Guatemalan Gaby Moreno is an award-winning singer and songwriter whose music encompasses a broad spectrum of genres, from blues and jazz to pop, R&B, soul, and Latin folk styles. She sings in both Spanish and English, and calls her more recent sound "Spanglish folk soul."
Though she began singing as a toddler, Moreno discovered Latin pop on the radio at home and was given over to music entirely when her parents took her on a trip to New York City, where she saw a production of Les Miserables. While visiting a record shop in New York, she heard Koko Taylor's version of Willie Dixon's "Wang Dang Doodle" playing on the sound system and instantly became obsessed with the blues. She bought several recordings. A big influence was Sister Rosetta Tharpe, but a little later she discovered the Boswell Sisters and the music of the Mexican group Trio Los Panchos.
After graduating high school, she moved to the United States and attended the Musician’s Institute in Los Angeles where she met her bassist and drummer and began performing live.
She entered her song "Escondidos" in the 2006 John Lennon Songwriting Contest and won the competition. She followed it by self-producing her debut album, Still the Unknown in 2008. The recording was given play by KCRW and gained notice from National Public Radio as well, leading to her opening slots on national tours for Tracy Chapman and other artists. She issued her sophomore album, Illustrated Songs, in 2010. In 2010, she co-composed the instrumental theme song for the television series Parks and Recreation and won an Emmy nomination. Subsequently, her original music was used on a handful of other television shows. That summer she performed with Van Dyke Parks at The Roskilde Festival in Denmark in a program of Latin American music, calypso, and Americana songs. In 2011, she sang on the Ricardo Arjona hit song "Fuiste Tu," and followed it with her third album, Postales, in 2012. She won a Latin Grammy for Best New Artist in 2013. That same year she sang on Hugh Laurie's second full-length Didn't It Rain, and toured with him across the United States, Europe, Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina for the next year.
On her own, Moreno issued the Christmas album Posada that included bilingual seasonal songs, hymns, and carols from a variety of traditions. She stayed busy headlining tours for the next year-and-a-half, including her own Festival Acústico: Gaby Moreno y Amigos in Latin America, Europe, and the United States, before reentering the recording studio. Her pre-release single was issued simultaneously in Spanish as "Se Apagó" and in English as "Love Is Gone" (the latter with special guest Jonny P) in July, in conjunction with the release of her singing the title theme for the Disney film Elena of Avalor. Illusión, her fifth album, was released in September. ~ Thom Jurek