We met John Paul Garcia when we were looking for performers for Growing in Jersey City’s two year anniversary party. John reached out to us and we loved his cool latin acoustic music style. At the party, his music was the perfect background setting while everyone hung out.
Garcia grew up in Jersey City and moved around to various neighborhoods. He currently lives in Union City with his daughter. As a self-taught musician, he finds inspiration in the music he hears and uses it as a release from the stressful life of being a bookkeeper.
Tell us about your Jersey City Journey.
I lived at 220 Palisade Avenue back in the 1970s and we moved because our building was being sold to Christ Hospital; it’s now a parking lot. In 1980, my family moved to Manhattan Avenue, right across the street from Pershing Field for 16 years where I spent many a summer day honing my skills on the baseball fields and ultimately on the basketball courts.
Once the mid-90s hit, I started moving around. Stayed in different parts of the Heights for a few years and then a six-month stint in Little Italy while I was attending NYU. In the late 1990s, I moved to Downtown Jersey City for about 5 years. I moved back to The Heights for about seven years, then to North Bergen for a few months, Bushwick Brooklyn for two years, and finally, back to Jersey, but in Union City, where I have lived for the past six years.
How did you find music and your current style of Latin music?
I was always a very musical person, going back to my grammar school days. I always found solace in music first with popular Top 40 songs, then moving onto rap. In eighth grade, my teacher Sister Bernadette played guitar and that’s really what made me want to play. She would play during mass and in class. Even though she was just strumming chords, I was hooked. I tried piano and saxophone in seventh grade, but neither worked for me.
The first time I laid my hands on a guitar I felt I had found my Holy Grail. It was an old Harmony that was given to me by my grandmother, a thrift store maven.
After that, it has been a long musical journey. I am completely self-taught, except for having taken band/chorus in senior year of high school, where I learned a little theory; not retaining a lot of it, unfortunately. I did well in the class, even though I basically relied on my ears and my excellent sense of relative pitch to get by. I went to an academically-challenging high school in Manhattan, and because I routinely had 3-4 hours of homework each night, I turned to my newfound love for emotional support. I tried playing whenever I could, first listening to my dad’s classic 60s and 70s albums, but in junior year one of my friends introduced me to Metallica, and then it was on after that. I basically was a “metalhead” for the better part of my teenage and early adult years, rarely listening to anything else.
How did you broaden your musical interests?
In the early 90s, my dad brought home a cassette with “guitar music,” as he called it. It was entitled “Americas” by Strunz and Farah and once I put that on, I was completely mesmerized. I basically played that tape every single day, front and back, and slowly but surely I started listening to world music and jazz and weaning myself off of heavy metal. My musical tastes were broadening, and it only helped influence the way I played guitar. After some phases of listening to ska/punk, I was introduced to a genre of music called “rock en espanol.” This is what turned me on to the Latin music scene.
I also like guitar instrumentalists like Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, et al. However, I do listen to a lot of different music, even pop, and often get inspired by even the most mundane chord progression found in your everyday radio hit. Jazz, world, punk, pop, Latin, you name it, I listen to it.
Were you part of any bands?
I belonged to a group called Grito. We played Spanish rock infused with Caribbean leanings, tropical flavors, and a spritz of punk and pop. After about six years with them, and a few more years of being in similar groups, I was introduced to an artist named Magic Juan. He was the lead vocalist for a group called Proyecto Uno. He essentially was trying something different and wanted a “fresh” take on guitars in the music he was doing. He would take a merengue beat with house music. Two of my old bandmates from the group Grito (and also my best friends) were also in the group and we played with him for about a summer.
We created and produced our own music recording under the name Grupo Relax. We recorded an album with 10 songs that I thought would make us the next “it” group, but sadly one of my bandmates didn’t like the way it came out, so we never tried to promote it. Unfortunately, I haven’t really played with anyone since then. However, the fire still burns quite brightly and am hoping to find the right situation to take flight once again.
You also work locally at White Eagle Hall? Tell us more about what you do for bookkeeping?
I currently work as the Office Manager/Bookkeeper for White Eagle Hall, the live music event venue located in Downtown Jersey City. I’ve only been here since November 2017 but it feels like I’ve been here longer. Most of my work career has been as an office manager or bookkeeper for companies in NYC, so it feels great to be back on this side of the river, especially in Jersey City. I also currently do bookkeeping for a number of private clients in New York, NJ and the Congo (!), so with that I have a pretty full schedule.
You are a single father raising your daughter, how do you hope to inspire her?
Because of my daughter, I feel like I can live my dreams of hopefully and ultimately getting back in the music scene again. Like me, she is very musically inclined and I am trying to nurture and support that talent and desire to create music. In my free time, I do try and spend as much time as I can with my daughter, even if it’s just a low-key day at the park. I am happy and grateful for my health, my daughter, and especially my music!