For singer, songwriter and guitarist Christian Lopez, Nashville has become a home away from home. That’s where he comes to write. He rehearses there with his band. His debut album and Red Arrow, his brand new follow-up for Blaster Records, were recorded in Music City too.

But his heart? His long-term dream? Well, they’re rooted someplace far away from Music Row, to the place where he was born and knows he will never leave.

“I’ve dedicated 100% of my life and time to my music. I work on some aspect of it every day. But I also see myself back in West Virginia someday, with a house and a big yard where I can relax. And a dog too,” he adds quickly, with a laugh. “You could say that’s the American Dream. For me, it’s more specifically my West Virginian dream.”

Handsome, thoughtful and well spoken, Lopez is less concerned with the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle than with spending time back home with friends, family and the old cars he and his dad like to tinker with. At the same time, as interest in his multiple talents heats up, this only feeds into his fascination with discovering places, ideas and music. Lopez has been stoking that fire for five years, since he began touring and learning how to turn a bunch of bar patrons into foot-stomping, cheering fans.

By that time, Lopez had already laid the foundation of a distinctive sound and style. Drawn first to the power of classic rock ’n’ roll, Lopez enriched and expanded on this foundation at age 15. “That’s when my dad brought me those The Essential compilation albums from Willie, Waylon, Johnny and Kris,” he remembers. “It was then that I started to realize that meaning and message could matter in music.”

So he started to write. He widened his listening, going deep into and beyond traditional country toward what wasn’t yet labeled as Americana. When inspiration struck, he responded with a song. Soon inspiration became a frequent caller. Originals nudged covers out of the way on his set lists. His love for music transformed into certainty that performing his own songs was what he had been born to do.

Eventually Lopez connected with Grammy-winning producer Dave Cobb in Nashville. Their creative synergy ignited on Lopez’s first album, Onward, released in 2015. “Working with Dave taught me to trust my first instincts and not to overthink my ideas because the magic usually comes naturally,” he says. “I’ll remember that forever.”

Two years later, with characteristic curiosity, Lopez decided to explore different paths for his sophomore project. Over nine months, he tempered the intuitive approach he had cultivated for Onward with a more measured process, beginning with the careful selection of producer Marshall Altman. “It was almost like a science experiment,” he says, with a laugh. “But that’s what I thought recording would be like when I was a kid — a work of art rather than just throwing together a bunch of songs.”

The songs, too, were different. His recent works reflected a more perceptive view of the world as well as a greater self-awareness. Some of this came from co-writing, which he’d never done before. “It did help me expand my thought process and come up with ideas I never would have on my own.”

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