Putting down his guitar case in a large, empty room in the back of Fábrica Braço de Prata, Ivo Dias chuckles, surprised at the Friday afternoon traffic. He is an active musician in Lisbon and routinely appears with the bands Zukatuga, Luso Baião, and Nossabossa, the Bossa Nova band who he would play with later that night.
But his musical career started off with some serious difficulties. At around 12 or 13, about a year after receiving his first guitar, he still couldn’t figure out how to play it.
“It was actually through Kurt Cobain, in Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged, that I found out it was possible to flip the strings and play left-handed,” he tells me.
Apart from Nirvana, the Beatles, and Pink Floyd, Ivo found a rich foundation for his musical growth in Brazilian singer-songwriters such as Antonio Carlos Jobim and Milton Nascimento, citing Clube da Esquina as an essential album. But his connection to Brazil goes beyond music. Ivo was raised by a Brazilian father and spent many summers and holidays with family in Rio de Janeiro, intimately experiencing Brazil’s music and people.
“…I always noticed that the [Brazilians] are looser, happier, more giving and I think that affected me a bit, I think that influenced the way I am.”
Since I was very young, I would go to Brazil. I remember that when I first got there the people there made me feel good. And that’s a feeling that has stayed with me forever. Brazilians are friendly, they want to make you feel part of them — their humor, their wordplay, their brincadeiras (jokes). They’re more open, more direct than people here. I made a lot of friends there and I always noticed that the people there are looser, happier, more giving and I think that affected me a bit, I think that influenced the way I am.
Ivo says that his time in Brazil gave him the ease, the vontade (drive) needed to play how he wanted to. And years later, with Lisbon’s own Luso Baião, he briefly toured Brazil, playing in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Minas Gerais, and Espirito Santo.
When asked about his first solo album, Se7e, Ivo scoots his chair in and explains the title, excited.
I picked the name because I’ve always had these kinds of fantasies with numbers. Years ago, a friend of mine and I would play these games with numbers, sitting in traffic — if he saw a four, he’d get a point, if I saw a seven, I’d get a point. The number seven for me has always had this kind of special value and when I made this album I wanted it to be a short album, with less than 10 songs. It seemed right to make an album with seven songs on it. Maybe it’s a lucky number, who knows.
Ivo says that the album is especially personal, more introspective than his previous projects.
The songs speak about life experiences, spiritual states, and these alternative realities I try to create… Se7e is just me and the guitar because it represents what I do. When I compose, it’s just me and the guitar. When I’m playing alone, it’s just me and the guitar.
He explained that usually while recording an album, musicians lay down all the instrumental tracks one at a time, an approach he chose not to take while recording Se7e.
In this album I sang and played at the same time. If I made any big mistakes, obviously I went back and re-recorded, but the smaller errors, those stayed. The way I see it, those errors are part of the album, they are part of the music, they are part of me. I sought to make this album alone to deal with my fears, with my insecurities. This album, for me, has been part of a long personal journey, an opportunity to overcome fears.
“As a working musician in Lisbon, you must earn in the summer to make it through the winter.”
In recent years, summertime tourism has exploded in Lisbon, creating a large demand for shows, which he says is great for working musicians. But he adds that the tourist boom has had some negative effects, such as increased rent, making it difficult for working musicians to afford living in Lisbon proper. Ivo, for one, lives in Cascais, where housing can be much more affordable.
“As a working musician in Lisbon, you must earn in the summer to make it through the winter,” he says.
Ivo will debut Se7e at Fábrica Braço de Prata on March 4th, at 22h30.