Magdalena, a village known for starry skies, local artists, rock hounding and the Magdalena mountains, was where signer-songwriter Christian Lopez decided to settle in to write his new album.
The Americana artist’s fourth album is set to release on June 9 and is named for the village and mountain that inspired it. He is at the beginning of an east coast tour to promote the new album and spoke with the Chieftain over the phone from a stop in South Carolina.
According to Lopez, a West Virginia native, the new album “Magdalena” is his most authentic and best work, with an acoustic sound that rocks harder than his previous albums.
“When you’re there and you’re secluded, you’re stuck with yourself and it’s sort of like one big mirror. It allows you to dig real deep with what you’re trying to say, which for me is about being as honest as possible.”
His first two albums had big label support. Becoming an independent artist has given him more freedom and satisfaction.
Lopez and his now-wife, actress Skyler Shaye, were looking for a remote location to settle in 2020. The first spot they were shown was an adobe casita in Magdalena with a small airplane hangar. The couple were sold.
“We wanted somewhere that had land and that we couldn’t see other people and that we could live naked outside and just kind of live the dream for a little while,” he said.
They were moved in by August 2021. Lopez loved writing songs in the airplane hangar because the acoustics made it sound like performing in a stadium.
The couple also loved experiencing snow in the high desert, searching for crystals in the mountains and being regular patrons at the Tumbleweeds diner.
“It was our first experience of our neighbors giving us eggs and all sorts of goodies,” Lopez said.
When they wanted to get out of the village, the couple visited the El Camino restaurant in Socorro.
“We just love feeling one with that little town. Being from West Virginia, I crave that sort of candid acquaintance community, and we just really feel it there. Everybody’s really nice to us, and it’s the people that make it.”
Being in such a secluded place gave Lopez time to hone in on the songs, some of which took months and some over a year to complete.
“It’s just about tuning yourself like a radio receiver, getting yourself to the right place where you can easily pick up on the things that want to come in and that’s what it was. It was just immersing myself on the ranch and in what Magdalena was and letting the songs come in, then spend every day fleshing them out.”
The entire album was written and recorded in Magdalena, with the help of producer Robert Adam Stevenson. For Lopez, the first track, “Girl & A Gun, captures that journey. It’s also a song that has resonated with live audiences.
A portion of the proceeds from the album will go toward mental health outreach programs. In April 2022, Lopez’s work on the album was interrupted when his brother died by overdose.
“I think it was a very harsh reminder that life is short, and you just have to do what makes you the happiest and what makes you feel the best and most satisfied. For me that’s artistic satisfaction. It made me make no compromises with what I was trying to say and what I was trying to do, it just gave me strength with believing in my mission.”
Lopez’ tour will swing through New Mexico on July 9, when he appears at Solamente Natural Plaster, 135 N. Camino Del Pueblo, Bernalillo, at 7 p.m. More information is available at christianlopezmusic.com.