Interview: Jaime Lozano of SONGS BY AN IMMIGRANT UNPLUGGED at The Lucille Lortel Theatre

Called "the next big thing" by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Lozano is playing a one-night-only show on May 30th

By: May. 22, 2024
Interview: Jaime Lozano of SONGS BY AN IMMIGRANT UNPLUGGED at The Lucille Lortel Theatre
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Mexican musical storyteller Jaime Lozano has quickly established himself as “a force to be reckoned with in musical theater, in Latin music or wherever else he wants to go,” says Lin-Manuel Miranda, who brought on Lozano to assist with orchestrations for the film adaptation of In The Heights. In his original songs showcased on his Songs by an Immigrant album, Lozano authentically portrays the challenges that many first and second-generation U.S. immigrants face. Those experiences include finding a new home, learning a new language, dealing with discrimination, pursuing the American Dream, and searching for ways to build bridges instead of walls.

Lozano keeps an incredibly busy schedule between his career in musical theater and trying to survive in New York as an artist, immigrant and working father – topics he talks about in his cabaret shows (read my review of his recent Día de Muertos show at the Kraine Theater last October). He and his band, The Familia, will be performing a one-night-only concert next week on May 30th at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in the Village. He’ll be joined onstage by Mayelah Barrera (El Otro Oz), Florencia Cuenca (Real Women Have Curves), Robi Hager (Spring Awakening), and Mauricio Martínez  (On Your Feet!), along with musicians Ludovica Burtone (violin), Saúl Cosme (guitars), Joel Mateo (percussion), Yahir Montes (guitars), Taya Ricker (violin), Ruben Rodriguez (bass), Laura Sacks (viola), and Agustin Uriburu (cello). 

We spoke about how he balances his art, family and career, as well as the upcoming show. Read our conversation below.

What are you most looking forward to about your May 30th show at the Lucille Lortel Theatre?

I have been very blessed to be performing my concerts at many wonderful venues in the city and beyond, but the Lucille Lortel Theater has a very special place in my heart. It is the theater where I did my very first off-Broadway musical, and to be honest, it was also my very first professional musical in the United States back in 2011. It was my show The Yellow Brick Road, that now is called El Otro Oz, a Latinx adaptation of The Wizard of Oz. A lot of my personal journey and challenges as an immigrant are part of that show. I have great memories from that time and having the opportunity to be back all these years after feels like a whole circle to me, and now with this project called “Songs by an Immigrant.” A lot of things have happened during these 13 years that are reflected in these new songs and being able to perform those on that stage means a lot to me. Also, this is the first time we are using this acoustic configuration with three guitars, bass, percussion and a string quartet. It is the first time we are gonna do it this way, and I am so excited to explore this sound.

You're working on a new show Roja with Tommy Newman. What has that been like?

Everything is connected. Tommy was one of my collaborators for El Otro Oz, the off-Broadway show I did at the Lortel 13 years ago. After El Otro Oz, we have written together another show called Savage, and a few other songs, but we have been looking for a long time for the perfect show to collaborate again, and this one is the perfect story. Tommy is one of the smarter writers I know with such good taste and clear storytelling. He is my perfect balance. I am more messy, my music is very busy and he is so clear and he has the simplest and best ideas. So I would say we complement each other. I am his fan. And of course he has the biggest heart, he is generous and easy to work with. I learn a lot every time I am collaborating with him.

Are you planning to do any new songs at the May 30th show?

We are doing some songs from my albums Songs by an Immigrant Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 that we have never performed with this band configuration, and we are premiering a couple of songs from those albums that we haven’t performed live before. I am so excited for this. As a matter of fact, we are working right now in writing, arranging and producing what would be Songs by an Immigrant Vol. 3, and we will be premiering some of those songs very, very soon as a preview of what is coming.

As someone who is both a composer, writer, performer, and father, how does that work for you? How do you balance your time?

I am gonna be completely honest with you. I am the worst person when it comes to being organized, and I am very bad with my own time. I don’t know the borders within all those things. Let me explain myself: I might be writing a song for 10 minutes and then I go to the kitchen to cook lunch for Florencia and Alonzo as I keep writing and then I sit with him to play a little bit and after 30 minutes I move to another song from another project and then after 15 minutes I sit at the piano to practice something for the next concert and at the same time I am helping my son with his homework and that’s my life. My artist side is always mixed with my personal side; they nurture each other and they coexist. 

What does a typical day look like for you?

I think I just explained a little bit about it, but something that is also true is not a single day is the same in our life. Yes, I have to take Alonzo to school during weekdays before 8 am but after that every day is its own “amusement park.” Some days are as I mentioned before; others we have to run to three different rehearsals in the same day and sometimes that includes picking up Alonzo earlier at school because we don’t have nannies or any kind of day care, and then we have to come back to do some recordings at home. So every day is always a unique and enjoyable challenge and experience. But no matter what, I would say there is not a single day I don’t do something about my art: write a song, record a demo, produce a song, arrange a song, etc. And the best thing is having the support of Florencia and Alonzo, even if we are writing or collaborating on a project together or just cheering each other on and giving us mutual advice.

You're making this show pay what you wish, with tickets starting as low as $5. How do you feel about providing accessible music and theater for New Yorkers? Is that something that's important to you?

Definitely. I want theater, music and art to be accessible for everybody and I am grateful we have the support of amazing organizations like in this case the Lucille Lortel Theater. I think it is important to do what is in our hands to bring art to all communities, to all people.

You also have a show coming up in July as part of Lincoln Center's Summer for the City series. What else is coming up for you in the next few months?

This is another concert I am so excited about. And a very different concert. This one is gonna be a “dance party” with a 20-piece band with horns, strings, latin percussion and more. Full of all my uptempo Latin-infused songs. This is gonna be on July 31 at the main plaza just in front of the Metropolitan Opera House. A true dream to perform at such an iconic landmark. On August 9 I am doing with my wife Florencia our concert Broadway en Spanglish with mariachi Real de México in Bryant Park. These two concerts are completely free. More accessible opportunities. And we are working hard on the Broadway en Spanglish album and my Volume 3 to be released by Concord Theatricals Recordings this year.

Tickets are available on the Lucille Lortel’s website.


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