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June 25, 2024

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Austin singer-songwriter moves to Portland, releases new record, finds creativity. (self-released)

By: Scott D. Lewis

Jon Garcia is an accidental member of Portland's much-touted ?creative class."

The 27-year-old singer-songwriter, who celebrated the release of his first, self-titled CD recently, arrived in the Rose City in 2004 on New Year's Eve almost on a whim.

He wasn't really drawn to Portland for its growing reputation as a haven for young artists and destination for musicians. In fact, he didn't know much about our city at all. But after a house fire took the life of his father, Garcia felt the need to leave his native Texas.

"I hadn't really heard anything about Portland," he says in his soft-spoken voice. "I wanted to be on the West Coast but I knew I wasn't going to make it in a place like L.A. and I didn't want to go to Seattle because I knew it was crowded there.

"There was a singer-songwriter in Austin who went to Portland and then all of a sudden people liked him in Austin. Portland seemed to have been good for his playing, so I thought maybe it would happen for me. Plus, I went to high school in Portland, Texas, so I thought maybe it was meant to be."

Garcia also knew that it was time to drastically switch gears ? time to grow up and focus on his art. He gave up drinking and smoking and threw himself into his music.

"I was living this lifestyle of just partying and getting by," he says. "Once my dad passed away, I decided to get serious ? to do the only thing I know how to do, which is to play music."

Garcia, who plays guitar and piano, wrote more new songs in his first couple of months in Portland than he had written in as many years previous in Texas. He slowly began meeting Portland's music community, started playing guitar for Slackjaw and found a job cooking at Portland's veggie-hip Paradox Cafe.

Ever the humble young man, Garcia says, "I don?t really have any skills; I cook a bit."

The 14 tracks on his debut, self-titled CD say otherwise.

Garcia is cut from the Jeff Buckley mold, crafting songs that are personal and moving and that veer from understated folk to gently forceful and soaring rock. Classy jazz informs such tracks as "Heart Shaped Skeleton Keys." Other songs, such as "Saturday Morning," which Garcia says is about his move to Portland, are stripped-down, narrative folk songs with just a bit of flash and polish. The inclusion of aching strings and touches of flute and even tuba lends the album a cinematic quality that helps it move along like a sonic home movie, which in a sense, it is.

The album was recorded over a seven-month period with band members, culled from Craigslist posts, who were never in the same room together and who were compensated with food and liquor.

"If I had tried to do this in Austin it never would have happened," Garcia says. "Portland has worked as creative inspiration."

Though Garcia?s landing in Portland might have been a bit of happenstance, there?s no denying that the city and its music scene are a better place with him in it.

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