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Vicente GarcíaEXPAND
Vicente García
Courtesy of the artist

Vicente García on His Music and His Hair: "I'm Ready to Do Something Else"

Vicente García, an award-winning musician and songwriter from the Dominican Republic, sometimes comes off as a cross between Jack Johnson and José González. García's breezy and euphoric bachata songs seem as effortless as a lazy afternoon in a hammock.

However, when selecting the rhythms and melodies for any given song, such as “Bachata en Kingston” — the reggae-tinged hit single from his breakthrough LP, A La Mar — García is technical and thoughtful, deliberately devising a plan of attack. If his three Latin Grammys in 2017 are any indicator, his methods have been wildly successful so far.

García, who performed at 1306 in March of last year, is set to return to Miami this Saturday, April 13, on his Candela Tour, named for his latest single. The 36-year-old will debut “Candela” the day before his South Florida show, and fans are in for a high-energy treat.

Never afraid to integrate various Caribbean flavors into his signature bachata sound, Garcia does just that in  “Candela” — a fiery track forged in the flames of merengue and the sweat of Latino nightclubs.

On a recent day, as he walks the streets of his hometown in Colombia, horns and traffic blaring in the background, García speaks with New Times by phone about his new song and new direction.

“I come from a more singer-songwriter approach, because I started with bachata music from the Dominican Republic," he says. "Then I started working with the Afro-Dominican stuff, the drums and the chants, and on this album I wanted to complete these experiences. That’s how I started thinking about doing merengue. I wanted to work with merengue, to make it my own.”

“Candela” is not only the title of the single that properly kicks off 2019 for García and his U.S. tour, but also the name of his upcoming album, his third as a solo artist. He describes it as a mix of Juan Luis Guerra-style merengue blended with genres as diverse as bolero and electronic music.

Speaking of Guerra, García partnered with the Dominican musical icon and god of bachata to release a duet, “Loma de Cayenas,” in October 2018 — a moment that brought the past decade or so full circle for García.

“I grew up with Juan Luis Guerra’s music, and it’s the best representation of Dominican music. Dominicans are really proud of his music. I had the honor to meet Juan Luis in 2005 when I was in a funk/soul band, Calor Urbano, and we were his opening act for his tour, La Travesía. When I decided to do Dominican music, it was really influenced by this experience I had opening for him.”

In a way, García owes at least part of his current success to that time spent with Guerra. When García saw “the way Dominican music moved the people,” he decided to go solo. As far as finally recording with his idol, García says he felt he needed to “wait for the perfect time.” He never wanted Guerra to do him any favors, and he wanted to be worthy of the “challenge” of working within the merengue genre.

In addition to adding merengue to his repertoire, another, perhaps more jarring change in style was to his hair. For the entirety of his music career, García rocked long beach-bum dreadlocks — banners for his house of chill — until last year, when he appeared suddenly much lighter in weight.

“I was 18 when I did my dreadlocks. I had 18 years with them, half of my life. About three or four years ago, I was always thinking about changing them. It was a really hard decision because you are already used to that. But one day, I didn’t really think about it and I just did it myself. I took some scissors at 1 a.m. and cut them, like, That’s it. I’m done. I’m ready to do something else.”

Despite this drastic and outward symbolism of a man expanding his horizons, García is hardly finished evolving. A fan of Paul Simon and neo-soul singers, García flirts with the idea of one day recording an all-English-language album.

“Yeah, I would love to. My English is really not that good. I need to work with the songwriting, but I would be able to sing in English. I’ve been doing this tropical, Latin American sound, but I’m so ready to experiment with R&B, and in English I feel like there’s more openings in that and you can go farther.”

Vicente García. Saturday, April 13, at Adrienne Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-949-6722. Tickets cost $59 to $149 via arshtcenter.org.

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