The story of acoustic duo Rodrigo y Gabriela is one of success that all of us would love to replicate. Not everybody has the guts to leave their home for a completely new continent with only their guitar playing and musical career as an end goal.
Rodrigo recalls: “It was strange, but that was the idea, to get out of our comfort zone. Spain would have been too easy. We knew nothing about Ireland, apart from it was apparently a good place to be a musician, and that was enough for us to give it a try.
“We ran out of money pretty quickly, and had to start busking to earn enough to live.”
They’ve also never been the sort of act who garner a strong reaction from mainstream radio. Their intricate flamenco style could be considered an acquired taste and is certainly the type of music that gets more rewarding as you invest more time into it.
“We are very lucky,” Rodrigo says.
“Our music doesn’t really get played on the radio, so a lot of our success has been fans coming to shows, and then them coming back again and bringing new people along with them; it’s been a word of mouth, slow build, over the last ten years.
“You need loyal fans to achieve that, and you can’t forget that.”
Assisting their slow build has been their contributions to the soundtracks of popular films and TV shows. Their song Tamacun featured on the wildly popular Breaking Bad while they also helped score Puss In Boots and Pirates of the Caribbean.
“It’s a very different discipline,” Rodgrigo says.
“On Puss In Boots we had a sort of flicker book version of the movie with the dialogue, to work on. On Pirates Of The Caribbean we did some sessions in LA with Hans Zimmer, and then some sessions sending tracks up to him from our studio in Mexico.
“Writing eight seconds of sad is harder than you might think.”
Over those last 10 years the duo have released countless albums and toured with artists who have handpicked them for slots. Playing beneath Muse at their original legendary Wembley Stadium gigs was one example. Their latest album 9 Dead Alive is another step in their steady progression.
Rodrigo says: “We just finished a month of shows in America, and the new tracks have been going down really well with audiences there. We wanted to make it sound as close to live as possible, like you are in the room with us, I think the record achieves that.”
Their past albums have always been influenced greatly by metal as well as Latin music. On this album, recorded at their own studio and self-produced, they chose to explore the rock side to their character more than ever before.
“We are both confirmed metal fans, and have been since day one, it was an interest in thrash metal that first brought us together,” Rodrigo says: “As I said, 9 Dead Alive is probably our most rock orientated album so far, the Latin influences are still there, and it still sounds like us, but the riffing is metal based.”
The couple will be performing at sell out show at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall on Friday, December 5.
Rodrigo is particularly excited to play in the city. Sometimes acts say this and you can take it with a dollop of salt due to the fact that they say it about every city they play. But there’s much more to his statement than sucking up to an audience thanks to their passion for heavy metal.
“It’s always a really good crowd, it’s two years since we were last in town. This is our first time at the Symphony Hall, and the venue looks amazing,” he explains.
“As hard rock fans it is always an honour to play in the home town of Black Sabbath and Judas Priest.”
Rodrigo y Gabriela will hope to be operating at the very peak of their substantial powers when they arrive here. Thankfully, their past problems with injury appear to be behind them for the time being.
“I had a problem with tendonitis, and I saw specialists in London and in Los Angeles,” Rodrigo says.
“It’s under control, we still have ice buckets in the dressing room for when we come off stage.”
All of which leaves them arriving at their sold-out Birmingham show at what seems like the perfect time.
“We’ll be playing some stuff off the new album, some of the older favourites, and a couple of surprises. We’re in France at the moment, and it’s going great, we’ll be flying form by the time we reach Birmingham.”
*Rodrigo y Gabriela play Symphony Hall on December 5. Tickets for the show have sold out.