“I enjoy touring, I really do,” says guitarist Ottmar Liebert in anticipation of his May 30 concert at Sweetwater Music Hall. “I enjoy performing live. It’s fun, especially after spending so much time in the studio. There’s an element of surprise to a live performance that I look forward to.”
“Of course, these days, asking a musician if they enjoy touring is like asking them if they like to eat,” he adds, laughing. “Because if a musician isn’t willing to tour, they’re not going to make enough money to pay the bills. But fortunately, I like to eat and I like to tour.”
Based in Santa Fe, New Mexico since 1986, the German-born, multiple Grammy nominee and Platinum-selling artist is among the world’s most acclaimed Spanish and Flamenco guitarists, with a style that blends multiple global influences. He’s released over 30 albums since his 1990 debut, Nouveau Flamenco.
That, he allows, is a lot of music from which to assemble a set list.
“In concert, I usually do a mix of something old, something new, something that’s never been released, and maybe something totally unexpected, even to me,” says Liebert, who’ll be onstage in Mill Valley with percussionist Chris Steele next week. “I like to make decisions on the fly, which is why I do make a set list. But often I throw it out the window as soon as we start playing.”
Liebert suspects he’ll be playing a tune or two from The Complete Santa Fe Sessions, last year’s critically acclaimed reissue of his 2003 album, which features extensive digital reengineering and the addition of previously unreleased tunes.
“That’s an unusual project in that the original recording was done a long time ago, but I was just never happy with it,” he says. “When I looked at it again, a couple of years ago, I saw ways to make it come together to my satisfaction. Now I really love it a lot.”
Asked about how living in a desert for 33 years has influenced his life and music, Liebert replies, “Having previously lived in cities all my life, there is something about the emptiness of the desert that just makes everything possible. I suppose I appreciate emptiness. I don’t like art hanging on my walls. I want the empty space, and I want whatever it is I project onto it at a particular moment. The desert is the same way for me. It’s an empty canvas, and it changes all the time, depending on the time of day and the quality of the light.”