Note: Following are excerpts from the full interview. The interview was conducted by Kevin Booth, Auralex director of sales and marketing. Robb Wenner, Auralex director of artist relations, produces the podcast and jumps in with questions. To hear the full interview, subscribe to Auralex Creative Spaces on your podcast platform of choice.
Kevin Booth: So, what sparked your interest in music?
Jose Rios: I was around 15 years old, and I was driving in the car with my father, and he was playing Stevie Ray Vaughan's Soul To Soul album. I forget the song's name, but it was Stevie Ray soloing the whole time with the wah pedal, and it was crazy. I remember hearing that and being blown away and just trying to understand what that was and what he was doing. I went straight home and grabbed all the records that my dad had of Stevie Ray, like Texas Flood, and I sat there and listened to all that stuff, and I tried to emulate him. That was my first spark. I always loved music as a kid, and my parents told me that I was emotional when I heard music, and I would get sad and stuff. I didn't understand what music was doing, but Stevie was probably the first thing I listened to where I was like, OK, I want to pick up an instrument and try and see if I can make music.
KB: Did you have any additional music education?
RW: Who were the artists or producers that inspired you?
JR: I did a lot of playing with friends and watching YouTube. I also did a lot of tabs! I decided to go to Musicians Institute because one of my friends was going there, and that's where I ended up meeting Anderson .Paak and Ron Avant, and the other guys in the group. We played all the L.A. clubs, like on the Sunset Strip, you name it, we've done it! Early in my guitar playing, I did many open jams because I just wanted to meet people. That was a cool experience, and I got to meet other L.A. musicians that, to this day, I still know and see all the time on the road because they're on gigs with certain artists.
JR: Stevie Wonder was a huge influence, and I was always amazed by his songwriting and how he made his music. Stevie Ray was more of a technical influence, and his songwriting was great too. I like reggae music, so Bob Marley was is a significant influence. I listened to some jazz here and there like Miles (Davis) and (John) Coltrane and people like that, just trying to broaden my musical vocabulary.
KB: Tell us about your personal studio. What have you been working on recently?
JR: Installing the Auralex acoustical treatment (SonoFlat™ panels and LENRD™ bass traps) changed the game in here! The space is tight and warm, and I feel like I'm hearing such a nice, well-rounded warm mix. The movable panels (ProMAX™) are cool too! I'm moving them around the room because I have one open wall with windows, and I can create a tighter sound. One of my favorite things are the clouds (SonoLite™ Clouds). Putting those up over the listening position made a big difference.
I've been creating stuff for fun, and I try to push this music to other artists that I know, and we're starting to put together some material for a new Free Nationals record. I've also been working with a group called Mother Nature, from Chicago, they're really cool.
KB: Is there something interesting or unexpected about you people don't know about outside of your music?
JR: I'm serious about my cooking. I would love to have a food truck or something, maybe down the line! I do yoga too, and I try to keep limber because being onstage takes a lot out on you. I also want to promote meditation to the musicians out there. It's important to get your head clear and calm because I know how stressful things can be, and things are different now because of the Covid-19. Meditation is a great way to get your head right. I'm at the beginning of my learning practice, and right now, it's more about breathing and just connecting with my breathing five to ten minutes a day, just relaxing and trying to clear my mind of anything that's ailing me or giving me problems.
For more info about Jose and Free Nationals, go to: