Carlos Olmeda

Carlos Olmeda: Guitar (acoustic), Guitar (electric)

Genre: Acoustic, Bluegrass & Roots, Rock

Sound description: Olmeda describes his sound as “Paul Simon and Cat Stevens meet for lunch, and they run into Elvis Costello and Nico from the Gypsy Kings, and everyone goes to Peter Sprague’s recording studio to record a jam album, produced by Sven Erik Seaholm, when suddenly Art Garfunkel shows up and bums everyone out, but they go ahead and write a song about it.”

RIYL: Paul Simon, Cat Stevens, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Johnny Cash, the Beatles, Elton John, Jethro Tull, the Beach Boys

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Inception: San Diego, 1995

Influences: The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Elvis Costello, Paul Simon, Cat Stevens, James Taylor, Carlos Gardel, Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, Bush, Radiohead, Blueprint, Bruce Springstein, Steven Tyler, Gypsy Kings, Bob Dylan, Crosby Stills and Nash, Neil Diamond, Randy Newman, Hank Williams Sr, Johnny Cash, Gregory Page, Leonard Cohen, Bernie Taupin


“My mother was always putting on this old scratchy LP called Music from around the Globe,” says Carlos Olmeda, “and I would sit mesmerized at how beautifully diverse each song sounded.” This early exposure to world music inspired his later songwriting. “I call what I do tricultural pop. That just means that I’m not really a genre specialist. I sing and I play acoustic guitar with the intent of making you imagine things in your head with a soundtrack attached.”

Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Olmeda moved with his family to Oceanside when he was six and soon got himself a $15 Tijuana Borderline Special guitar. By the time he reached eighth grade at Washington Junior High in Vista, he was already composing pieces like a musical adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's “Annabel Lee,” which he was asked to play for a final-period history class. “I had to run from phys ed class to get there before the bell to go home. So there I was in my gym shorts and a wifebeater T-shirt, dripping sweat, probably kinda smelly and out of breath, trying to sing this dark love song with all this genuine feeling.”

Olmeda played his first professional gig with brother Toca Rivera (Jason Mraz’s frequent percussionist/backup vocalist) at Vista’s El Rancho restaurant, when he was just out of high school.

“We played mostly originals and some popular acoustic music for tips, and then spent all the money playing Ms. Pac Man until two a.m.”

His debut studio album Learning to Walk dates back to 1995. In 2005, he battled for – and won - the copyright to the masters of that album, from a one-time “friend” to whom he’d signed rights in order to facilitate distribution. “All told,” he says, “it cost me over $6K to get them back.”

Over the past few years, he’s written music and done voiceovers for television with a company called L-7 Creative. He won a 1999 San Diego Music Award for Best Adult Acoustic Alternative Album and has played around town and/or toured with Toca Rivera and the band Supermice.

Olmeda moved from San Diego to Maine in November 2014.


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