Most musicians spend years on the road struggling to make ends meet before they can even think about turning their art into a career. Aaron Lopez-Barrantes is not most musicians. The North Carolina native has spent some time on the road, but his excellent songs and versatility have allowed him to create some beautiful original music, while also paying the bills here in New Orleans.
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“It’s crazy how everything fell into place,” says Barrantes, in between sets at the Maison Dupuy Bistreux. After graduating from the University of Vermont in 2010, Barrantes had to decide whether to continue his music career in New York, Los Angeles, or New Orleans.
“I wasn’t crazy about NYC or LA, and I knew NOLA had a great live music scene, so I took a chance and moved down here.”
He found a job waiting tables, saving up every spare dollar for recording time on his debut full-length album.
The result of those sessions, ALB, features heartfelt songs of love and loss, anchored by Barrantes’ strong voice and impressive guitar work, recalling the songs of Wilco and Josh Ritter.
“The best part about recording in New Orleans was people would just wander into the studio, add a horn part or some pedal steel, and just wander out.”
Barrantes finished the album last spring, and wisely put it up on Spotify to get his sounds to as many people as possible.
Meanwhile, Barrantes ditched his waiter gig and started playing regularly at the historic Maison Dupuy hotel in the French Quarter.
“Playing at the Maison Dupuy is great because I get to test out my new songs along with all the covers people want to hear. I usually play three to four hours a night, and I can get through almost all of my own songs, while still mixing in some great covers.”
But the Maison Dupuy is just Barrantes’ day job. He hit the road last summer with the band The Great Divide, opening shows and joining the band for a run of Midwest and East Coast dates. He also plays local shows with his own four-piece band. He can also be found on Frenchmen Street, laying down some funky guitar lines with the new brass band Brass Flavor.
Barrantes still can’t believe how far his career has come in such a short time.
“The coolest thing, by far, happened a few months ago, when my brother, who lives in Paris, heard my songs at a bar. To know that someone in France connects with my music is just incredible.”
Barrantes shows no sign of slowing down as he continues to explore the musical landscape of New Orleans, one show at a time.
“I’m still figuring out how I fit into the music scene here, but, so far, I’m just enjoying the ride.”
Or listen to his song, Mary Anne, here.