While I was visiting Green Acre Baha’i School in the US a couple of years ago, a young man came over to chat with me and to thank the Baha’i Blog team for all the work we had done in the online space, and to especially thank us for our dedication to encouraging Baha’i-inspired musicians. Little did I know that the young man was Jose Maria Fierro, a voice I had heard on numerous Baha’i-inspired songs over the years with the likes of artists such as Colby Jeffers, Karim Rushdy and Bass Adjustment. As fate would have it, about a year later, I was temporarily living in Phoenix, Arizona, and Jose Maria helped organize some Baha’i Blog Studio Sessions there. We even recorded one of his songs called ‘In Thy Hands‘.
I’m excited to let everyone know that Jose Maria has just released an exciting new double album called Rooftops and Sidewalks so I decided to find out more about the album and his inspiration behind it:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little bit about the album and what it’s about?
The album is a double album called Rooftops & Sidewalks. The first CD, Rooftops, is predominantly Baha’i quotes set to music. It was made to have a real/communal vibe, so it gives off a very live and acoustic feel with real instruments and is made in a way that all ages can sing along and enjoy. The second CD, Sidewalks, is more focused on the hip-hop and RnB style of music and tries to take spiritual concepts and put them into songs that provoke thought and sound more like what’s currently playing on the radio. I love both sides equally and I feel like they’re both representative of me, just different parts of me. The name Rooftops & Sidewalks comes from two quotes from the Baha’i Writings. The first talks about the call to prayer that comes from the minarets of mosques. I really liked the visual of someone singing from up high, so I called the devotional album Rooftops. The second quote speaks to the idea that spiritual battles will be won on street corners and in school hallways, which sparked the idea for Sidewalks. The album moves from the rooftops to the sidewalks to symbolize that it’s great to praise and proclaim, but real work has to be done in order to see our communities progress and advance.
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and why you decided to do the album?
I consider myself a socially and spiritually focused artist, and I’m currently based in Phoenix, Arizona. I use my faith, family, and life experiences as inspiration for my songs, and apart from creating music, I’m also involved in many community building activities and other forms of social action and service. I love teaching others and am an instructor at ‘The Rap Camp’, a foundation which focuses on creating welcoming and encouraging spaces where youth can express themselves through music, dance, theater, and of course, rap. In this way, I strive to make the arts a part of everything I do. It’s my hope that through my music and conversation, I can inspire people to work for change.
I believe that we are a product of what we consume. If we listen to certain messages day after day for hours on end, we will start to internalize those concepts, either consciously or subconsciously. So given that the current messages in popular music are ones that are centered around misogyny, complacency, and materialism, I feel that there should be an alternative to those messages that doesn’t sacrifice the quality of the sound. When I looked around, I found very few artists that were creating music with that elevated standard, so I decided to make some myself for anyone else that might be searching.
Baha’i Blog: What do you hope listeners will take away from the album after they’ve listened to it?
I feel like a lot of times there’s certain stigma or prejudice around religion and God, but the overarching idea of this album is basically being unashamed in the fact that we are people that have a relationship with God and are trying to create change in the world. I hope that the people that listen to this album will experience that feeling and hopefully be inspired to share more about that side of their lives.
Baha’i Blog: What was the process of working on the album like? Are there any lessons learned that you can share?
The process of working on the album was very intense. It was my first time recording a serious project and I kind of learned as I went. I recorded all 19 songs in only three days at the studio, and then edited them and did preliminary mixing before shooting them off to the very talented engineer who mixed and mastered the tracks for the album. In the moment though, coordinating multiple people and trying to organize everything into one coherent project was very difficult. Additionally, this project contains songs spanning from all the way back from six years ago to a song written the last day in the studio right before recording, so the album has many different styles and levels of professionalism/polish. Looking back, there were a lot of things I could have changed or done differently, but I am happy with how the project turned out. I think it’s very diverse and unique. I am, however, definitely going to take those learnings from this album and apply them to my next project.
Probably the most important thing that I’ve learned through this album and the collaborations is that the process of creating a song varies so widely from artist to artist, and there is no “right” way to make it happen. Some people want to create and collaborate from the beginning to the end, others will send you a finished song and ask you to just write a small verse about the theme of the song. Some people want to work in the same physical space, and some people live halfway across the world. Whatever the situation, the music that comes out is unique and special, and I really appreciate that. It was very interesting working with so many artists though. It was definitely a nice surprise seeing how many artists and friends came together to help create this project. Most of the songs on this project have guest verses and features from artists that I’ve looked up to as well as friends that I’ve known since I was young, and I think that really encapsulates what this album is about: a community of people coming together to discuss, praise, create, and share with others.
Baha’i Blog: What message do you have to other musicians and artists out there?
The only message that I would have for other musicians and artists is to not let fear paralyze you. For a long time I was afraid to put any of my music out because it requires such an intense level of detachment and vulnerability. I was also a perfectionist and I wanted everything to sound good. I wanted to get better instruments or rerecord to make it “worthy”. In fact, I was still nervous and hesitant about releasing this album, but I realized that it’s a step in my journey as an artist. I will keep creating and getting better and this gives me a stepping stone to build off of. So I would say that if an artist is creating and wants to put something out, to create something they like and are proud of, but to also not let themselves get in the way. Additionally, something that I learned throughout this project was that you don’t always have to release everything that you create.
Baha’i Blog: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I would just like to express gratitude to my parents, my siblings, my community, and everyone that made this album possible. This journey has really served as a catalyst for my music creation. In fact, I’m already working on my second album as well as a collaboration album with some of my mentors and artists that helped me get into music creation. There are big things on the way so stay tuned.
Baha’i Blog: How can people find out, listen and purchase about the album?
The simplest way to connect with me for updates, purchases, or inquiries is through my website (www.josemariafierro.com). For more frequent updates or a closer glimpse into the creation and performance aspects of my music, social media would also be a great way to connect. I’m on Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube as “JMFMusic19.”
If anyone is interested in listening to or purchasing the album, I’d suggest going to this link:
Thank you so much for letting me share my story and give you a glimpse into the new album. I really appreciate it. Much love!
Baha’i Blog: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview Jose Maria, and congratulations again on your new album! I’m loving it!
You can watch the music video to the song ‘Dawn Breaks (ft. Karim Rushdy)’ from his Rooftops and Sidewalks album, plus watch his song ‘In Thy Hands’ on Baha’i Blog’s Studio Sessions below: