Two Beats, One Soul: An Interview with Little Louie Vega
As a Cuban-American, I’m always looking to promote the sonic culture of my ancestors before me. My mother was born in Pinar del Río, Cuba, and left for the United States when she was seven years old. She and her brother were part of Operation Peter Pan, a mass exodus of unaccompanied Cuban minors to the United States privately funded by the Catholic Welfare Bureau between 1960 and 1962. Although I am Cuban, I am fairly Americanized, and occasionally feel distant from my roots. Music has always been a great medium to make me feel closer to my Cuban roots. I grew up proud of my heritage, not only through my mothers cooking, but also through the music mi abuela would play (i.e. Celia Cruz).
The new album released by RVMK Records, Two Beats, One Soul, caught my attention for its celebration of sound and artistry of Cuba. The album was produced by Dancing With the Stars musical director Ray Chew with his wife and business partner Vivian Scott Chew, who has garnered multi-platinum selling dancehall music records.
The album was recorded at Havana’s Abdala Studio with the goal of recreating traditional Cuban sounds and rhythms with a modern American influences. Two Beats, One Soul dives into the musical communities of Guines (birthplace of the father of Afro-Cuban music aka “The King of Congos,” Tata Guines), Matanzas (best known for its poetry, the Danzón, and rumba), and Havana. Since the 19th century, Cuban music has influenced the musical stylings of rumba, Afro-Cuban jazz, salsa and more.
The album is a compilation featuring Eric Benét, Louie Vega, Jon B, Josh Milan, Cuban artists Ruben and Gabriel Rodriguez and Xiomara Laugart, plus Latin/pop artists Jean Rodriguez and Anané Vega, as well as production input from Ray Chew, Sergio George, Louie Vega and Cuba’s own Manolito Simonet. With all the artists combined, there is a total of 16 Grammy Awards in this album.
Two Beats, One Soul was digitally released on September 22nd via RVMK Records/Sony Music Latin (US). There is also a documentary directed by Billie Woodruff about the album set to be released on November 17th. The documentary visually walks through the album making process, giving a glimpse into the Cuban culture and lifestyle through a musical lens.
We had the opportunity to interview one of the producers and creative directors of the album, Louie Vega, below. You know the drill, press the play button below on the Spotify embed and read the interview below for the FULL Louie Vega experience. His song is the lead single of the Album, The World is A Family, co-produced by Josh Milan.
Your family is from Puerto Rico, since the devastation of Hurricane Irma and Maria, do you suggest an organization readers can donate to?
Yes, I have lots of family in Puerto Rico.
Where did you grow up, and how did that influence the music you make today?
I grew up in the Bronx. I was lucky enough to be there during the disco days as a child, the birth of hip hop in the Bronx, the fania salsa explosion of music in NYC, listening and learning from Larry Levan, Tony Humphries, Jellybean Benitez, Bruce Forest, the music of Whbi, Wabc, Soul Train and more. All of these and more influenced the music I make today.
Are there any instruments that you currently wish you COULD play?
Piano and bass. I do play some keyboards, but I’m not a seasoned soloist. Love the bass, bass lines are my forte.
How did you start creating music on your computer?
I work with an amazing team. My engineer, Yas Inoue, is a genius, and before him, I worked with Dave Darlington and Steven Barkan who are also amazing ! I would say since the early 90s, I made music on the computer. I record a lot of live music too. Although it ends up in the computer, we use protools.
You’re one of the Grammy award winning collaborators in the Two Beats One Soul album. How did you get involved?
I was asked by Vivian Chew. We’ve talked for years about working together on a project, and one day she said, “Louie I have the perfect project.” She explained everything, and I said yes right away. I explained to Vivian what I could contribute, which was my Elements of Life sound, along with our family of artists, Ananè & Josh Milan singing lead and our musicians.
You recorded the music in Cuba. What was your favorite studio moment when producing your new single, The World Is A Family?
My favorite studio moment was when Josh Milan & Ananè Vega recorded the backgrounds, the hook is so infectious and they sounded so good we all started singing the hook in the control room.
What Cuban and American elements were you looking to combine in your new single, The World Is A Family?
Cuban elements were when we record Telmary, the Cuban poet. She was awesome and knew exactly what to do after I explained what we were looking for. The drummer Rodney, from Cuba, and the Yoruba singers we worked with was a wonderful experience too. We recorded the Yoruba chants, which was for The World Is A Family, but it sounded so good, it stood on its own on the album and became Canto De Cuba.
What do you like to do when you’re simply hanging out – aside from music?
I love hanging out with my wife and son. Whether eating at a delicious restaurant or on a vacation together, being with them is what I hold precious (even when our son is on the road with us). My wife and I are in the music business, so we are lucky we also get to travel together, and in some cases, we bring him along when he’s off from school.
Who is your fav artist you’ve collaborated with?
I have many, but I’d have to say George Benson & Josh Milan!