Artist Interviews: Santana Tribute Band, Savor

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Savor was formed to honor the more than 50-year career of latin-rock legend Carlos Santana — from the raw power of the self-titled album issued in 1969 to the recent spate of hits with current stars.that makes Santana’s music so well-loved.

The diverse background of Savor’s rhythm section meshes perfectly when they play as a unit, which is why the complex interweaving of classic latin rhythms are so adroitly handled by this trio. Drummer Billy Haarbauer‘s subtle, relentless groove meshes perfectly with the percussion team of Lorenzo Martinez (Congas, Bongos) and Chico Hernandez (Congas, Timbales).

Complementing the rhythm section is bassist Rick Thibodeau, whose soulful flavor rounds out the famous Santana groove, while vocalist Steven Elowe‘s impressive range and power add fuel to the fire. Keyboardist David Jefferson captures the sound of each of the decades, from the bluesy organ style of Gregg Rolie to the later, jazzier flavor of Tom Coster and Chester Thompson.

Guitarist Michael Caroff delivers every trademark Santana lick, as well as the gritty tone and singing sustain that make the songs so memorable.

Together, Savor pays fitting tribute to the popular, timeless sound that makes Santana’s music so well-loved.

Bridge: Please describe to our audience how you came about on the music scene?

S: Music has always been in my life: listening as a kid to the albums my dad collected in every possible genre, starting guitar at 10 years old, beginning to play with bands from the age of 12, and finally spending a year or two with music as my whole career in my mid-20s.

But this latest phase has lasted the longest. I started the band, Savor, in 2002 for a couple of reasons. The primary reason was to have a group of musicians available to arrange and record my original material — which we did. But the second reason was to have a band with which I could test the material in front of live audiences, and that ended up being invaluable.

Bridge: What are you doing to push a positive narrative as an artist and with your music?

S: Since the songs are all in Spanish, I’m using the uplifting feeling more than anything to make people feel good. After all, there is almost no more pleasurable physical activity than dancing, and that is what Latin music is all about.

Bridge: Are there any rituals you have developed over the years that are helpful to your music making process?

S: Wow, you asked the wrong person about rituals! Rituals “R” us (or at least, me)! One thing that has helped more than almost any other factor is my commitment to physical fitness. Not only do I work out every day, but I also am very careful with what I eat. I actually plan it out every day with a spreadsheet.

Musically, I engage in a lot of “mental” practice. That is, I imagine myself playing certain chords and scales, to entrench new things into my subconscious. That way, when I go to do it aloud, it is already there.

Bridge: Could you talk about a DOWN you had in your career?

S: The biggest setback I had in my music career was in my late 20s. I developed a condition called tendinosis, which prevented me from playing guitar. In fact, I put the instrument down for many years. Ironically, while it was quite a blow to my musical career aspirations, it was a great boon to the rest of my life! Not having music to focus on led me to push for the creation of Frontline magazine for Fender, where I was working at the time, and that jump-started my entire business career.

Bridge: Could you talk about an UP you had in your career?

S: One of the biggest “ups” I had was a few years later, when I started to try playing electric guitar again. I was working at an ad agency, and found a bass player and drummer who also worked there. We put together a few songs to perform at the agency retreat. The first time I got together with them to rehearse, it washed over me like a 30-foot wave: I really miss this! And I never looked back after that.

Bridge: How do you think your experience has helped you shape your career and approach your music? 

S: Ah, if I knew then what I know now. But seriously, what I have learned is that the non-musical aspects of your music career (promotion, administration, personnel management, etc.) are just as important – if not more important – than the actual music portion.

In fact, because our band works so much, I have a lot of other musicians coming to me asking me how we became so successful. They’re always surprised when I say “get the gigs first.” Because the fact is, once you have the work, you’ll find the musicians you need.

Bridge: How did you develop your community of fans over the years? 

S: For us, it was a combination of all the work we did, and all the outreach. Between making and selling our album, doing a ton of shows, being active on social media like Facebook, and creating videos which we distribute through YouTube especially, we are always trying to stay in touch. In addition, whenever people ask me questions through our online channels, I always answer as quickly as possible.

Bridge: Talk to us about your latest single. What was the drive behind releasing the single? 

S: The drive behind releasing every song on our album was my own internal push. I often say that writing music is a kind of neurosis; you don’t want to write, you have to write. But one of the things I’ve gotten better at is writing songs that move people. So when we decided to create videos for the songs during the shut-down, the first one I chose was Moviendote. (Tellingly, it translates as “Move Yourself!”) Besides being the title song on the album, I feel like in many ways it is the most accessible song. Its very simplicity makes it easy to catch onto.

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