. It’s an incredibly tough field to try to make a living in, but I’ve been a musician all my life and at this point, it’s “‘til death do us part.” Plus, the NBA won’t return my calls.
TrunkSpace: What do you get writing and performing music that you can’t achieve as a listener alone? Is the experience different when you’re expressing through music than listening to another artist express through theirs?
Lopez: A few things I suppose. A very unique form of catharsis, and just the incredible feeling of creating something that did not exist before. I might not be able to give birth, but I always felt like writing songs is the closest I’ll ever get.
TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Lopez: Another tough question. I’ve been lucky ’nuff to do a few cool things in my career as a musician. Recording with Feist was amazing, and last year a porn star wrote to me and asked me if she could use one of my songs in her next movie. (I declined.) Getting press in some of my favorite music magazines was very exciting, too. But maybe doing my album crowdfunding campaign might be up there since it allowed me to see how many people believed and supported me – and I can’t thank them enough because it finally helped me fully believe in myself.
TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Lopez: Any time a crazy, wild-eyed scientist in a DeLorean pulls up… YOU GET IN.
The album, including vinyl, is available now by clicking here.