These Miami Musicians Moved On to Other Cities and Opportunities

Jesus Vio (right) performs at the Motorgoose Inn in Hadley, Massachusetts.
Jesus Vio (right) performs at the Motorgoose Inn in Hadley, Massachusetts. Ellery Berenger
You've heard it from your friends in bands: "Bro, I need to get out of Miami." Perhaps they're thinking about the woes of constant low-paying/unpaid gigs or the weekend drone of hopping from Las Rosas to Gramps to Churchill's, or maybe they're just dreaming of taking their talents to a new place. Though most Miami musicians don't skip town, these local artists have moved on to pursue their passion elsewhere.

"Being a 19-year-old with no job and not much money, the dream of moving 3,000 miles across the U.S. seemed impossible," 22-year-old bassist Ian Renaud says. His visions of rolling hills and vast beaches became reality in 2017 when he moved cross-country to California. However, making the decision was not easy. Deeply involved in the Kendall music scene, Renaud left behind his reggae band Verali and a network of friends and musicians he'd built since exploring the local industry as early as 2012. Over time, his skills as a reggae bassist developed and he joined the Miami band Bachaco, which led him on a tour that landed in the Golden State. "I’ve had California on my mind since I was 5 but didn’t officially consider it until the day I left to California on tour with Bachaco. I could literally feel the energy drawing me back to it," he recalls. Having tasted the thriving scene for reggae musicians and bands on the West Coast, Renaud knew his career in music was meant to grow outside Miami.
click to enlarge Ian Renaud performed with Bachaco at Brew at the Zoo in 2017. - MONICA MCGIVERN
Ian Renaud performed with Bachaco at Brew at the Zoo in 2017.
Monica McGivern
"The music scene out here is... intimidating. So many legendary bands have emerged from the area I live in, and the competition is fierce," he says. "There is an abundance of venues and opportunities to be playing a show almost every single night. The bands definitely have a lot more to work with out here than in Florida as far as venues and the pool of musicians available for gigs and studio session work." Renaud first moved to Vista but eventually landed in the "cowboy-like" town of Temecula. Only three weeks after settling in a new state, he received offers to play bass in bands such as Janelle Phillips, Upfull Rising, and Indica Roots. As a hardcore fan of reggae, Renaud was excited that opportunities came quickly to him, such as performing with Janelle Phillips at Desert Oasis Music Festival and opening for reggae giants such as Steel Pulse and Damian Marley.

Now Renaud earns a large chunk of his income performing live and doing studio sessions with many bands, mainly Indica Roots and his new funk/rock band Antic. Still, he reminisces about his Miami days and wishes airline tickets were less expensive so he could visit the 305 more often. "I really miss the camaraderie between the bands. Everyone was friends with relatively everyone, and the feeling of unity was strong," Renaud remembers. "The friends I made while being involved in the scene are lifelong bonds that will never fade."

Jesus Vio, age 29, was born in Santiago, Chile, and moved to Miami with his family when he was 8. Growing up, Vio skateboarded with friends, listened to Green Day, learned classical guitar from his mother, and explored performing in ska/punk bands with school friends. While attending Design and Architecture Senior High, the young musician met Santiago Cardenas, who would become his best friend and bandmate.

After Vio and Cardenas moved to Boston to attend the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University, they formed Free Pizza. Following graduation, they took the band on many adventures and travels — including moving to Berlin to record an album, moving back to Miami for eight months, and living in Nashville for about three months — before the group finally reached its end after seven years. "It was a huge part of my life," Vio recalls. In Miami, the band shared stages with acts such as Jellyfish Brothers, Nunhex, Bruiser, and Snakehole, whose members were also friends of Vio and Cardenas'.

Now living in Easthampton, Massachusetts, Vio makes music under his own name and recently released the track "Eye to Eye," which will also appear on his upcoming album, Dutch Science. Although Vio's musical and artistic paths have taken him away from Miami, he's grateful for his experiences in the Magic City. He also understands it's difficult for many bands to be successful here. "While I was growing up [in Miami], I felt an isolation of being far away, so when I moved out to Boston and I got to experience these college towns full of young people expressing themselves in full blast, it was very resourceful and I built a lot of connections." However, Vio doesn't believe connections make or break a band, and he thinks Miami is still a good place for talented musicians to grow. "You can feel lonely and disconnected in any place you live," he says. Vio believes if you are true to yourself, treat others well, educate yourself, and listen to local music, you can make it in a new city as a musician.
click to enlarge Sean Wouters (right) with Deaf Poets bandmate Nico Espinosa. - ANDRES BEDOYA
Sean Wouters (right) with Deaf Poets bandmate Nico Espinosa.
Andres Bedoya
It's been more than a year since Deaf Poets left Miami for New York City. Nico Espinosa moved to Brooklyn in October 2017. Sean Wouters followed him a few months later and now lives in Queens. Taking advantage of the final drive north with Wouters' belongings, the two did a "one-way tour" up the East Coast. "I think we're experiencing new things and growing as people and as a band," Espinosa says. New York's location has been a huge plus in allowing them to tour the U.S. more often while working with their new booking agency, Out of Orbit. Of course, relocating from Miami to a bustling metropolis such as New York presents challenges, such as adjusting to the commute and weather, but the band remains positive and continues to enjoy the excitement of living in a new city.

Moving to a new town also means encountering new opportunities. After meeting the Argentinean, Queens-based musician Tall Juan at a show at Gramps, Espinosa now plays drums in that band. The group is also looking forward to a South Africa tour and is currently touring the West Coast. Although Espinosa plans to visit friends and relatives in Miami soon, he's happy that many of them call to hang out whenever they're in New York.

"Everything I am and the musician I came to be is because of Miami. It will always be home. But I needed different and bigger things," Espinosa declares. For musicians and bands considering moving away to further their music and find new opportunities, Nico shares some advice: "If you're going to do it, just do it... Do it right, save some money... and at the end of the day, you can just come back home." 
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Catherine Toruño is a music and arts writer from West Kendall. She enjoys sustainable fashion, attending local music shows, and exploring Miami on her bike.