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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 6, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 18
The gentleman in the jacket: An interview with Ramiro Orellana-Guzman
Arts & Entertainment
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The gentleman in the jacket: An interview with Ramiro Orellana-Guzman

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

I've never quite met anyone like Ramiro Orellana-Guzman. He's talented, cute, and witty, but those are descriptors that could apply to many people. If you spend just five minutes with Ramiro, you will realize that he is nothing like other people. His talent is self-taught, his look is unique, and his wit is quite strange. He is an artist in every meaning of the word.

As we talk over coffee I can't help but think that Ramiro is a remarkable man. He is a local entertainer who, at 21, has already recorded his first album all on his own. He has created a number of characters that he writes about when penning a song. And, perhaps most importantly, he is an out Gay singer who entertains audiences from Shoreline Community College to Capitol Hill. Ramiro is like a good book you just can't stop reading.

In December of 2009, Ramiro began work on his first solo album, Sealed For Your Protection. The project, he said, took him on a journey of self-introspection, and in many ways helped him through some very difficult times during his formative college years.

'All of the recording happened at home, in my room,' he explained about the album, infused with an '80s dance-pop sound. 'The songwriting happened all over the place. To paraphrase one of the biggest fag-hags of our time, Lady Gaga, 'I vomit songs whenever I feel nauseous.'

That last quote is Ramiro in a nutshell. Dedicated. Complicated. Talented. He is, among other things, a master storyteller who weaves his imagination into song lyrics like a spider trapping its prey. 'For starters, my mind is twisted,' he admitted. 'I'm passionate about writing. Not just songwriting, but whatever comes out of pen/paper sex.'

Writing is a very personal thing to Ramiro. 'If you have caused a big enough impression in my life, then you might end up in a song,' he said. 'I cannot, however, write with other people. To me, writing is as personal as using the bathroom - so I like to do it alone.'

Ramiro is not shy. His performances are high-energy and, although he recorded Sealed For Your Protection alone, he performs it with a backup band. Lucas Kraft (bass guitar), Robin Turner (electric guitar), Nick Ajer (drums), and Chamylee Arella Shafman (backup vocals) join him for live gigs.

'I've been singing in front of big crowds since I was 16,' said Ramiro.

There are two characters that make their way into his songs or live performances. The first, the 'Gentleman in the Jacket,' is a playful and energetic man who (sometimes) wears a jacket made out of duct tape (seriously, you've got to see this thing to believe it - the craftsmanship is impeccable). The second is a darker character, 'Jack Mozie.' Jack is the anti-Ramiro, and he certainly is no Gentleman in the Jacket. To fully understand all of this, you will have to turn to the music on Sealed For Your Protection. Trust me when I say the musical journey that Ramiro takes us on is unique without artsy-fartsy pretense. Sealed For Your Protection is no mere pop album, as Ramiro's musical influences are vast.

'My father is obsessed with classical music,' he said. 'I was one of those babies that had Mozart playing in the background every moment I spent awake. As a toddler, my mother exposed me to music from around the world. I experienced songs in different languages and styles. At the age of 6, I began singing along to Shakira, and that's when I found out I had a nice voice. However, a lot of my young years were spent listening to '80s pop and Latin pop. Later, as a teenager, I ventured into the side of rock. I explored anything from punk to heavy metal. Now I listen to several bands and musicians.'

Ramiro lists Shakira, Mika, Lady Gaga, Daft Punk, Linkin Park, and Elvis Presley as some of his influences.

When asked why he became a vocalist, he answers the question in the only way he knows how: a roundabout way that, although it may seem odd on the surface, holds truth beneath.

'I always wanted to be a superhero,' he said. 'I chose to be a singer because I lacked super powers, and my parents wanted me to choose a more realistic career. It is also the perfect excuse to turn down free cigarettes. To quote myself, 'I don't care if I die tomorrow as long as I sing today.'

Ramiro maintains that he has never encountered a problem due to the fact that he is Gay. 'I think it's because people just see Ramiro on stage - not Gay or straight, not male or female, just Ramiro. Sometimes I think that's because I'm Ramirosexual. & I leave that open to interpretation.'

Ramiro ended our conversation by saying he wants his fans to know that 'the challenges that will face us are nothing compared to what's beautiful. The obstacles that stand before me, they question my glory, but I'm beautiful.'

This summer, Ramiro will perform gigs anywhere he can to promote Sealed For Your Protection. You can purchase the CD and find out more about Ramiro on his blog, 'Who Is Jack Mozie?' at ramiro1221.blogspot.com.

He is also scheduled to perform at this year's Capitol Hill Pride Festival on June 25. 'Look for Jack Mozie,' he said. 'I'll be wearing my favorite color.'

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