- - Thursday, September 17, 2015

The genre or Americana country music has been diluted by a flood of watered-down and overproduced wannabes more concerned with crossing over to the pop charts than creating memorable country music.

In the midst of all of this is a fresh-faced guy trying to keep it real and avoid being reprogrammed by the “pop music machine” that runs Nashville. His name is Christian Lopez, a 20-year-old West Virginia wunderkind who leads his own namesake band, which will play CureFest on Sunday. 

Mr. Lopez discussed his vision, heroes, musical plan and why playing live is the thing that keeps him alive.

Question: How long have you been making music professionally?

Answer: Since I was 15 [when I] started … doing shows and trying to be away from home as much as I could. [It’s been] about five years now.

Q: What drew you to Americana music?

A: I had only played electric guitar until I heard the music of bands like Avett Brothers and The Band. Groups that totally changed my life as far as message in a song, lyrics in a song. That was when I bought an acoustic guitar and was like, “Let’s go!”

Q: Who were your musical influences?

A: Avett Brothers for me. [Band member] Chelsea [McBee] brought in the music of Gillian Welch and Lucinda Williams.

Before I found this music, my attitude was that I was all music and didn’t give a damn about lyrics. I just wanted to jam. Listening to Americana music really changed my life and changed where I was going musically.

Q: You live in West Virginia. Is there a temptation to move to Nashville?

A: We get that question a lot. “When are you moving to Nashville?” I don’t think I will ever leave West Virginia, because we travel so much anyway. We’re always somewhere new. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. When we need to go down there to Nashville, we go down there. But as far as my home base? West Virginia. The people are so nice. The place is beautiful. And there is no traffic.

Q: How do you avoid the music machine that makes everything “pop”?

A: The worst thing you can do is let outside influences change what comes out naturally. My first time in Nashville, I was sitting down with mainstream country writers who were tossing things at me: “Add Daddy’s Chevrolet into the song. Do this. Do that.” I couldn’t do that.

The producer said, “I can walk you over to Sony right now if you wanna make a pop record.” I sat there and thought about it for a while. My heart wasn’t in that. The music I love the most is very authentic. I want people to feel that same way when they listen to my music.

Q: Is it true you once played the Vans Warped Tour?

A: Yes. When I was 15, we played the Van’s Warped tour at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland.

Q: How was the reaction from fans used to seeing punk and ska?

A: That was the first year the Warped Tour had anything like that. They sort of branched out. I think the crowd dug it. At the end of the day, they just wanna see people onstage losing their minds. And that’s what we did that day. We had so much energy and so much fun that they felt it.

Q: Is touring the most exciting part of life?

A: It is. This [tour was] our first time on the West Coast, and it has been one of the most fun weeks I’ve had in a long time. I love being on the road. I love playing, seeing new faces.

Q: What is the one thing you always need with you on the road?

A: I don’t want to say something predictable, like my laptop. I guess it would be an app, the “Tetris” app. When I am not onstage or not doing anything, it is “Tetris” the whole time.

Q: You are playing “CureFest” in D.C., a benefit festival that raises money to fight childhood cancer. What is your connection to the organization?

A: A couple years ago someone reached out about having us play. It was really small. They just had a few tents. We said, “Of course!” It is a great festival for a great cause. We developed a relationship with those guys. Did the second one. And they’ve been growing exponentially each year. This year they are bringing in some huge bands. We’re opening for Plain White T’s. Great show for a great cause.

Q: How will you spend your downtime in D.C.?

A: My dad and I are huge history buffs, so we’ll be wandering though the Smithsonian museums as much as possible.

Q: I’ve read that you view what you do as a mission. So what is the ultimate goal?

A: My dream as a little kid was just to be on the road every day. After doing it for the last five years, I think the best I can hope for is to have enough success at it to be able to give back in a meaningful way.

The Christian Lopez Band plays CureFest in Washington, D.C., at 1:40 p.m. Sunday. For more information visit CureFestDC.org.

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