José Mercé (Cádiz, 1955) never started in the world of music because it was already embedded in his DNA. Member of a saga of gypsy singers such as Paco de la Luz, Manuel Soto Monje, or Vicente Soto Sordera, he has managed to become one of the best-known flamenco artists on the scene. Now, and after 19 albums and hundreds of concerts, Mercé will present the tour ‘Entre verea’ in Santander, within the Magdalena Deluxe concert cycle. There he will show the general public on August 6 the reason for his success and how flamenco can be sung between ‘quejíos’, but without losing the smile.
Do you think that sometimes it is necessary to renew in order not to get bored?
I think so. You have to take risks and do new things, what you can’t do is distract yourself and fall asleep on your laurels …
And precisely, in the tour ‘Entre verea’ he has launched to incorporate a piano to the first part of the concerts …
When there is a piano that sounds flamenco, I love it. All musicians, be it a bass, a piano or a violin, if it sounds flamenco it has to be with us because it enriches us.
There is a lot of talk about the place where flamenco is staying among so much commercial music. Are you one of those who thinks that flamenco will always have its space?
Flamenco is root music and it is eternal: it will never be in fashion because it is not fashion, and root music has no fashion. Sometimes we will be higher and others lower, but it is eternal and we do not need anything. There is such a wonderful foundation that it will never be lost.
Like everything evolves, flamenco has to do it too
There are also two currents within flamenco: the innovative one that tries to adapt flamenco to current tastes, and the more conservative. Which one do you belong to?
There was a time where I belonged to the most conservative, because of the family I come from and others. But I have always been a person who has liked to take risks, do something avant-garde, and who has liked flamenco to be open. And in fact I keep doing it, and the so-called flamencos gave me palos and others, but in the end I think they were convinced and I think that just as everything evolves, flamenco also has to. You always have to respect the base and the root, but evolving is good. For me there is not one type of flamenco, but there are many types. What is also true is that I don’t think everything can be called flamenco. You can do whatever you want, but if you sound flamenco and try to incorporate it into your music, it seems wonderful to me.
Do you notice the difference between the passion for flamenco in the south and in the north?
I can say that in the north you live more intensely than down here in the south. And those who go to a flamenco concert know what they are going to, they enjoy it a lot, they live it with great intensity and I consider myself one of the singers who most like to work in the north because I see the passion and the hobby that there is , and that makes me feel great every time I go there. It has nothing to do with not having grown up as much with it as in the south. From Madrid up there are a lot of fans and very real. I’m on stage and I feel it. In the end, I am one of those who says that our brand Spain is flamenco, it is our music.
Do you think that the restrictive measures on the cultural sector have been excessive?
They have been excessive from the moment in which, although things have been done well, they have continued to be done. I do not know of concerts in which things have been done wrong or there have been outbreaks. Everything was perfectly organized, better than ever. I don’t know why there has been so much restriction. We have to be very careful, we have to respect the rules, and that goes with people, their education and the respect they have …
At first you appreciate the confinement because you are always traveling, but there comes a time when you lack life if you are not on stage
He fears that with the increase in sprouts, the culture may be affected again?
I have thought about it. We have all been young and rebellious, but I think we already have enough information to know that you can have fun but without being together 200 without rhyme or reason. I don’t know what that is about, I don’t understand. It seems incredible that we are in the 21st century and that young kids seem to not want to know what is happening. There are many families that are dedicated to our thing, workers who are behind us on stage and who have not had ERTE or anything. They have had a very bad time and there are many families, we are not only the ones who go on stage. And I think about what it would mean to close the culture again, and that is that it would not be a problem, it would be a problem for many families.
How did you experience confinement?
I have been very lucky to have my whole family at home, and the first few months I have really enjoyed my grandchildren, I have learned a lot with them. At first you appreciate it because you are always traveling, but there comes a time when you lack life if you are not on stage. You drown, you need to hit the road, get on stage …
Do you see yourself on stage all your life?
I never think about retirement, and I will be on stage until my audience wants it. What’s more, I am now happier on stage than when I was young. I enjoy it much more, I really want to do things … But it is true that after so many years on stage, before getting on I still have that which enters your gut … And I hope it never goes away.