By Matt Marn
Published by AZCulture.com
Published by AZCulture.com
When Reynaldo Moreno takes the stage, he starts with music the crowd is familiar with, as a kind of introduction to show who he is and who inspires him. As the show plays on, he opens up with “deep cuts” of his own. But no matter what song he performs, he gives each show everything he has.
“You have to strip your ego,” Moreno said. “You have to earn the right to be heard. What’s more, I have to enjoy it, or they’ll know. Every time, I work at it more. At the end of the day, I’m making music; I can’t ask for more than that.”
Moreno is devoted to his craft, and to showing the audience a fantastic time with great music he enjoys playing as much as they enjoy hearing. He takes time to banter with the crowd, or explain why he loves this particular song or songwriter, why it is special to him, and may be special to them, too.
As Moreno said, a great leader doesn't just open the door; they walk through it with you.
“As musicians, as performers, we are those leaders,” he said. “We are that passionate. Even the word ‘amateur,’ the root of the word is Latin for ‘love.’ You have to enjoy and study music as its own end. If you work on music just for fame, you fail. Maybe it’s not my place to say that, but music is too sacred.”
Moreno plays music and cites his influences from all over the spectrum – blues, gospel, you name it – but the heart of his inspiration and music is soul. Any kind of music with a soul, with heart – any music that has a story –is the music that drives Moreno. Whether covering soulful acoustic songs or presenting original works from his upcoming album, he wants to play something that breaks traditional patterns.
“I’m looking for that ‘wow,’ when instead of going to the normal pattern, the musician makes it their own – does something completely new,” he said. “When you write – whether it’s a song or whatever the case may be – you want to provoke thought. Too many people are not provoking thought, but instead telling you how to think. That’s irresponsible, especially when you have a mike or a camera in front of you. You have to ask questions to form your own opinion.”
Moreno loves the end of an evening most of all – the time of a performance perfect for trying something special. It is his most precious time with the audience.
“Some people there to drink or eat have wandered off, but the people still there are there for love of music. That’s the most intimate moment, when I can bring out the special work. They are really there because they enjoy it.”
That same passion for music drives Moreno himself, as well as the crowd. Moreno believes art has to be genuine, has to be real, and has to come from your gut.
“That’s why we love art, why we go to concerts and galleries, to visually or audibly experience a genuine personal expression,” he said. “It doesn’t matter about our economy and our struggles, that’s why art will always be there. That’s why art will always be needed.”
Moreno says no matter what your passion is, you need to pursue it passionately, while all the time remembering where you came from, and how far you have already come. Believing in yourself should always come first.
“I refuse to let someone assess me of my skill after three minutes, or even after an hour. To hell with that! I know I’m good; because I go all in, bust my ass to improve and grow and to be great. You should be confident in your efforts, and in how hard you work. Searching for or needing someone to tell you you’re good… it’s important. But it’s not everything. It’s not arrogance to have a comfort in your ability – it is VITAL. At the end of the day, you have to affirm yourself.”
But at the same time, Moreno said this confidence needs to be tempered with the humility which comes with the fact performers have been gifted with such an immense talent, such a gift… a humility that only comes from such an immense love as for music.
“Music does that for me, in an intimate sense,” he said. “You can lift people up, help them process their emotions, express how they feel. I do that on a daily basis. That is awesome.”
Moreno also is trained in martial arts, and is an instructor in boxing and Brazilian Jujitsu. He relates performing in front of crowds to martial arts:
“Maybe your first paycheck will reflect whether you win or lose, but if you go all-out with your heart all in it and you don’t take any crap… you’ve won,” he said. “The toughest guys I know have lost. They’ve been beat, they’ve learned from it, and they came back from it. Failure then loses its sting, and fear becomes irrelevant to the conversation. This is true with life, too.”
Moreno is ready to release a new EP album, “What It’s All About.” He said he was nervous about this album, which is a departure from the acoustic sets people have seen during live performances.
“I worry sometimes about the response, but then I see that I worked with all these great people, and I want to tell everyone, ‘hey, look at this… I wrote these.’ It needs to be put out there for people to listen to. I want to use this to pay homage to everyone’s belief in me. People’s belief that I am worthwhile – that I am worth someone’s time – it’s the most humbling experience.
Clarke Rigsby and his studio, Tempest Studios, helped incredibly during Moreno’s recording of his EP. Moreno said Rigsby and his crew really took him under their wing – and this is very important, getting such strong support from mentors.
“Clarke has such deep ears,” Moreno said. “He’s heard a lot of music. The guidance from him was tremendous. He has accepted everything I have offered. I’ve grown leaps and bounds learning from him. It was really neat working with musicians so invested. They didn’t just show up for work and collect the check, they wanted to work at it, create art – and get it right.”
Moreno said Rigsby pushed him, as all good mentors do.
“You say, ‘that’s too high,’ and the mentor says, ‘no, jump off, you’re fine.’ Then you do it, out of respect for your mentor – and you pull it off. Now, you have that confidence in yourself now. It’s like a roller coaster: when you start to fall when you reach the top, your head screams, ‘what are you doing?’ But your heart screams, ‘hell yeah!’ And when you succeed, you want to do it again.”
So despite Moreno’s venture into new territory with “What It’s All About,” he knows the album needs to be heard. It focuses not exclusively on the guitar, but on Moreno as a soul singer and songwriter.
Moreno said there is something beautiful about that roller coaster – the battle between the heart and the mind – the perfect example of the human spirit.
“You are never owed this, you have to earn it,” he said. “We’ve got one shot at this, man – if we aren’t living life to the fullest, what are we doing? Find something you love, and go for it. Life is meant to be lived.”
Moreno plays with that same charisma and confidence every show. His passion for music, not to mention his gratitude for audiences who come to enjoy the performer live onstage, is quite contagious.
“If you want to move people, be genuine,” he said. “Be true. Show emotion; show joy, show sorrow. You don’t tap on the mike and say, ‘excuse me, I’m going to play now,’ you just play. That’s how you get their attention. Sitting under the spotlight, pouring your heart out – you need to play for yourself. Be focused, play for your own personal joy, and put forth your best performance. Because at the end of the day, you’re playing for other people, be it 5 or 500, who aren't doing what you’re doing right now. And there is nothing more noble than that.”
Moreno performs live every Tuesday night from 7-10 p.m. at Squid Ink Sushi in Peoria, as well as every Wednesday evening from 4-9 p.m. at the Squid Ink in downtown Phoenix. Visit Reynaldo Moreno at www.ReynaldoMoreno.com, or find him on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for videos and more performance venue information.