Ondara found a hero just when he really needed one:
The Spanish Villager. Sure, the Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter created the character himself, but the mysterious man with the potent message has proven to be a versatile guy: he’s the subject of a shortstory Ondara wrote and turned into a graphic novel, and he’s also the namesake and inspiration for the Minneapolis-based musician’s gorgeous new album, Spanish Villager No: 3.
“He formed himself during some of my darkest times, and as he came to life, hecarried in his heart all the anxieties I had about my journey and about this new world I had moved to,” says Ondara, who grew up in Kenya before relocating to Minnesota when he was 20.
If the Spanish Villager is a proxy for Ondara’s inner turmoil about the state of the American experiment, Spanish Villager No: 3 channels those feelings into eleven new songs that are at once musically expansive and emotionally intimate. Though Ondara’s new songs take a sharp look at America and the world, Spanish Villager No:3 is not a protest album. “I think of myself as more of a traditional journalist, reporting on the goings on within me and in the world around me in the form of art, and leaving it to the audience to make their own deductions,” he says.
With production from Mike Viola (Jenny Lewis, Dan Wilson) and contributions from Taylor Goldsmith and Griffin Goldsmith of Dawes, Sebastian Steinberg, Tim Kuhl and Jeremy Stacey, Spanish Villager No: 3is a lush affair, full of rich piano lines, layers of guitars, flashesof brass, and harmony vocals on aching melodies that hang in the air. The album is Ondara’s third, following 2020’s Folk N’ Roll, Vol 1: Tales of Isolationand his 2019 debut, Tales of America, which received a Grammy nod for Best Americana Album.
What are the origins of the Spanish Villager character?
I discovered that my last name, Ondara, a traditional name from my tribe in Kenya, is also incidentally the name of a small village in Spain. The exact same name appears independently in two very different cultures across oceans. The Spanish Villager moniker comes from my fascination with this odd coincidence. As for the Spanish Villager character, I didn’t consciously create him. Really, he created himself in my subconscious mind, the same way many of my poems and songs tend to be born. I believe my mind created him so he could save me from despair.