Collection: Jacob Aranda
Jacob Aranda is a Bay Area singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and luthier. His new album “War Planes,” is out September 1, 2023 on Speakeasy Studios SF records.
Born and raised in a Latino household in rural Illinois, the culture of his upbringing and the necessary resourcefulness of rural living birthed in Jacob an artistic desire to express himself through music. While his first album, “Great Highway,” released in 2018, was an expression of hopelessness and longing, “War Planes” is fundamentally an album about healing intergenerational trauma and doing so through art. This ethereal, psychedelic country album feels like a next chapter, with elements of rebirth and reflection. Songs of hope, such as “Sing A Song, Say A Prayer” and “Glass Building” demonstrate movement forward, while tracks such as “Dream of Mexico” and the title track “War Planes” represent a way to look back into underlying issues and the inherited trauma that had once made Aranda feel so alone.
“My father was a bilingual education activist and Latino political organizer. It's fascinating, and all written into “Dream of Mexico,” that he wouldn't teach me Spanish. He kept me at a distance from Latino culture while at the same time fighting so hard to carve out a place for Latinos in the US...he didn't think it was safe. In rural Illinois it wasn't, we had death threats, I was called slurs. I truly believed he helped change the culture for the better, the best way he knew how. But the theme of social alienation is ever present, being Mexican in white culture, being gay (his father)in Hispanic culture.”
Aranda’s new album, produced and engineered by Desmond Shea (Tarnation, The Court and Spark) at SF’s legendary Hyde Street Studios, it features the talents of friends and Tarnation bandmates, Paula Frazer (bass, vocals), David Cuetter (pedal steel), Sam Berman (drums), Patrick Main (piano, vocals), and Meryl Theo Press (vocals). Also joining the sessions were musicians Alisa Rose (violins), Jason Loeks (upright bass), and singers Karina Denike (Dance Hall Crashers), Michael James Tapscott, Lydia Walker, and Sara Gallagher (banjo, vocals).
Aranda went into the studio listening to a lot of early Waylon Jennings and Gene Clark. Ultimately, the vulnerability and softness of the songs, as well as the influence of Paula and Desmond, steered the album away from its country influences into a more psychedelic, ethereal space. Ry Cooder’s “Paris, Texas” soundtrack and Cowboy Junkie’s “Trinity Sessions” were the two most influential albums of Aranda’s youth. The vulnerability captured in “War Planes” brought him back to those formative years, and the sounds that gave him comfort through a turbulent childhood.
“The whole record is an extension of my way of collaborating, trusting my friends and musicians to bring their own voice to the music. So many things I never would have imagined, giving birth to something entirely new, unfolding…”
Aranda’s artistic work is expressed through writing, studying and mastering several instruments, and building instruments by hand. In his twenties, Jacob studied at The Chicago School of Violinmaking, while performing on guitar in Django inspired jazz groups at night. He then traveled to Siguenza, Spain to study classical guitar making under Jose Luis Romanillos, regarded as "one of the greatest luthiers of the twentieth century." His appreciation and care for the fine-crafted translates fluidly into his songwriting and musical performances. This unique sensibility of blending craft, skill, and love of music and storytelling, is why audiences - and his many bandmates and collaborators - consider Aranda to be a true treasure of the Bay Area music scene. Aranda has most recently appeared as a collaborating multi-instrumentalist (pedal steel, mandolin, banjo, fiddle, harmonica, guitar) on recent albums by Dawn Riding, Andrés Miguel Cervantes, Tarnation, China, and Michael James Tapscott.
When Jacob moved to the Bay Area in 2013, he met songwriter Paula Frazer in the burgeoning folk-psych-country community and joined her legendary band, Tarnation. Frazer quickly became a mentor to Aranda, resulting in the release of his first solo full-length album, “Great Highway”, in 2018. The album was described by critics as “timeless” (KWMR), “full of beautiful, mellow countryscapes” (Bay Bridged), and “charming, warm and melancholic, with elements and influences that range from classic country to Southwestern-influenced folk” (Sound Thread).
The songwriting and themes addressed in “War Planes,” represent a deeper dive into Aranda’s personal and family history, including stories of experiences lived, dreamed about, and tentatively reconciled with.
“War Planes'' comes out September 1, 2023 on Speakeasy Studios SF, a new and burgeoning folk and indie label focused on singer-songwriters run by friend and producer Alicia Vanden Heuvel, of The Aislers Set, which is fitting for an album recorded with friends, as Aranda has also appeared on labelmates Dawn Riding and Andrés Miguel Cervantes recent albums. “War Planes” marks a wonderful contribution to the burgeoning folk and outsider country scene in San Francisco, and the songwriting Aranda presents us with reflects a revolution in songwriting that is happening within traditional country and folk music.