Salvador Santana, singer-songwriter and keyboardist: Something Else! Interview

Salvador Santana has grown up to be far more than just the son of Carlos Santana — though that’s a role he clearly relishes nevertheless. In 2004, he began blending hip hop and jazz in the Salvador Santana Band, building on his 1999 collaboration with dad on the Grammy-winning “El Foral” from 1999’s Supernatural. Del the Funky Homosapien, GZA and Money Mark of the Beastie Boys contributed to Salvador’s 2009 solo effort,Keyboard City. A six-song EP, called Rise Up, followed in 2013; Salvador Santana’s latest release is titled Fantasy Reality, and he’s again working with vocalist Alex Nestor. Salvador joined us for a Something Else! Sitdown to discuss his family’s rich musical heritage, his writing process and the new album …


PRESTON FRAZIER: You have a rich musical heritage. Tell us about growing up with music in the Santana household.
SALVADOR SANTANA: Growing up in the San Francisco Bay area in California, I was exposed to so many different types of music, art, cultures and history. In the house that I grew up in, there was always music playing in the background — a very eclectic blend of music. I remember hearing Marvin Gaye, Jimi Hendrix, War, Bob Marley, Miles Davis and John Coltrane just to name a few. I remember times when I was little, I would watch my dad jamming in the living room on guitar with my paternal grandfather — who’d be playing his violin — and my other maternal grandfather, playing the guitar. Sometimes my uncle and cousins would come over and have one big jam session. I couldn’t wait to learn to how to play an instrument, so I could jam with the rest of my family.

PRESTON FRAZIER: What are your plans for the rest of this year?
SALVADOR SANTANA: Since my latest album Fantasy Reality is complete, I’d like to take the rest of this year and focus on playing some shows and touring with my band – as well as getting back to work in the studio to finish up a few other projects I currently have in the works. I want to end this year strong, and then be ready to start 2016 off on the right foot. I look forward to everything that the new year has to offer.

PRESTON FRAZIER: What was your first instrument? When did you start playing piano?
SALVADOR SANTANA: My first instrument was the drums, and I started officially playing piano at the age of 6 years old.

PRESTON FRAZIER: Did you play in bands as a teenager?
SALVADOR SANTANA: Yep, I sure did. I helped form and played in a few, actually.

PRESTON FRAZIER: The Salvador Santana Band seemed to incorporate a number of musical styles. How was that band formed, and why did that morph into the Keyboard City solo project?
SALVADOR SANTANA: The original Salvador Santana band was formed in the summer of 2004. Basically, it was me and a few of my friends from both high school and college. The main reason for the change from band project to solo artist was because of the music. I wanted to shift the focus more on who I am and how I wanted to present myself as an artist and musician. But honestly, there isn’t much of a change, really. In most cases, I still perform live on stage with a band. I just decided to take the name “band” out and just keep mine, Salvador Santana.

PRESTON FRAZIER: Describe your writing process.
SALVADOR SANTANA: My writing process is simple. Usually I hear the music first, and then the lyrics follow not too far behind. But as a composer, I have to stay open to the creative process. Every situation is different. I think my writing process hasn’t changed over the years between the SSB and the current album Fantasy Reality, I’d say that my approach to the creative/writing process has grown, like I have as an artist and composer. With time comes experience. I can for sure say that I’ve learned a lot since the making of the first album.

PRESTON FRAZIER: Let’s discuss Fantasy Reality. Who are your core players, and what was the main keyboard you used?
SALVADOR SANTANA: The main musicians on the Fantasy Reality album are: Jared Meeker, Alex Nester and Blake Collie. I used and featured a variety of keyboards and synths on this album. My favorite, actually, was incorporating an acoustic upright piano on a couple songs. I love keyboards and synths, but to me nothing beats the sound of an authentic piano.

PRESTON FRAZIER: How did the recent tour with Carlos Santana go? Describe your musical relationship.
SALVADOR SANTANA: Incredible! Sharing the stage with my dad, his band, and Alex Nester — who sings in my band every night — on that tour was amazing! The experience overall was something that i will never forget. I hope it’s the first of many more to come. The best way i can describe to everyone the musical relationship I have with my dad is in one word: Awesome! I think it’s really based off a mutual respect and appreciation for who we both are as artists and musicians. There were more than a few times on the tour when my dad would introduce me as “his teacher” right before I would come out on stage to jam with him and his band. That was one of the highest honors I could ever receive.

PRESTON FRAZIER: Give our readers your Top 5 albums.
SALVADOR SANTANA: What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye; Uprising – Bob Marley; Songs in the Key of Life – Stevie Wonder; Axis: Bold as Love – Jimi Hendrix; and Sunlight – Herbie Hancock.