Aidin Vaziri | It’s not often you get the chance to catch Jackson Browne at an intimate venue like the Great American Music Hall. But that’s where the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee will be on Friday, presenting a rare stateside show by the Cuban singer-songwriter Carlos Varela. Browne, 62, might sit in on a number or two, but the main reason for this small-club appearance is to introduce Varela, a well-known Latin music star who embodies many of his own political and poetic ideals, to new audiences. Speaking by phone from New York last week, Browne told us what makes him such a fan.
Q: What was it that made you want to throw your name behind him?
A: He’s a brilliant singer and songwriter. He’s not like anybody else. A lot of North Americans just think of Buena Vista Social Club when they think about Cuban music. But Carlos makes rock music. He’s the one guy who sings out about what people feel in Cuban. He’s from a generation that’s really impatient, that wants something to happen, something to change. He’s the voice of Cuban youth.
Q: How’s your Spanish? Can you guys even talk to each other over the deli tray backstage?
A: I speak a little bit of Spanish. Cuban is really hard. He has to repeat himself all the time. I do make sure people are handy so if anyone is trying to communicate an ideal or subtlety we can do that.
Q: So you travel with an entourage of interpreters?
A: No, just friends. When I was staying at the Hotel Nacional, we were in my hotel room drinking rum and singing songs to each other. At a certain point, my room filled up with a whole cast of bilingual people. One of the people in the room translating our songs to each other was Benicio Del Toro.