For two decades, Tantric’s Hugo Ferreira has poured his heart and soul in his music. He’s experienced dizzying highs and devastating lows along the way but, through it all, his love of music never wavered. In fact, it was his passion which has kept him moving forward during his darkest days. The songs on Tantric’s new album, ‘Mercury Retrograde,’ were born from his past struggles and now fuel his forward momentum. This riveting collection of songs instantly connects with the listener on a raw, emotional level and leaves them hungry for more. Most importantly, it ushers in an exciting new era for the band. Alongside his wildly talented bandmates, drummer Troy Patrick Farrell, bassist Jaron Gulino, and guitarist Sebastian Labar, Ferreira is laser-focused and stands ready to deliver the new tunes to the people on the ‘Mercury Retrograde’ tour. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Hugo Ferreira to discuss his life in music, the challenges he has faced along the way, and how his struggles resulted in the band’s most powerful material to date!
How did music come into your life and begin to take hold?
I don’t remember a time when music wasn’t a part of my life. I feel like music was my first language, even before my spoken language. It’s always been a part of my life. In that sense, I always knew how to play it and manipulate it. It was always around me and my dad played a lot. It is my life and as much a part of me as anything is. To me, as a kid, music was just fun. It was fun to play the instruments or the piano, so I never thought of it in any other way. It never crossed my mind as, “Oh, this is developing the artist that I am.” I feel like newer artists, the younger kids, are more cognitive and have the awareness of how music comes together. Music to me, comparatively to someone of the same generation, was like playing baseball when you were a kid. Nobody was aiming to be a professional baseball player. They were just going out after mom cooked lunch and playing the rest of the day! In my case, I would just play piano or screw around with the instruments. I remember the first time I played in front of everyone else in school and realizing that it was a talent that not everybody had, that everyone really appreciated and that everyone thought was badass! I was in third or fourth grade at the time. It’s just one of those things you don’t recognize early on. You are so innocent as a kid. So, I never thought, “Oh, this is going to make me cool with the girls!” It wasn’t that! [laughs] Although, I do know a lot of people who had that as their motivation at first! I have been in love with music for as long as I can remember.
You really do have to love it to persevere as long as I have because it’s not always great or easy. As a matter of fact, the balance of the struggle versus the reward is very unbalanced. Therefore, your life as a professional musician is completely different than having a day job, so to speak. There are things you can count on when you have a traditional career. Even if you are on the radio side of music, there is an office you can go to and a corporate structure that is taking care of everything or at least your check. With this, it’s more like you love it and you hope that people notice the album you put out but it also allows you the ability to put a roof over your head and take care of the basics. I don’t have kids and I’m not married. I think that if I did, I don’t think that I’d would have been able to do what I have done because I would to have focused more on that at the time. My point is that you can struggle a little bit easier by yourself than you can when you have cute little kids depending on you! It’s not that I don’t want to be a dad, because I do, I’m certainly practicing! [laughs] Music has been the true constant in my life and it’s the reason I developed or became good at anything. It was what I loved to do and the more I did it, the better I got. I was practicing, for all intents and purposes, even though I never viewed it as practice. I’ve never done it for any other reason than it being my natural instinct to do! Ya know, even if I wasn’t employed at it, I’d sing! I’m a singer. I’m a creator of sounds. It’s just what I do!
That’s interesting. I don’t think people often put a lot of thought into what goes into keeping a career in music on track.
Yeah! As a matter of fact, we just did a little mini-documentary of what really is a work day in a traveling band that is the caliber of ours, who’s had big moments, mediums, lulls and everything else. It really shows you that it’s not just getting up there and playing. It’s a really hard life to live and God forbid you have any roots!
Tantric is back with a brand new album titled “Mercury Retrograde.” Tell us about your creative headspace going into the process.
I’ll tell you one thing — all of the records that I’ve written over the years have all been reflective of the state of union of what is my life or my perception of what I’m seeing in my existence and through my journey. This one was a difficult one, thus the name. I would say that the three years prior to this record were probably the toughest and darkest years that I have had in my life for many reasons. I shouldn’t even say probably, I should say definitely! I’ve had a really hard batch of years with personal things. To be totally honest, I’ve gotten my ass kicked by the past several years. The fact that I’m here talking to you is a miracle. It’s somewhat surprising that I came out the other end. Out of all of that came this record. This record is a reflection of that. I hate to quote myself and I’m going to paraphrase this but, “Out of shit, a lot of beautiful things come.” Flowers come out of shit! This album is the result of struggle, exhaust, pain, hurt and everything else. I think that’s why this record felt great and was effortless to record. Not only did it feel good to release it but, sonically, the combination of ingredients put together by the universe were all there. That’s something you can’t really plan on. Some things either are or they are not. It’s like sparks when you meet a girl — they’re either there or they’re not! It all came together as if the universe was telling me, “See, I told you it was going to be OK. This is your result.” I felt extremely, extremely proud of what we had created and how it all turned out. With that said, I’m cautiously optimistic but thrilled that I was able to deliver something like this. I do think it’s legitimately a great record.
It’s inspiring to hear you made it through those dark times. Does this album feel like a new beginning for you in a way?
Yeah, I think that it definitely signifies a new beginning. Hopefully, this new chapter of my life and this band is beginning right now with the release of this record and how people vibe and react to it. I really feel that anybody who gives it a chance is going to react to it. That’s what is going to dictate if I can continue and keep on continuing. I don’t even know how I made it out of those three years and was still able to say, “Hey, let’s go make a record.” I was lucky to have a label and people around me saying, “Ya know, Hugo, I know you’re going through that shit but believe it or not you are an incredible talent to us … ,” even though I had never thought of myself that way. It’s like looking back after the end of a long battle and having this thing that will hopefully carry you into a life with a little more harmony, peace and maybe even a little love. Not to be super sentimental but a little bit of that would be nice!
This album is powerful and I’m excited to see what door it opens for you moving forward. As a fan, I’m excited to see what the future holds for you.
Well, thank you. It means a lot. Ya know, I am too. I am excited about what the future holds for me. I’m optimistic but not blindly optimistic. I’m optimistic with reason! I do believe in this record. Sonically, I feel it’s a combination of what we have already created as the Tantric sound but we also stepped across and showed a little something new. I think it was really well-balanced. It felt a little bit like the first and second record felt but it also felt like there was a lot of wisdom in between those years. So, this record has a lot of ingredients of all of them but also subtly moved forward and got bigger and warmer.
As you said, your lyrics come from personal experience. Was it difficult to put yourself out there emotionally through songwriting?
I don’t know. I’m a pretty pathetically emotional pisces, ya know? [laughs] For me to write a song that is not based on a story versus being based on a musicality is something that I haven’t ever done naturally. Writing is what I do to regurgitate the stress or whatever the emotion might be. A song is the result of my emotion. Some people go workout or box or whatever else but when I sat down with my best friend, my best friend was music, and this is what we talked about. The results were these songs. These songs mean something, but they are, of course, open to interpretation.
Tell us about how your songs take shape.
Through the years, the songwriting process hasn’t changed for me. It always starts out with me and an acoustic guitar. Typically, something has to be weighing on my shoulders or on my mind that I need to get out. That makes me look to the guitar and it’s very therapeutic for me. If what I’m doing gets put together within 30 to 35 minutes, I know that it’s going to be a good experience and I probably got something. I normally don’t beat a dead horse. A song either starts with a riff, a verse or a chorus and that’s typically where it comes out. Then you can leave it alone and come back to it later. There is a song on this record called “Wannabe.” It’s about this insane stalker that I had. It was this kid who had plastic surgery to look like me and it was such a crazy experience for me. I wrote that song a while back, the initial version. I knew it was good but, over the years, I knew there was little bit missing. I never nailed exactly what I thought it could be. I didn’t even know how to or even what it was missing. I revisited it from time to time. Sometimes you just have to go back and check out stuff that you forgot that you did. I revisited it and finally I found what it was missing. On that particular song, it came down to having Baz [guitarist Sebastian Labar] sing on it with me. I always had the idea of this being a call-and-answer between you and a different ego within yourself that wants to kick somebody’s ass or hate them because they are fuckin’ crazy. Some people are just fuckin’ nuts! Anyway, that song, even though it was written in 30 or 40 minutes years and years ago, it still took all these years to add another pebble to it to make it become what it is right now. I absolutely love that song. There are songs where you love the chorus or verse but one doesn’t do the other justice. Then you will write a song in a different time period that has the opposite thing happening. Every so often you say, “I wonder if … ” Then you mold them both together lyrically and it ends up working out. Taking it all back to the start, all of these songs start with me and an acoustic. I’ve always believed that if a song is a good song, it should be able to stand on its own as one singer, one guitar. It should be understandable and obvious that it would be even better with more.
It seems you have a great group of guys working with you these days. What do they bring out in you as an artist?
Ya know what? The hardest thing about being in a band is that you’ve got to have everyone in the band pulling the same weight, as far as enthusiasm is concerned. It only takes one guy to ruin morale at any given time during touring, which is what we do a lot of. I got so lucky with these guys. They are all great players. I’ve always had great players but these guys I like to hang out with. They are funny and enthusiastic. I’ve been doing this for 20 years but some of the things we are doing are new experiences for them, so I get to relive those moments through them a little bit. It’s fun! It feels like we are doing it all over again! That enthusiasm is contagious. Also, they have great attitudes and they’d do anything for ya. That’s really what you need if you’re going to be in a bus with a bunch of guys. Our drummer, Troy [Patrick Farrell], is a little older than me by just a little bit but he is a veteran. He’s played with groups from White Lion to whatever. If there is a bunch of shit that is really important that you need someone to hold, organize, schedule or plan, then he’s the guy. It’s really good that we have all these different personalities because I’m the ADD poster child/borderline tornado! [laughs] I never know where shit is because I’m just all creative and it’s not as important to me if the book rack is organized from small to big, if you know what I’m saying. For me, it’s all very spontaneous. Whatever I feel like focusing on at the moment is what I direct my attention to. In that fashion, we are all having a good time. When you’re having a good time, that’s when things happen and it becomes effortless. If it becomes stressful, you stop being good at what you do.
You are on the front lines of the music business as an artist. What’s the best way for fans to support you and keep the projects growing?
I’ll say this and it goes for people who like our music or any band for that matter. I don’t think people realize how important they are to the existence of a band. It’s almost to a much higher degree than a politician is dependent on his voters. At the end of the day, a lot of people come up to me and say, “Man, you must be a billionaire!” That is not that case. It’s a job and it’s comparable to a lot of people’s jobs. There is so much time in between the spread of records and the years where you have a new album are more fiscally beneficial, obviously. So, I would encourage everyone to buy the first day or the first week. What that does for a band that they like is make it pop out a little in the whole blanket of how the industry works. All you have to do is just pop out a little bit and it’s enough to fuel the momentum of new fans to join in. I’d prefer everyone go out to the stores like Walmart and whatever and clean out the album. I’m an older school guy and I like hard copies. If not that, go out and see the shows. Anything that contributes financially to the band is allowing this band to happen. In between touring and records, there is life. That life is sustained by the fans that keep coming back and that’s why I’m so grateful to them. I always thank fans for helping me put a roof over my head and ultimately allowing to share this experience with them. At the end of the day, there is no music if there are no ears to hear it. There is also no music if that musician can’t do it because even though many people may love it, there isn’t enough to keep it going. You know how it is; it’s like any business. It’s such an inconsistent thing. Also, I don’t just regurgitate records, ya know? I won’t put one out unless I’m in love with it. Even the ones that I’m in love with, I look back and have a few little regrets here and there. The life-blood of music is the listeners. It would be nice to see the enthusiasm on people’s faces and through comments that what we did was noticed by them and acknowledged.
How have you evolved as an artist over the last 20 years and what’s the best lesson we can take from your journey?
That’s an interesting question. When this band blew up and had those huge moments, which I was very young for. In retrospect, I’d would have lived in the exact same way because you only get to that period of your life once, especially in the parameter of all of a sudden being on “Leno” and shows like that or you have the number one song because that’s what you do for a living. That’s an incredible ride to go through in life. I enjoyed it within reason but, at the end of the day when all of that flash and adrenaline tones down, you have to still be proud of who you are and love what you do without it. You have to love it whether you are making $50,000 a year, $500,000 or $1,000,000. Money isn’t the thing that motivates me. It’s also really easy to like everything when everything is going well for you but to love something when it’s difficult is when you really discover who you are as a person. I think it’s brought me a lot of humility and I’m definitely humbled by the fact that we have fans all over the world to this day! I try to interact with them as much as I can when they ask me questions and whatnot. You don’t get wisdom without time on Earth. That’s the one thing I’ve learned. It’s something that’s gained through time and not necessarily gained through experience. I look at this with the same enthusiasm as a younger version of me but now I’m putting the importance where it lies and those were the things that were already free. It’s the love that you have for music, being on the stage whether it’s at a local bar with half-a-dozen people in front of you or being in front of tens of thousands. That love of being on stage never changes. So, after it’s all said and done, you’ll probably be on that stage performing no matter what because you love it. There are so many retired billionaire artists who don’t need to do shit ever but they want to because it’s what they do! It’s who they are and they realize they bring a lot of joy into people’s lives, therefore it’s kind of their responsibility. It’s a really symbiotic thing! I was just telling my friend, “I feel like I’ve been doing this for so long that it’s almost like a guy going to prison for a long time.” By that I mean, when you get out and try to go into a normal routine, it’s a very difficult transition. I’ve never had a normal routine! [laughs] Never ever! I don’t know what I would even do without it, so I take good care of it!
What has you most excited as we move into this bright new era for yourself and Tantric?
The success of certain records has nothing to do with the artist at the time. There are a lot of magical or chemical things that happen within the universe when everything lines up in a certain way — timing is such an important thing! I think that this record and everything that’s happening right now might be really good symbolism for us being around for 20 years. It’s nice to know that we can revisit that magic and show that a record like this from a band that has been around for 20 years can still be impactful and really successful. Ultimately, I hope it gives us the success we need to do it for years to come. I hope it also gives me time to have a little normalcy as well, whether it be having some kids, chilling with the wife or family or whatever each individual might want. All I do is work to maintain this. That’s all I do! It absolutely takes 18 hours a day to maintain it to keep it at a level where you can survive that. So, it would definitely be nice to be able to breathe and enjoy it. However, whatever happens in the future for this record and this band, I can guarantee you I will do this until the day I die! I’ll end with this — if you get it and give this record a chance, you’ll know that this one is a good one.
I couldn’t agree with you more, Hugo! “Mercury Retrograde” is definitely from the heart and grabs you right away, so I’m happy to spread the word on the release.
Thank you, man! I really appreciate it. Thanks for taking the time to acknowledge us and write the articles about us that brings the curiosity to people’s minds and, in turn, causes them to want to listen to it! We are all a big family and we all coexist, so there’s some great lessons to be learned there!
Absolutely! Thanks again for your time and I look forward to catching up with you again soon!
Thanks, Jason! God bless you!
Tantric’s new album, ‘Mercury Rising,’ is out October 5th, 2018 and available to buy/stream at these locations:
Catch Tantric on the upcoming Mercury Retrograde tour. Tickets and VIP packages are available on the band’s Facebook.
10/11 – Suquamish, WA – Clearwater Casino
10/13 – Clarksville, TN – O’Connor’s Irish Pub and Grill
10/17 – Kansasville, WI 1175 Sports Park & Eatery
10/18 – Dubuque, IA – Mississippi Moon Bar
10/19 – Westland, MI – The Token Lounge
10/21 – Angola, IN – The Electric Room
10/25 – New Bedford, MA – The Vault
10/26 – Patchogue, NY – Stereo Garden
10/27 – Pennellville, NY – Moniraes
10/28 – Seabrook, NH – Moonshiners Bar & Grill
10/29 – Brooklyn, NY – Kingsland
10/30 – Greensboro, NC – The Blind Tiger
11/1 – Hampton, VA – The Vanguard
11/2 – Florence, SC – Florence Center
11/3 – Hagerstown, MD – Break Away II Warehouse
11/4 – Pittsburgh, PA – Hard Rock Café
11/9 – Charlottesville, VA – Ix Art Park
11/10 – Akron, OH – Empire Concert Club
11/11 – Dayton, OH – Oddboy’s
11/15 – Eau Claire, WI – The Playhouse
11/16 – Owosso, MI –The Avenue Bar & Grill
11/17 – Barrington, IL – Penny Road Pub
11/18 – St. Paul, MN – Amsterdam Bar & Grill
12/13 – Keller, TX – The Pour Shack
12/14 – Wichita, KS – Cotillion Ballroom
12/15 – Oklahoma City, OK – Diamond Ballroom
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