It began in Jackson Heights, where he played backyard shows with his first band, the Beets. They met Mike Sniper, the founder of the record label Captured Tracks (DIIV, Molly Burch). The band's 2009 album, Spit in the Face of People Who Don't Want to Be Cool, became the first full-length record released on the respected independent label. Wauters released his solo debut, N.A.P.: North American Poetry, on the label in 2014, and Who Me? followed in 2015.
On his latest album, Introducing Juan Pablo, Wauters reclaims his full name. Like many immigrants, he dropped his middle name when he moved to the United States. His name is Juan Pablo, but in the States, he became known only as Juan. Wauters says the album represents a reclaiming of his identity not only as a person but also as an artist who nearly succumbed to the pressures and trappings of the music industry. "I almost fell into the grid of 'This should be done like this' in recording albums, touring, and doing it in the most traditional way," he admits. "I had a little bit of a freakout."
The singer-songwriter, who sings in both English and Spanish, spent the past three years touring and experiencing the negative sides of the music industry that led him to his realization. "I'm friends with everyone that I come across in this lifestyle, but everybody is worried about hitting it. When I first started, I thought that must be the way... You have to record an album quickly, go out on the road, show the songs to people, come offstage and go to the next show, and then record another album," he reflects. "It wasn't working for me."
Even after he jumped off the hamster wheel, Wauters' prolificness and creative pace are impressive. Introducing Juan Pablo is his second album of 2019, coming just four months after the release of his first completely Spanish-language album, La Onda de Juan Pablo. Though fast-paced, Wauters' recent approach to releasing albums is indicative of his aim to follow nontraditional album cycles. Despite releasing two albums this year, he says he's taking his time to create and letting his path form at its own pace. "I'm living it slowly, letting it be, and not rushing," he says.
Juan Wauters. With Ben Katzman's DeGreaser. 10 p.m. Friday, October 18, at Las Rosas, 2898 NW Seventh Ave., Miami; lasrosasbar.com. Admission is free.