Esteemed alternative-folk artist Antonio Lopez’s newest album, Here We Are, offers listeners an outlet for emotional introspection through powerful messages related to mental health and human rights by a voice from the BIPOC community. Through the lens of his indigenous Chicano roots, Lopez speaks many truths with gentle precision. The long-awaited successor to his award-winning album Roots and Wings, Here We Are is an alluring collection of songs about the intimate connection between our hopes, dreams, and fears.
The lyric-forward folk album is accentuated with marimba swells and swooning Spanish guitar that flourishes on top of a rock-solid rhythm section. Paired with Lopez’s emotive vocals, these vibrant instrumentals create a salt-of-the-earth soundscape for listeners to explore. The title – Here We Are – conveys a meaningful message as Lopez adeptly explores our human tendency to dwell in our thoughts, revisiting the past and envisioning the future. The album’s namesake serves as a gentle nudge to recognize that life unfolds in the present. Lopez comments:
“Just beyond our fears is where our dreams reside. They exist outside our comfort zone. I named this album ‘Here We Are’ to remind myself that the best way to get there is by being present in the here and now.”
Join us below for a track-by-track description of the songs that make up the album, straight from Antonio Lope himself, as he dissects the thoughts, inspirations, and stories that spurred each creative moment.
1. “Getting My Hands Dirty”
“‘Getting My Hands Dirty’ is about the songwriting process and how I use it as a tool to interpret and move through life. Pursuing a career in the arts is one of the most humbling things a human can do. This song is dedicated to everyone building what they have with sweat—for everyone hustling and getting their hands dirty doing the work.”
2. “Secular Penitente”
“‘Secular Penitente’ is inspired by my family’s Chicano roots and history in Southern Colorado. It is a testament to my grandpa Lorenzo and Grandma Genoveva on my mother’s side. My grandpa Lorenzo was a coal miner in Southern Colorado in a small town near Trinidad called Segundo. He started working in the mines as a teenager and never learned to read or write. He’d wake up at dawn and go deep underground in that dark hole. He had eleven children and supported them on a coalminers wage (my mom being the youngest).
“Whenever I face challenges in my own life, I reflect on what his life must have been like and realize no matter what challenges I come up against; I have it pretty good. A big part of my grandpa’s social life revolved around being a member of The Penitentes. The Penitentes are a fraternal brotherhood dedicated to community service and spiritual devotion through acts of penance. I call this song ‘Secular Penitente’ because I am not religious but believe in spirit and feel a deep connection with my grandpa even though he passed before I was born.”
3. “Better Days”
“Themes relating to family surface in my music often. The verses to ‘Better Days’ are steeped in nostalgia, each a vignette of childhood memories. The chorus is more forward-looking, with the lyric:
‘Keep your dreams in your chest pocket/ memories like a locket/ Don’t forget who you were/ Never forget who you wanted to be/ Past days are long gone/ What remains is better days and this song.’
“Half of this album is new songs, and half is me re-recording songs from earlier in my career. Reimagining the older songs has been like conversing with my younger self. The words take on a new meaning. They say wisdom comes with age, but there is something to youthful idealism, too. The process has been like stepping into the future, combining the best parts of who I was with who I am.”
“‘Pancakes’ is a high-energy alt-rock vibe with a Latin flair. I was into hard rock and heavy metal when I first began playing guitar and writing songs as a teenager in the early ’00s. While the lyrics describe how to make pancakes for breakfast, it’s a metaphor and sexual innuendo. It’s a fun track, especially to perform live.”
5. “Western Winds”
“Sonically, ‘Western Winds’ explores a lush cinematic soundscape augmenting standard instrumentation with nylon string guitar, vibraphone, handpans, roto-toms, and marimba. As the song progresses, it gradually builds, crescendoing into a blooming marimba solo by Jonathan Sadler. When I wrote ‘Western Winds,’ I was depressed and had a lot of uncertainty. Both my wife and I are freelance. While there are perks to working for ourselves, it is not the easiest of life paths. Moments of self-doubt are common. I was feeling the crunch of rising housing costs while still being renters.
“As a result, we were romanticizing the idea of moving back to Southern Colorado, where the cost of living was lower. If we chose to do that, that would mean leaving the community we’ve built over the past decade on The Front Range and not living where my band was. It all felt so heavy to me at the time. I went on a solo two-day songwriting retreat in southern Colorado to figure things out and process it all the way I know best: songwriting. I wrote ‘Western Winds’ that weekend. It was the most cathartic experience I’ve ever had when writing a song, and it was just the medicine I needed. I realized we needed to hold our ground and stay on the front range. Fast forward to the present moment, and we were able to make our dream of homeownership a reality! We knew that being hyper-focused in the short term gave us the most realistic chance at homeownership in a city where home costs have increased threefold since we first moved here.”
“‘Water’ is an R&B soul ballad vibe that meets chamber pop. The lyrics tell a tale of an unbreakable connection, using the metaphor of two drops of water to convey the fluidity and depth of love. The music and lyrics flow together easily, like the confluence of two rivers.”
7. “Something Different”
“‘Something Different’ is about the journey of self-discovery and holding onto your dreams as you move through life. The lyrics paint a narrative of a seeker traversing the landscape of existence in pursuit of belonging and purpose. The song becomes a rhythmic mantra, encouraging resilience and an unwavering grip on dreams. Exotic undertones of world guitar and polyrhythmic marimba weave together and add a touch of mystery, mirroring the enigmatic path we all navigate.”
8. “Painting a Picture”
“‘Painting a Picture’ features a lilting vocal melody reinforced by a melodic nylon fingerstyle guitar, the heartbeat of peppy drums, and the timeless charm of a piano. Lyrically, the song uses the metaphor of painting a picture to capture how our minds become canvases on which we paint our experiences. With half-memories as brushstrokes, The vibrant hues gradually soften into a nostalgic blend.”
9. “5th Grade”
“‘5th Grade’ is a high-energy riff-based rock song. Fun and carefree, it’s about how I had a crush on Mrs. Harmon, the student teacher in my 5th grade class. The last I heard, over 25 years ago, was she moved to Baltimore.”
10. “Home Is a G Chord”
“When I first picked up a guitar as a middle schooler, a G Chord was one of the first things I learned to play. There is something comforting about the warm and open sound. Now, wherever I am in the world and whatever I’m going through, I feel at home when I wrap my fingers around the fretboard in the familiar embrace. Home is a G Chord under my hand, playing the circuit with my band.”
11. “The Future Is Now”
“Is there something you’ve always wanted to do, but the timing never seems right? We may delay or avoid because ‘we’re not quite ready.’ Perhaps we are such perfectionists that we don’t begin because we don’t want to make mistakes. Maybe we are scared of letting others down, so we don’t even try. This song is a reminder that the future is now. If we’re only dreaming, then we’ll never learn how.”