The Festival Eñe Talento a bordo Award has been granted to Catalan writer Pol Guasch. With two poetry collections and one novel under his belt, the jury has highlighted the maturity of his gaze and his experimental audacity.
A hymn to life
A documentary about his life in Norway made Jorge Martí start to look at his past and present in a different light. After a 27-year career recording 13 albums, the lead singer of La Habitación Roja, one of the most veteran independent Spanish rock bands, decided to take stock and write his autobiography: 'Canción de amor definitiva' [Ultimate love song].
Jorge Martí is from Valencia, but he moved to Norway years ago for love. Since then, he juggles his job as a musician with his role as a husband and father —he’s married to anthropologist Ingrid Øverås, who suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome, and father of two teenage daughters, Frida and Erika—. Almost three years ago, he received an offer to publish his memoir and writing became a kind of therapy, making him face his uncertainties during the long pause imposed by the pandemic. Today, that book (Canción de amor definitiva) is already in bookshops and coincides with La Habitación Roja’s return to the stage —they will be playing the songs from their last album, Años luz II, live during the following months—.
Now that you’ve written it and it’s been in bookshops for some time, how would you define Canción de amor definitiva?
I have a feeling that this book is a journey that goes from innocence to the reality check that life serves you. When you’re young you think you always will be, and then there comes a time when life puts you in your place. You know that there’s a series of events that sooner or later you’ll have to go through, but you don’t know when. It’s like there’s a sniper at the top of a tower, pointing at you as you go through life, and if the bullet doesn’t hit you, it hits someone close by.
We already knew about your talent for music, but now you’ve poured it into literature, exposing your vulnerability without any qualms. Did you feel nervous?
When I handed in the manuscript, I felt like my life was among those pages, that I was getting rid of it, and that I no longer had any control over the story I’d told. Suddenly I was full of doubts: who was I to write a book, what was I thinking... My therapist told me the world is full of stories that don’t need to be told but that are told nevertheless, and he also told me that he was sure there’d be people who’d identify with mine.
“My two years of writing have taught me that, even if you have the story, it’s no use if you don’t know how to tell it”
What motivations lie behind Jorge Martí’s talent? That is, why write songs or books?
I’m an emotionally intense person, that’s why I write songs and now I’ve written this book. I like facing conflicts, I want to fix them, but that sometimes makes them worse. I have a tendency towards melancholy, but at the same time I’m always hopeful. I live within that duality. It’s hard to be 100% consistent.
The documentary In the middle of Norway was like a rehearsal for the book. Through it you started showing your more intimate side.
As a result of an interview for the documentary they called me about writing this book. Shooting it made me pause and start looking back and realise all the things that had happened. I felt overwhelmed about the idea of writing a book, but Pau [Roca, guitarist of La Habitación Roja] encouraged me saying that I already had the story. My two years of writing have taught me that, even if you have the story, it’s no use if you don’t know how to tell it. The documentary has ended up being a trailer for Canción de amor definitiva.
In 2018 and 2021 you suffered two pulmonary thromboembolisms that almost cost you your life. How did those experiences change you?
That’s when I learnt I’m not that important, or irreplaceable. I remember being in hospital and seeing how life carried on despite me being there, frozen in time. You realise that if you’re not there, your daughters and wife will manage. That situation was the result of a maelstrom that ended up exploding and that made me think: you can’t do everything, you have to let some things go. I like the way Valencian writer Rafa Lahuerta puts it, that there are no defeats or failures, that living is learning, that failing is believing that failure exists.
Now that you’ve published a book solo, have you ever considered releasing a record signed by Jorge Martí?
I’ve always felt that I couldn’t neglect La Habitación Roja, but now I feel the need to tackle a more intimate, more personal project. It’s come about because I decided to create a sort of soundtrack for the book, and I’m making it slowly, without any stress or rush: I read a chapter and write a song. I work on it without deadlines, but after recording two consecutive records with La Habitación Roja quite quickly, I’m excited.
Towards the end of the book, you say that when you were young you wanted to be Michael Stipe or Kempes, but now you’d rather be your father-in-law, because of everything he represents.
He’s ego-less, someone without any desire to be noticed. I like his discretion, how he gives himself to others, because doing things for his loved ones brings him joy. I remember him picking me up at my house in Norway at five in the morning to take me to the airport because I was going on tour, seeking exactly the opposite of him, being famous. Obviously if you work in music you need to have an ego, but, although it may sound ironic, I’d also like to be like my father-in-law and for that to be enough.
Throughout your career spanning almost three decades you’ve coincided with big talent, who’s impressed you the most?
There are several, but one of the most recent is producer Paco Loco. I find him fascinating; I think he’s a genius. He’s recorded people like Hinds or Nacho Vegas, among many others, and has produced our latest records. He’s devoted to music; he works with it practically every day of the year. I admire his willingness to listen to everything and try to understand others.
“I’ve always thought that if someone devotes themselves to something they love, maybe sometime they’ll find their match”
How do you keep a rock band going for 27 years?
There are bands who want to live off music, but we live for music. I’ve always thought that if someone devotes themselves to something they love, maybe sometime they’ll find their match. Now I think that the act of loving doesn’t need to go both ways, in fact, one of the songs on Años Luz II is called El amor correspondido está sobrevalorado [Requited love is overrated]. The fact that I love music or love Ingrid, my wife, has led me to do incredible things. If that love is returned, all the better, but everything I’ve done out of love hasn’t been in exchange for something. We’re a profitable band, but I’ve done things for the love of music. It’s important to not lose the spirit we started with and keeping that is extremely hard, it’s the reason bands break up.
Are you ready to return to the stage?
We’ve closed several summer festivals and I’m sure we’ll enjoy them immensely. There’s also a concert planned for the 10th anniversary of Fue eléctrico, which has been our most successful record. We’ll play the whole thing following the album track list in a unique concert that’ll take place in Madrid. And after the summer we’ll tour music halls. We’re also going to collaborate with the contemporary dance group Taiat Dansa for their performance at Festival 10 Sentidos.
Finally, which would you say is your other big talent, which has nothing to do with music?
Ingrid says that I’m good at recognising my own feelings and expressing them. And I’d add another: I make a killer paella! I have no qualms saying that.