Sept. 05--Max Gomez can't sing a chair. Or sit on a song. He appreciates the artistic -- and genetic -- connections, though.
"It snapped in my head," Gomez, a blues-influenced singer-songwriter from Taos, N.M., said of his recent self-revelation. "I sort of put it together. I felt I was like my dad in the sense that he treats his work as I kind of treat mine. Even though they're very different, they share a lot of similarities -- whether you're building a table or writing a song."
Gomez's father, Steve, transforms pieces of wood into furniture as a semi-retired Taos carpenter who also paints "impressionistic landscapes that are really quite good," said his son.
Gomez, 26, who observed his father's creativity with detailed interest as a child, carves his thoughts and impressions into songs that have enabled him to make rapid progress. He performs Saturday at Sorelle Winery in Stockton, where he wouldn't mind another Northern California surprise.
Actor Kiefer Sutherland, a friend, helped Gomez produce a video for the "baby single" from "Rule the World," his debut album that was released Jan. 22.
"That was very cool," Gomez said. "I got excited, because it ('Run From You') wasn't just a 'baby' single, but a big single."
He really realized that during a June performance in Santa Rosa: "I did my show and then played 'Run From You.' The crowd went crazy. They went nuts. That's something you don't experience everywhere. You go a lot of places where they've never even heard of you. It's part of doing my work. Paying my dues. Working through my first album."
Its genesis was the sylvan, artisan atmosphere that nurtured Gomez -- a self-taught musician who began playing music at 9 and writing songs at 16 -- in Taos.
"It was pretty laid-back," said Gomez, who has six siblings. "I had a lot of time to reflect and develop ideas. The environment was slow-moving. Very friendly. I was able to stay focused on projects, develop and finish them."
His parents' 1920s player piano fascinated him: "We'd pump the pedals and watch the keys move. We had closets filled with (classical) piano rolls."
Though he "wasn't very good," he kept singing, in restaurants and at barbecues, "playing all the time. I continued to work, move forward and make it into some kind of career.
At 18, that ambition led to Hollywood's Musicians Institute. His parents -- mom Tonia Rupe operates a grass-fed beef ranch in the Kansas foothills -- helped him pay for an apartment.
The courses were "jazz-based" and "taught in an everyday rock-and-roll style. I didn't really do much. The rest of the time I was at home listening to (Mississippi bluesman) Robert Johnson (1911-38) songs and learning how to play guitar like him."
Gomez played at Hollywood bars and clubs, and "people said I needed to write my own songs or I wasn't as likely to get anywhere," he said. "That's exactly what I did."
Gomez left school after two years, making a two-week pilgrimage to Nashville, Tenn., where he quickly paired up with Shawn Mullins, 45, a singer-songwriter from Atlanta, Ga. They co-wrote three songs on Mullins' "Light You Up" CD (2010). Their "Love Will Find a Way" also is included on Gomez's debut. Mullins took Gomez on tour with him.
The do-it-yourself advice was wise: "I wrote seven or eight brand-new songs, three album cuts and one studio recording. That's about how fast people work in Nashville. It's uncommon for a newcomer kid. Nobody's heard of that."
Back in Los Angeles, they started hearing "Black and White." It's a gritty tour of the non-tabloid Hollywood that "came out sounding larger than life" when it was "turned into a rock piano ballad. It gained attention everywhere it went."
"Rule the World," written in "10 to 15" minutes on guitar in Nashville, generated a "gut feeling it was gonna do something good. There's a little bit of magic packed inside it."
Those songs attracted the attention of Gary Briggs, a "blessing and a curse," Gomez said. "He's thrown me into the thick of it. He's really quite hard on me. He wants me to be successful. It's just a wild, wild amount of work."
Gomez recorded his CD in New York and Los Angeles, where it was mastered by Tchad Blake, one of Hollywood's premier producer-technicians.
"He was the perfect guy," said Gomez, who also worked with producers David Kahne and Jeff Trott. "He's a big star in the (sound) mixing world. ... He ... still understands the need to help indie guys from time to time."
It's sort of like the creative guidance he didn't realize he was getting from his furniture-carving dad.
"I don't know if I learned it from him or it's just something that was passed on," Gomez said. "I just kind of connected the dots."
Contact Tony Sauro at (209) 546-8267 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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