joins GRAMMY nominees for soulful holiday tour
By Ken Capobianco
It’s certainly no accident that Javier Colon won the first season of the hit television singing competition, “The Voice,” in 2011. Colon has a wonderfully pure and resonant voice––it’s a beautiful instrument––and in an era of pop dominated by digital tweaking and Auto-Tune, he helps remind listeners of the power of a beautifully rendered vocal performance. It’s his rich tonal quality and expressiveness that won over the show’s viewers and propelled him into the pop consciousness and earned him a chance to join Dave Koz as a special guest on his annual Christmas tour. Colon will share the stage with Koz, David Benoit, Sheila E. and newcomer Margo Rey on the 26-date annual Dave Koz & Friends Christmas tour, which began Nov. 23 in Sarasota, Florida, and ends in San Francisco, California, on Dec. 23.
Colon, who was the featured vocalist on Koz’s “Definition of Beautiful” from 2003’s Saxophonic CD, said that he is very excited to be working with Koz again. “I’ve known Dave for about nine years, and I’m honored he asked me to be part of the tour, and it’s fantastic to be doing this and collaborating again.”
The Connecticut native is actually a seasoned veteran of the music business, and he has been playing his sweet acoustic soul for more than a decade. The road to success has not come easy for Colon. He previously recorded two CDs, Javier (2003) and Left of Center (2006), for Capitol Records. Despite polished craftsmanship and dedication to melody, they sold modestly, and the coveted (necessary) hit single never emerged. Colon parted ways with Capitol and struggled to stay afloat financially while keeping his music dreams alive in the years leading up to his “The Voice” audition.
“I guess I’ve persevered and kept at it because music is really the only thing I know how to do well. It just feels right,” the articulate, thoughtful singer said. “There were a lot of times I doubted and wasn’t sure, especially after what happened after the Capitol experience, but there were many people who supported my dreams and encouraged me. I always believed I was meant to do this, and if you feel that way, you have to follow through to get where you want to be.”
His music is honest and instantly appealing because his songs are about real people with genuine feelings. He often draws from personal experience and family matters for inspiration. Colon doesn’t sing about the bedroom fantasies that preoccupy so many modern soul singers, and there’s no hip-hop edge to his vibe. The married father of two girls (3 and 5 years of age) with another baby on the way, draws from more traditional pop-soul and singer-songwriter sources.
Colon takes a completely different path than many young soul singers desperately trying to out-freak the young R. Kelly. He does this by evoking artists such as Bill Withers or James Taylor. His music is unadorned and direct without flashy production or effects. It’s often based around his acoustic guitar, organic instrumentation and, yes, of course, that voice.
“When I was growing up, my father was a DJ for a Spanish radio station so there were always Latin influences, including singers like Jose Feliciano whom I often listened to and admired. But my brothers and sisters would frequently turn the radio dial to American pop, and that’s when I began hearing Phil Collins, Sam Cooke, Stevie Wonder and Donnie Hathaway, and I started to fall in love with that kind of music,” Colon said recalling his early years.
“Once I went to college, and I met my wife she exposed me to James Taylor, who is really one of my main influences––he’s an amazing songwriter––along with Joni Mitchell and Otis Redding. They made a major impact, and I think that’s very evident.”
He added that what he tries to do when writing a song is find the truth of a moment or a situation and express it as honestly as possible. “I draw a lot from the situations I’ve been through and from my family,” he added. By capturing life’s small wonders and contradictions, Colon manages to write very human and humane songs that refuse to pander to stereotypes or rely on trendy clichés. “Sometimes I can simply write about being older and watching my girls grow up as I did in `Meant to Be.’ Or I can look and reflect on my struggles and how my wife pushed me to keep trying, which you can hear on `Come Through for You.’ The key is being honest and writing about things that matter to me,” the stylish 34-year-old explained.
F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote that American life has no second acts, but don’t tell that to Colon, who found his music career flagging when he auditioned for “The Voice” in early 2011. “I was actually thinking about quitting because I could barely pay the following month’s bills at the time. Things were just not good financially, and I would have worked at Home Depot if I had to. When I heard about the auditions I wasn’t sure I was going to do it. My brother encouraged me and said I needed to at least try. I can’t express how blessed I was to have that opportunity and have it completely change my life.”
Of course, under the guidance of judge and mentor Adam Levine, Colon showcased his skills and won the $100,000 grand prize and a recording contract with Universal Records.
The pop music business is not always an easy world to succeed in, and Colon’s post-“Voice” career has had a few bumps in the road. While it instantly raised his name recognition and won him new fans across the globe, it also served up a cold dish of reality when he finally released his first disc for Universal Republic, Come Through for You. The label gave it scant promotional support despite the huge bounce he received from winning the reality show competition. Colon has since parted ways with Universal. He felt that the label didn’t get behind the disc, and it failed to rise up the charts.
“What I learned about the music business is that while it has seemingly changed a lot since my Capitol years, in some respects, it really never changes,” Colon said with a hint of exasperation. “I will say this upfront that everything that has happened since ‘The Voice’ has been a blessing and there are so many more opportunities for me now, but what I found out is that labels have abandoned any kind of artist development.
“The second time around I was a lot wiser, though, and I didn’t simply follow blindly and do things I didn’t want. I made the record I felt good about, and I’m proud of it. But if a record doesn’t sell overnight these days, the label just doesn’t stick with it, and what happened with me is obviously not an isolated case. Artist development just doesn’t seem to exist, and that’s definitely disappointing,” he said before pausing and adding, “But there are so many opportunities for me now, and I’ve had such great fortune. I just need to continue to make music, and I believe it will find its audience.”
There are many avenues for Colon to navigate as he moves forward in his career. While he is without a major label once more, he acknowledged he is looking to work with another but also wants to make sure it is the right fit and right deal. It’s rare for any artist to get three shots with a major, so it’s crucial to make a correct decision. His music needs to be nurtured; he’s an artist with a gentle but emotionally complex sound. That’s not always marketable in the ADD pop world, which moves on to the next flavor more quickly than you can say Carly Rae Jepsen.
One direction Colon insisted he wants to move towards is Latin music, and he hopes that by collaborating with Latin artists and adding more rhythm to his sound he can give his career traction in an entirely new market.
With many options now open, the singer-songwriter is mindful that it all wouldn’t have been possible if not for that decision to take a bet on his own talent and audition for “The Voice.” “If you believe in what you do, and if you feel you are destined for something, you have to follow your dream, because ultimately I do think some things are meant to be.”
For more information on Colon, visit javiercolon.com. For the complete Dave Koz & Friends Christmas tour schedule, visit www.davekoz.com.
2003 Javier (Capitol Records)
2006 Left of Center (Capitol Records)
2010 The Truth-Acoustic EP (Javier Colon Music)
2011 A Very Acoustic Christmas (Universal Motown Records Group)
2011 Come Through for You (Universal Republic)
On Tour with Dave Koz & Friends Christmas
Dec. 21 and Dec. 22
Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts
12700 Center Court Dr.
982 Market St.
San Francisco, California