When he broke up with his long-term girlfriend, Diego Garcia — formerly the frontman of post-punk revival outfit Elefant — siphoned his heartbreak and disappointment into songwriting, and ended up with his first solo record, 2011's Laura.
When it came to making his new record, Paradise, things were a little different.
"I wrote Laura when I was getting over a girl, and with Paradise, I went into the studio with her at my side," he explains. "So right off the bat I was in a completely different place, both emotionally and professionally."
Soon after Laura's release, the estranged couple had serendipitously reconnected in Rome; they're now married with a young daughter. It all seems impossibly romantic, but — while Paradise is an undeniably romantic album — Garcia tells a cautionary tale. "I think that this record captures that energy of new love, hope, while constantly [reminding you] that if you take any of that for granted, it could slip away very quickly and you'll be back in the gutter." He pauses, then laughs. "Sorry to be such a downer."
Elefant gained some notoriety in the mid- 2000s on the heels of bands like Interpol and Franz Ferdinand, and toured with Morrissey and The National — though the band never received the critical approval of many of its contemporaries. Back then, Garcia worked his best dark Brit-pop strut, which once earned him New York Magazine's "Sexiest Lead Singer" title.
These days, his persona is more subdued. Some of that has to do with getting older, and having a kid — Garcia jokes that he can now change a diaper while playing guitar — but his influences have lately shifted toward Latin troubadours like Roberto Carlos, José Feliciano and Julio Iglesias. These were the artists Garcia's Argentine parents listened to while he was growing up. But, he says, "I think describing it as a major influence is a little misleading. At the end of the day, I'm an American kid who's probably more inspired by Neil Diamond and Lou Reed. These Latin artists are from my subconscious."
Wherever this influence resides in Garcia's brain, it seems to suit him: Paradise is Garcia at his warmest, and most mature. The record's best songs — including the lush, dramatic "Tell Me," the joyful, Spanish-guitar-heavy "Start With The End," and the wistful, cinematic "My Everything" — unfold effortlessly, showcasing a knack for classic, '60s-style pop writing.
"When you're a solo artist, you have the freedom to explore so many different styles," Garcia says of blending his "parents' music" with the American rock 'n' roll he loved growing up. "I had to make some tough decisions. I don't want it to sound like a science fair: It has to come out naturally."