"I wanted to pay homage to my city, Miami," Toto Gonzalez says. That was his goal on Orange, the second album he's released as Mr. Pauer. "Everyone who was part of the album lived in Miami at the time it was recorded. Twelve nationalities are represented, and we have songs in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Kreyol."
Gonzalez has lived in our fair city for 22 years now. He was born in Venezuela, where he started his musical training by banging on his mom's pots and pans. He taught himself how to play drums, guitar, and keyboards – which he still plays by ear. "I don't know a single note. The only musical training I have was a six-month program in electronic music production."
But the limited schooling didn't slow him down. Soundtrack, his first album as Mr. Pauer, was nominated for best alternative album at the 2011 Latin Grammys. It was an honor that served as a great motivator. "It was surreal to go to the awards, to be on the carpet surrounded by great artists. That gave me a lot of hope and also a sense of responsibility that I had to build on it. How can I keep working and make more music? I wanted to rush out and make another album, but that didn't work."
It in fact took three years to record Mr. Pauer's sophomore album, which was released in September. He recorded 75 tracks and invited a variety of vocalists to come to his Wynwood studio to help him decide which melody moved them enough to write lyrics for. The 14 songs that made the cut feature 14 different singers. "Some of the singers were musicians I knew for a long time. The opening song, 'Take You by the Hand,' was sung by Karina Hayes. I didn't even know she was singer when I met her. She's an animal healer. I met her through a friend. She healed my cat, and when I learned she was a singer, I had her see which song she wanted to participate in."
Gonzalez brands his genre of music as electropico, which he defines as electronic music with tropical beats.
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At this past summer's Latin Alternative Music Conference, he was named a top-five act, which earned him the notice of producers of Morning Becomes Eclectic, a radio show on the Los Angeles based NPR affiliate KCRW. They invited him to play this Friday on the November 13 broadcast. "This is the most important thing that has happened in my career,” he told says. “I always listen to their show. They've had Adele, Disclosure, Phoenix..."
Six singers are making the cross-country trek with him for his half-hour set, which will also feature an interview with the show's hosts. But after his jaunt to L.A., he'll be back in the city that inspired Orange to help celebrate the one-year anniversary of Miami's Arts and Entertainment District.
He is taking a different approach to his live shows these days, no longer performing DJ sets. "Now I have a hybrid band. There's a keyboardist and percussionist, and I try to bring as many singers as possible. At the record-release party, we had 11 of them. For each song to have a different singer is quite an event."
A&E One Year Anniversary with Mr. Pauer. 7 p.m. Saturday, November 28, at Canvas Miami, 90 NE 17th St., Miami; 305-625-0949; aedistrictmiami.com. Admission is free; RSVP required via eventbrite.com.
David Rolland is a freelance music writer for Miami New Times. His novel, The End of the Century, published by Jitney Books, is available at many fine booksellers.