The Spotlight shines bright on bad ass blind music man Raul Midón these days. Blind at birth, the singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is the first to describe himself as such. But, it wasn’t always this way. Recently, we caught up with Midón to get the inside scoop on the evolution of his ‘Bad Ass’ persona during his formative college years.
“’Bad Ass And Blind’ is a kind of personal coming out party for me. Believe it or not I am a shy person especially when it comes to my blindness.” – Raul Midón
The self-proclaimed description is also the title of his ninth album BAD ASS AND BLIND (Mack Avenue/Artistry Music) released in March. The title song donning the same name penned by Midón has the artist celebrating his blindness with a ripping guitar solo, a fierce spoken word rhyme, slamming bass by Richard Hammond (Hamilton) and drumming by Lionel Cordew (Spyro Gyra).
“This album … represents a sea change for me when it comes to communicating with the public about my disability. I am what I am. I travel the world, write, produce, sing, play and, do it all without the benefit of sight. I’m a bad ass.” – Raul Midón
THE EVOLUTION OF BAD ASS and BLIND MUSIC MAN RAUL MIDÓN
For the last decade, Raul Midón has burst onto the Jazz and Pop worlds with his soulful and funky artistry – a combination of musicianship, charisma, timing, songwriting and personality – and his signature sound of mouth trumpet. Early last year, Midón was a featured artist in the Monterey Jazz Festival On Tour company with jazz stars such as Nicholas Payton, Ravi Coltrane and Gerald Clayton. By the time the Tour ended its week-long run at New York City’s Birdland – it was clear that Midón’s one-man band performance and tenor vocals were a beloved focal point of the show.
Here’s what the multi-talented artist has to say on the making of his Bad Ass:
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: What can you tell us about your first impressions of college life in Miami?
Midón: As a blind person it was very scary. My Father came with me and stayed for two weeks so that I could learn the campus. I also thought it was so cool that I was going to be in a community of people who were all into the same thing — jazz music. I’d never had that before.
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: When did you first discover your now signature mouth-horn trumpet sound/technique using your voice? What age? (Midón creates a bopping “trumpet” solo using only his lips)
Midón: That’s a good question. I was probably 19 years old. But I didn’t get good at it until after college.
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: Did your professors at University of Miami help you refine your vocal talent?
Midón: I went to University of Miami as a guitar student. I auditioned for a vocal ensemble for fun. They seemed impressed and Juan Secada was one of the judges! They invited me to do Jazz Vocal 1 but that met every day and I couldn’t commit, so I started at the bottom. Juan, now known as Jon, taught me my first jazz tune Autumn Leaves.
“Raul and I had a class together — a jazz vocal group. Even back then, after listening to him perform, you just knew his talent and drive would get him places quickly after graduation. He stood out above the rest of us. I run into him from time to time – the last being a few years ago at The Bitter End.” — Evan Kremin, singer-songwriter and part-time manager of The Bitter End.
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: Your hall mate at Miami – Evan Kremin – has fond memories of you and he as Freshman. Care to comment on those times?
Midón: I remember the in-depth discussions we had about music. I know he was a New Yorker and later, I ran into him one day with my wife as we were heading to play a gig at Stephen’s Talkhouse in the Hamptons.
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: Reflecting on those formative years, any mentors from college that stand out as instrumental to your sound? Professors, co-eds?
Midón: The professors who stood out to me are my guitar teacher Randall Dollahan, Don Kaufman, and Ronnie Miller was a big influence. I got so much out of college – grad assistants whose names I can’t remember – but I was fully immersed in college and got tons out of it. I didn’t develop my sound though until after college.
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: Did you perform any gigs outside of college around the Miami area?
Midón: I made my career as a background vocalist in the studio scene which was very big then. I also toured with Shakira towards the end of my time in Miami. At the same time, I had a band that I wrote original music for and I worked with a jazz trio as a jazz singer. I played in the best clubs Miami had and the rest is history!
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: Post-College – immediately after graduation – what was next for Raul Midón?
Midón: I had a writing partner, John Fournier and we had a great band called “Look Around” which also featured the drummer Jeff Quay – who is still in Blue Man Group. I also had a lot of shitty gigs that involved classic rock.
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: What’s next?
Midón: I have a new album out right now called “Bad Ass And Blind” which I’m out on the road promoting. And, I made a record with the Metropole Orkest. I’d like to see that get out. I’m also working on a book of poetry called The Blind Detective.
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: Did you ever expect to be where you are today as an artist?
Midón: That’s an interesting question. I have very high expectations so I have both, exceeded my expectations but at the same time I’m always hoping for more. But, I’m very proud of my body of work.
Raul Midon is one Bad Ass Blind Music Man!
Raul Midon will be performing in New York City this weekend at The Iridium on Friday and Saturday, June 2nd & 3rd, where he kicks-off France Rocks Summerfest music festival. The French music festival, now in its second year, is the largest of its kind showcasing a diverse range of musical talents and genres coming out of France. Free and ticketed shows will include over 30 acts across 20 NYC venues from Summerstage to Town Hall.
For a complete list of tour dates for Raul Midon visit his website: http://raulmidon.com/tour.html — AS #SOSPARKED @sosparkednews @asparks01