Steeped in the musical roots of his West Virginia upbringing, Christian Lopez epitomizes the soul of a traditional Appalachian folk musician living in the heart, mind and body of a man not yet even 21 years old. On his debut full-length effort, Onward, the young artist emulates the sound produced by the region’s resident pickers and strummers and tackles themes of love, perseverance and coming of age.
Released in May 2015, Onward was produced by Grammy Award-winner Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson) at his Nashville-based Low Country Sound studio. “I love[d] working with Christian,” Cobb recently told Native Magazine. “It was kind of a no-brainer because Christian’s such a talent, and completely natural. I think he has a bit of Paul Simon in him.”
An ardent fan of both classic and contemporary artists from across the spectrum of rock, country and pop, Lopez never struggled with the direction his own music would take. “I’ve been most influenced by artists and bands that pushed through the barrier of what was popular to create the music they loved,” Lopez relates. “My goal was to do the same, and Dave was the perfect producer for the job. He makes music in such a raw, genuine way, and his production cuts straight to the bone. He understood exactly what I was going for, and I understood him.”
For Lopez, Onward is about the responsibilities and sacrifices that come with the pursuit of something you are driven to do. It’s about the yearning to put down roots, but being hopelessly addicted to the wanderlust of the road, seeking to escape the day-to-day for the promise of what tomorrow may bring. And be it the lyrical folk-rock of “Take You Away” and “The Man I Was Before,” the pedal steel-laced classic country strains of “Morning Rise” or the neo-Americana jangle of “Don’t Know How,” Lopez’s melding of influences into a sound identifiably his own throughout ONWARD is impressive.
Since the album’s release, Lopez and Onward have steadily garnered praise and attention in the media. Rolling Stone Country proclaimed him “Best Newcomer” at Americana Music Fest in Nashville in the fall of 2015, noting that Lopez “packed so much kinetic energy into his set, and sliced so many strings, that he had to finish on a borrowed guitar,” and concluding “…at his best, he’s a maker of smart and slick country that holds a whole lot of promise and age-appropriate fun without pandering to any radio trends.” The outlet then later premiered a special live acoustic performance video of “Stay With You” in January of 2016.
Lopez also took to the nationally-syndicated public radio airwaves last fall, performing on the acclaimed, long-running NPR show Mountain Stage and later on the highly-regarded Music City Roots.
Of Onward, American Songwriter wrote that “it’s easy to see that Christian Lopez has a rich career ahead of him…[an] impressive first effort” while Stereo Subversion remarked that “it’s Lopez’s acoustic guitar and his soulful voice that pulls deeply on the heartstrings and shines brightest. …In a noisy realm of new bands and artists, Lopez could be a standout just based on his songwriting ability alone.” Alternate Root named Lopez one of its Top 25 artists in 2015, noted “There are guys twice Lopez’s age making records that are only half as good. Preternaturally wise and notably talented, this is a kid to watch.”
Raised in the small town of Martinsburg in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, Lopez has been playing piano since he was five (introduced to it by his music teacher mom, a lover of opera and classical music) and guitar since the age of six, eventually playing in several local bands along the way before finally emerging to center stage to perform his own songs as the Christian Lopez Band. In 2014, Lopez would be declared the winner of the Belk Modern Music Showcase at The Fillmore in Charlotte, NC after performing “Will I See You Again,” a song that he would later record for his debut EP, Pilot, and would also be included on Onward. The Belk award would also land the Christian Lopez Band on the retailer’s summer tour, which included dates at shows for both the Zac Brown Band and the Dave Matthews Band.
Touring incessantly since the release of Onward, Lopez and his band have most recently opened dates for American Aquarium, The Black Lillies, John Fullbright, Marty Stuart, Miranda Lambert, Sister Hazel, Steve Forbert, and Corey Smith. “I love touring. Not only does it make us a better band, it also makes us better people. We learn to connect with new fans, we experience new places, and appreciate the little things we miss and love when we’re gone. I believe all of that will ultimately make me a better songwriter. Which leads me to my next point: Record #2 is in the works. We’ve got so much to share.”