Eddie Sandoval, chef, restaurateur and concert manager, on the visceral nature of music, sharing food as community, and travels in Southeast Asia
(Publication Date: 10.17.23)
In this episode of the We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast, Adam Williams talks with Eddie Sandoval.
Eddie might be most known as chef and owner of the Asian Palate (Buena Vista, Colo.), along with his wife, Brynn. In recent months, he also became concert manager for the Surf Hotel.
In this conversation, Adam gets to know more about where Eddie comes from, his Midwest upbringing and his young adult years on the East Coast. They talk about how food came to be a central passion for Eddie, though he’d initially thought he’d become a school teacher.
They also talk about music’s place in Eddie’s life and about influential travel experiences, including several months in Southeast Asia. Among other things.
SHOW NOTES, LINKS, CREDITS & TRANSCRIPT
The We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast is a collaboration with the Chaffee County Departments of Public Health and Housing, and is supported by the Colorado Public Health & Environment: Office of Health Disparities.
Along with being distributed on popular podcast listening platforms (e.g. Spotify, Apple), Looking Upstream is broadcast weekly at 1 p.m. on Tuesdays, on KHEN 106.9 community radio in Salida, Colo., and can be listened to on-demand via khen.org.
Live Music at Surf Hotel: tickets.surfhotel.com
We Are Chaffee
Looking Upstream Host, Producer & Photographer: Adam Williams
Looking Upstream Engineer & Producer: Jon Pray
We Are Chaffee Community Advocacy Coordinator: Lisa Martin
We Are Chaffee Graphic and Web Design: Heather Gorby
Director of Chaffee County Public Health and Environment: Andrea Carlstrom
Note: Transcripts are produced using a transcription service.
Although it is largely accurate, minor errors inevitably exist.
[Intro music, guitar instrumental]
Adam Williams (00:18): Welcome to We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream, a conversational podcast of humanists, community and well-being rooted in Chaffee County, Colorado. I'm Adam Williams. Today I'm talking with Eddie Sandoval.
Eddie might be most known as chef and owner of the Asian Palate, along with his wife Brynn. In recent months, he also became concert manager for the Surf Hotel and has been booking renowned performing artists for both its venues, the Ivy Ballroom and The Lawn.
(00:45): In this conversation, we get to know more about where Eddie comes from, his Midwest upbringing and his young adult years on the East Coast. We talk about how food came to be a central passion for Eddie, though he'd initially thought he'd become a school teacher.
He tells about the turning point when he really knew that he wanted to own his own restaurant and who helped him to make it happen. I ask about music's place in Eddie's life, too, and why that's so important to him. We talk about some influential travel experiences in his life, including several months in Southeast Asia.
(01:16): There also was the fortuitous life change when he and Brynn chose to close the restaurant that he dreamed of and worked so hard for after 10 years in business. And they did that, as it turns out, only a few months before the COVID pandemic arrived. We talk about why and the how and the what next of those big decisions and the role that they played in serving the community when it needed it most in 2020.
(01:40): Show notes including links and a transcript of this conversation with Eddie are available at wearechaffee.org, as they are for all the conversations that we have on Looking Upstream. Now, here we go with Eddie Sandoval. Eddie, welcome to Looking Upstream. It's an honor and it's wonderful to have you sitting here with me today.
Eddie Sandoval (02:10): Thank you, Adam. Thanks for having me. It's been a real treat to listen to your podcast and see what your vision is for the community. It's been really a pleasure.
Adam Williams (02:21): Well, thank you. I'm so glad that you've been listening and that you are aware of the podcast and now that you get to be part of it, so thank you for that. Again, I want to start with, well, I'm going to say we're going to set the table here, so to speak, as silly of a pun as that is given the fact that you're a chef. We're going to set the table with this story. You have shared that you prepared a wonderful dinner for 70 people in a beautiful outdoor space this past summer.
(02:50): For those who are local, it was at The Meadows and you have a descriptor that you wrote about this experience that I would love to hear more about. You said that the first hour of the event was held in silence and you described that as being a profound experience and one that even brought tears to your eyes a number of times. I'm just curious to know more of that insight, if you can paint that picture and what the power of that experience was and the emotion and who was involved and just whatever else you want to share about it.
Eddie Sandoval (03:20): Yeah. Well, we've been focusing our work on doing these kinds of events and to be a part of ... That one in particular was eye-opening. It was really profound in a number of ways just to work with those folks. It was a group of people who do a lot of social justice work and a lot of philanthropic work within communities all over the country and all over the world. And they focus on a lot of different things, helping communities with voting rights and things like that.
(04:09): And one way we kind of heard of a description of them is that it's these folks that are working hard to save our democracy, which I really liked. So they come from all walks of life and really intentional work that they do. So just to be a part of their conference and their retreat was really special. And the dinner in particular, it was such a joy to work with such intention in curating this menu for these folks, but also it's really important for us to work directly with local producers.
(05:00): So the entire menu was made with meat and vegetables that are all raised in Chaffee County, so we connected with a couple ranchers and a bunch of the small farmers here to create this menu and to do it in such a beautiful space like The Meadows was a really special thing for all of us. And so we set up this long table and they came from the Surf Hotel and as they were on their way, our friend who had organized this retreat had told everybody in the group that the first hour of the dinner would be in silence. And I've never really experienced anything quite like that.
(06:02): Everybody got off the bus and you could just watch. It was nice to just watch everybody take in the beauty of the property and really just be still with themselves. And for us to carry the spirit of that even while we were trying to produce this large dinner, it felt powerful. In my work, it's always kind of a feeling of being in a high gear, executing events like that or whether it's a dinner like that or having a full service restaurant.
(06:50): And so in those first moments, it almost helped me just stop and be still and reflect. And so much went through my mind and my heart and really the biggest things were just having such gratitude for the opportunity and for the crew that I have to help me manifest this work that we're doing.
Adam Williams (07:24): It almost feels like with an experience like that, the silence creates a deeper, more meaningful, more intentional connection between people. Rather than if everyone would've come off the bus and it would've been just hectic and everybody trying to socialize, trying to come up with conversation together or just continuing whatever work oriented conversations they had already had in the day or whatever the case is, to slow down from that maybe frenetic pace, loud pace, whatever it is and actually sit with ourselves. There's almost a meditative and spiritual quality to that, which I would guess, was the intention of saying let's take an hour.
Eddie Sandoval (08:06): Undoubtedly.
Adam Williams (08:06): Together being silent within ourselves.
Eddie Sandoval (08:08): Yes. And especially with this group in particular where, I think, the ideas are probably just constantly spinning. And just for them to take that moment for themselves and just enjoy the beauty of where we live and of just being still. It's probably not something that a lot of these folks are used to coming from mostly urban areas.
Adam Williams (08:42): Sure. And feeling the stress of the big things they're trying to accomplish.
Eddie Sandoval (08:47): Yes.
Adam Williams (08:47): Yeah. So there's a reason that I wanted to start with that story. And it's because that experience in my mind, it represents some really significant elements of who I think that you are from my observations from afar. So here are some of my thoughts and you can let me know if this rings true for you, if it feels right, if you feel comfortable with the words I'm about to use.
(09:09): But I feel like you're someone who caress deeply about family and friendships, about community, about people connecting. I think you're passionate about food and music. Intentionality was certainly a part of what your answer was there and I think that that probably factors into your work and those passions as well and into those connections. Does all of that sound right to you? Does it feel comfortable and true to you what I just described about you?
Eddie Sandoval (09:36): Yeah, I would say absolutely. I think those are some of the things that are most important to me and that I hold dearly.
Adam Williams (09:47): So to welcome a group like that with intention and with that sort of event and with the mountain views and the outdoors integrated into nature, the silence. You viewing it as profound and feeling that yourself as you're trying to work to serve these people who are trying to work to serve all of us as people. I just think that was a nice illustration.
(10:11): And I want to add just one more thought from that, which you have written and shared is that about that experience is that our minds and hearts unfold unforeseen creativity and when you connect with good people beauty unfolds. That was something that you wrote in retrospect from that experience and so I really appreciate those perspectives. I want to jump now to ask you about family because I think that is part of what is important to you and let's start with your family and where you grew up, which I think was on the East Coast. Is that right?
Eddie Sandoval (10:44): I actually was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. So I'm the youngest of three, first generation, US-born Filipino. Both my parents are from the Philippines. They actually met in Wisconsin. So we were raised there on the east side of Milwaukee and so spent my childhood there, really wonderful place to grow up. So really a closeness with my siblings and my parents worked really hard to make a good life for us. My mom was an OB-GYN of over 50 years and my father went through a number of occupations.
(11:45): He came to the states to work for Boeing as an engineer, so spent a lot of his early years in the states in the Seattle area and then was part of the last massive layoff that Boeing had endured. And after he left Boeing, he had this idea of driving through all 48 mainland states and then ending up in Milwaukee where he had two brothers. So he pretty much did that and he likes to say he wanted to see every state and then when he ran out of money, he would just end up with his brothers.
(12:30): And so he ended up in the Wisconsin area in the late 60's and met my mom who was doing her residency there and was working with my father's oldest brother, so that's how they met. And they got married in 1971, I believe, and had the three of us and raised their family in Milwaukee.
Adam Williams (13:01): Okay. Well, I think my ego just wants to know where the East Coast comes from because I'm pretty sure that I've read or known or heard, from you even maybe, that was part of your story. Was that later when you were an adult or does that just not exist and I totally made it up?
Eddie Sandoval (13:16): No, I got my undergraduate degree at the University of Vermont in Burlington. Was really close with my sister, who was two and a half years older than me and I went and visited her. Well, she went to the UVM as well. So I went out to Burlington to visit her and just fell in love with that state and that school and so kind of followed her out there. And so I got my undergraduate degree in Spanish and a minor in criminal justice, so really wanted to get into teaching.
(14:00): So that was my focus while I was out there and stayed on the East Coast for a few years after that. Moved to Boston, so spent some time in Boston and that's where it was hard for me to find a teaching job because I had no education background, so I had worked in restaurants while I was getting my undergrad. So I kind of pivoted to that knowing that I could do that and bounced around a little bit and ended up in this amazing restaurant called Rialto, James Beard Award-winning chef, Jody Adams. They took me in and that was the place that inspired me to want to have my own restaurant someday.
Adam Williams (14:52): Okay.
Eddie Sandoval (14:53): Yeah.
Adam Williams (14:53): I was wondering if food was part of things with your family when you were growing up and so now we get more of that connection of what maybe got you started toward this life and love as a chef.
Eddie Sandoval (15:04): Yeah.
Adam Williams (15:04): But let's still go back to family. What was going on there when you were growing up in Milwaukee? And what were some of those influences from your mom and dad and culturally and the things that you've carried with you to this point in your life?
Eddie Sandoval (15:17): Yeah. Well, we actually grew up, my mom was working all the time. My dad spent a lot of time with the three of us and as you can imagine, that's a challenging role. But we grew up really eating a lot of fast food and processed food and always on the go. But there was also elements of ... I remember eating my dad's chicken adobo and my mom's pancit and so there's always these Filipino dishes that we were so lucky to have.
(16:00): And so it was kind of a mix of this Filipino culture that always remembering my uncle making lumpia and the nationally recognized dishes of the Philippines. Always having that, but then always eating the fast processed foods, too. So when I was in college and then ultimately in Boston, it was when I was really kind of awakened to what it means to produce food for yourself, for others, eat, have a more healthy lifestyle through food. And so it was really more in my latter years where I kind of appreciated that a bit more.
Adam Williams (16:57): Okay. The story that I have read with your background as, I don't know, if it's as a chef or if it was just simply adventure, was that it involved travel, extensive travel in Asia. Let's see, I have, I think, a list here of Nepal, Cambodia, the Philippines, couple of other places, at least.
I'm wondering what that travel involved, if that was part of your interest in learning those foods? If this was at a point when you're like, "Hey, I want to be a chef and learn these cuisines." Or if it simply was a youthful, "I want to go spend a few months ..." Or however long it was to just travel and learn something about that piece of the world.
Eddie Sandoval (17:34): Yeah. I'd say it was a mix of both at that time. And in my life, I feel like it was the start of really seeking out food through travel. I've always been fascinated by the world. Travel has always been something important to me. There's so much wonder in it. And that trip in particular was a few years after I had moved to Colorado, so I left Boston and moved to the Vail Valley. My cousin was the general manager of a sushi bar there and so he talked me into coming out to Colorado and I lived there for a few years and learned the art of sushi.
(18:32): And so it felt like this cool trajectory of maybe I can have my own place someday with this really strong foundation in the French Mediterranean cuisines and techniques that I had learned on the East Coast and then learning this really cool cuisine of sushi and Japanese food. And so I felt like I was really building this strong foundation. And then when it was time to move on from the Vail Valley, I came down here with a friend to Buena Vista and it was something that I hadn't anticipated moving to this area, but I had my eyes set on San Francisco.
(19:29): But I just really fell in love with the beauty of the mountains here and could really feel the closeness of the community. And I just kind of always admired that being in Vermont and seeing the small towns in that state and just how people take care of each other in these rural areas. And so I moved here and there was still this transition where I was helping out my employer up in Vail, but decided that it was a great opportunity to travel because of the transition.
(20:20): We get into these routines in life where it's hard to carve out time to get out there and see different parts of our country or parts of the world. And I kind of had this realization that you can really only do that if you're in a transition, if you want to take a significant amount of time. And I really wanted to be in Southeast Asia for as long as I could be.
Adam Williams (20:52): How long was that?
Eddie Sandoval (20:54): It was about five and a half months.
Adam Williams (20:56): Why there, in particular?
Eddie Sandoval (20:58): I was always just really interested in that part of the world, those cultures, the food there, so a lot of it was the cuisines. A lot of it was anyone I had ever come across from Southeast Asia just seemed to be such a kind and gentle person and it kind of just unfolded naturally. I traveled with a friend and she had this connection to Nepal and this project to help build out a medical clinic in this Sherpa village.
(21:46): So I kind of just jumped on board with that and had this idea of starting there, ending in the Philippines to see family and then seeing what would come of it in between. So it sort of just happened organically, started in Nepal. And then after a month in Nepal, the natural feeling was to go to the beaches of Thailand to thaw out a little bit. And then when I was in Thailand, I was just so blown away by the food and the culture and then just felt really interested in exploring that whole region.
(22:38): So popped into Cambodia and Lao and was really just so impressed with the food, but even more so the kindness of the people. So I just tried to extend that as long as I could and then ended up in the Philippines and saw some family there. But there was always a thought in my mind to really pay close attention to that food because I felt like there was something there that I was going to incorporate that into a future vision.
Adam Williams (23:20): The kindness and gentleness is the energy that I feel from you. Now, I imagine that's always been there and that maybe that's part of why you were drawn and noticing it and feeling it from the people that you encountered when you were traveling. But tell me, I mean, was there some sort of conversion experience while you were there that led you this way? Because otherwise, I feel like that is just natural, that's who you are, is just a kind and gentle, chill kind of guy.
Eddie Sandoval (23:49): Yeah. I feel like my mom is very much that way, so I feel like I get that from her. But it was really interesting to be in these countries and for the first time in my life really experience this feeling of kindness, humility, from an entire population. Of course, we have community here and we have family and friends and you can go anywhere and find these beautiful pockets of that here. But it just felt different when the whole population kind of felt like that.
Adam Williams (24:41): Yeah. When that's just the energy culturally in the society, how they flow.
Eddie Sandoval (24:46): Right.
Adam Williams (24:46): Yeah. I've been to Thailand a couple of times. I've spent a good amount of time in some different places in Asia and I wonder, when you were there, I feel like we might've been a similar era and experience in that sense. For us it was, okay, the expense is if you buy the plane ticket over but once you're there, a lot of other things are affordable for an American bringing dollars. And that, of course, allows there to be this sort of experience of, well, that's just so different than traveling in a lot of other places. Were you in your what? Mid 20's, late 20's by then?
Eddie Sandoval (25:24): Yeah.
Adam Williams (25:25): And you and I are pretty similar in age, so we might've crossed paths. Who knows?
Eddie Sandoval (25:30): I thought you looked familiar.
Adam Williams (25:33): Well, I'm wondering when you realized along your journey with cooking with working in restaurants, was there a particular experience or time when you realized this really might be my future in the long term, this is really the direction I want to go?
Eddie Sandoval (25:49): Yeah. I would say it was, at least from a romantic perspective, when I was at Rialto in Boston, that was certainly the time where I just fell in love with the culture of the restaurant industry. The camaraderie of your co-workers and the energy of being in a kitchen, being in-service, creating beautiful food. But that was from this perspective of a dreamy line cook. And I would say really the turning point was when I moved to Buena Vista and I met a friend, Barb Zucker, who had the Evergreen Cafe for over 20 years.
(26:55): And when I moved to Buena Vista, we had met quickly and she knew that I had always wanted to open a restaurant, so she kind of proposed this idea of me trying out a concept within her space. So she had a breakfast and lunch cafe and she let me use her space at night. So I kind of just took all the knowledge that I had from all the years and also just had come back from Southeast Asia. And coincidentally, I had kind of asked as many people as I could in the community what type of food people would like to see here.
(27:50): Because there were a number of directions that I could have gone in with that foundation of food that I had developed over the years but coincidentally, most people had said sushi and Thai. I felt really confident and comfortable with the sushi but the Thai food was something that I had just been exposed to by traveling through that country. But I felt like there's such beauty in the simplicity of their food and with having this strong background in French technique,
(28:33): I felt like I could take it on and try it. And so yeah, it kind of opened my eyes even more to how amazing that the cuisines of that region of Southeast Asia are. There's a lot of simplicity but then an unbelievable amount of depth in the food. So kind of just went for it and was working out of the Evergreen for a little over a year. And then that was an incredible time in my life because I knew how to cook but I didn't really know how to run a business. And it was hard to conceptualize opening a restaurant without that asset.
(29:21): But Barb taught me a lot on that side of things, showing me the accounting side of things and the service side of things. And so I'm forever grateful for her and for that opportunity but that was the springboard to try to find a space in town of my own. And so in 2009, we found that space on Main Street and opened the Asian Palete.
Adam Williams (29:48): And in 2019, I don't know if fortuitous is a word that applies or not, but by chance you also intentionally, and now with your wife as part of this endeavor, intentionally chose that you were going to close the restaurant.
Eddie Sandoval (30:08): Yes.
Adam Williams (30:09): And the reason I bring up the word fortuitous or luck or whatever it might've been, is that, of course, we all know that a few months later comes the pandemic that ends up changing so much for so long, for so many of us. But especially I think in the restaurant industry, there was a lot of struggle for those businesses, for all those employees, for those chefs, for those owners, everybody. What was it that led you to decide you wanted to close the restaurant for a while or maybe indefinitely forever? I don't know what your intentions were in 2019. And then what did you do following that?
Eddie Sandoval (30:45): Well, it was something that my wife and I had started talking about pretty much when our oldest child, our daughter was born, which was in 2015. And we'd always kind of talked about, "Is this what we always want to do?" I was working 60, sometimes 80 hour weeks, sometimes more, mostly at night. But when you put that many hours in, it's from morning to night. So that was when we just started to discuss, "Will this always be the path?"
(31:32): And we continued to discuss that over the years because my wife was there a lot, too. We had some challenges with staffing, so she was always an integral part of the front of house but there was a moment in there where I just needed her to be where the restaurant needed her to be. And so she learned how to become a sushi chef and so she was working the sushi bar side by side with me. But it was a dream of mine to build that, to start that.
(32:17): And so it was hard to imagine ever doing something else. We love making food, we love being in-service. We created an incredible culture there and family. And so it was hard to imagine shifting but it kept coming back to family and our children. And so finally in 2019, we decided it was time. It was time to reinvent our lives and reinvent, ultimately, however it was going to look, our work. But we wanted the decisions that we made to revolve around our children and our family and time together.
(33:17): So at the end of 2019, we announced to our staff and then to the community that we were going to close the restaurant and the idea was to bring somebody in there that was going to thrive and succeed. And so we wanted to provide a space for somebody to start their own restaurant, their own thing. So that happened at the end of 2019 and then at the beginning of 2020, we went to the Philippines, which was something that we had always wanted to do.
(34:04): I had been a few times before, during those travels in 2008 and then briefly in 2006, but it had been 18 years since the last time, so a couple of times when I was a child. And I really wanted to go there and bring my wife and children so we could connect with our roots. The timing of it was perfect. My mom was going over there as she always did every other year to lead a medical mission, which she had been doing for over 30 years.
(34:45): And so it was really cool to join that. She and a number of doctors, nurses from the Milwaukee and Chicago areas would go every other year and see hundreds of patients in impoverished communities and give free healthcare. Sometimes they'd see 1,000 people in five days.
Adam Williams (35:12): Oh, wow.
Eddie Sandoval (35:12): Yeah. And in January of 2020, it was the first time in 30 years that the mission was in my mother's hometown of Sara. So it felt serendipitous to join her for that. So yeah, we were there for nearly three months and we returned the first week of March, about five days before the borders got closed.
Adam Williams (35:41): Okay. That was a question I was wondering about. Were you caught over there? How did that factor into things? I guess real quick before I want to talk with you about music, too. When you came back, I wonder what your intentions were with, I mean, livelihood, frankly, because your intention was to close the restaurant?
Eddie Sandoval (35:41): Mm-hmm.
Adam Williams (36:00): It sounds like permanently because you were interested in letting somebody else have that space. But also then as your thoughts and feelings as the pandemic unfolded and there are shutdowns and your peers across the restaurant industry, but also locally, of course, your friends, the community members, what you felt for them when you, by chance, had stepped out before what was coming came?
Eddie Sandoval (36:27): Yeah. Of course, it was such a difficult time for everybody. For us to see the industry that we had been a part of for so long just really get dismantled. There was some relief in knowing during our transition that our Asian Palate family had time to transition into their new and respective jobs and lives.
(37:06): And it was actually really nice to see folks that had been with us since the beginning, kind of take on new careers or go back to school or things that they had kind of always wanted to do, but there was always such loyalty to staying with us. And so it was comforting to know that people were on a path to a supportive way.
Adam Williams (37:43): You offered a transition like you described, came to you, when you ended up traveling for nearly six months.
Eddie Sandoval (37:49): Right.
Adam Williams (37:49): You kind of presented that opportunity for transition in life for all of your loyal employees and friends, however you looked at them. People you obviously cared about to be able to assess where they were in life and say, "Okay, this is the moment I change to something and to pursue some of those ideas." So that's pretty cool to see that circle.
Eddie Sandoval (38:10): Yeah. I guess I had never fully thought about it like that, but yeah. And when we returned, we had seen a lot in the Philippines and big focus was, how can we help a lot of these people, even from afar? And then, of course, it kind of quickly turned within our own country and our own communities. And so pretty much right when we got back, the schools had closed and immediately we were thinking of the children and the students, what is going to happen with the schools closing, the kids who depend on the meals?
(39:16): And fortunately, the school district still had a program set in place to feed students, the kids. And so then our focus shifted to, "Well, what about the families in our community where people are losing their jobs?" So we started this program with a few other folks in the community and in collaboration with the school district and the Chamber of Commerce was involved as well. But we kind of looked at the fact that we had a space to produce food. And so our focus was, "How do we help people in our community?"
(40:19): And the district, the school district, helped build this program. We called it Supper Support. And they contributed a lot of money. We got a grant, as well. And then there were a tremendous amount of private donations from people in the community. So we had all this funding to start this project, which it ultimately became a number of things. But it was a way to feed families that were in need.
(41:04): So we would put together boxes and through the school we would kind of connect with the families that were really struggling with food and resources. So that was one aspect of it. And then the other one was to take that money and cycle it into the restaurants. So we were paying restaurants to produce meals for folks who were in need. So typically, we would feed 120 people each time and a lot of that was meals that the participating restaurants would create. So, it's a pretty cool program and helped a lot of people.
Adam Williams (42:00): Yeah. I hadn't known about that story. My family, we moved here almost a year into the pandemic and so weren't here when those things were happening, maybe. At least not when they started. I want to talk with you about music now because I know that's another passion for you and that you recently, well, at least within recent months, also became the concert manager for the Surf Hotel and for the venues related to that, like the Ivy Ballroom. Does that also include for the Lawn for summer concerts or things that happen at The Meadows? Like we just had Billy Strings and his Renewal Festival here. Are you involved in all of those venues and aspects?
Eddie Sandoval (42:49): More so the Surf Hotel events.
Adam Williams (42:53): Does that include the Lawn?
Eddie Sandoval (42:55): Yes.
Adam Williams (42:55): Okay. So the Lawn and the Ivy Ballroom?
Eddie Sandoval (42:57): Mm-hmm. Yeah, the event in The Meadows was put on by a different production company.
Adam Williams (43:06): That's associated with Billy?
Eddie Sandoval (43:06): Yeah.
Adam Williams (43:08): Yeah, okay. I want to ask about your interest in music and where that comes from? Do you play instruments? Was there a particular time in your life where that fire kind of got lit? Or someone influential in your life, maybe your sister who you followed to college or if it was your parents or just friends? Or what it was that turned you on to a genre or music as a whole or whatever?
Eddie Sandoval (43:34): Yeah. I would say that music has, I think, since the beginning has always been at the core of who I am. It's interesting to hear my mom talk about when I was a little toddler listening to my grandmother play the piano. And sometimes I'd be the only one in the room and then she would leave the room and I would then go to the piano and try to play by ear what she was playing. And my mom loves reminiscing about that because from the other room they were wondering, "Who is that in there?"
(44:26): And they'd go in there and the little two-year-old Eddie is in there trying to replicate what his grandmother just played. But I feel like there have been some very specific instances of these very visceral experiences with music from my teenage years and it still continue to this day, seeing so many legends of different genres. And I spent a semester in Spain when I was in college and saw Paco de Lucia in this theater in Sevilla.
(45:17): And it was just this incredible experience that just felt so emotional. It felt so cultural but just to see these masters of their trade and playing music that was new but also celebrating music from the late 18th century. And I've had a number of experiences like that, seeing Del McCoury and John McLaughlin and Buddy Guy and all these legends of their genres. And yeah, it's just always been something that's been such a deep part of me.
Adam Williams (46:12): Yeah. It is visceral in these things that move our soul, move our bodies. And now you have this role with the Surf and with, I think, this amazing venue between the Ivy Ballroom and the Lawn. It's incredible that we have this in town and I think even more so who is drawn. The level of artists that are drawn to this small, rural central Colorado mountain town to perform.
(46:41): So for example, I saw recently that coming up in December, there is a Grammy Award-winning R&B artist, right? I mean, coming to this little town. In November, there's the 50 Years of Hip Hop Event with multiple artists. But I actually have had an opportunity to talk with Big Samir from the Reminders. He and his wife, Aja Black, they are the duo of the Reminders and they're going to be here for that. I mean, these are people who travel and tour the world performing and yet they come to our little town.
(47:19): So one of my curiosities that has been burning for a while, so I'm really glad to be able to ask you this, is what it is that draws these artists to come past the Front Range, to travel past Denver, outside of Colorado Springs. They come past Red Rock's Amphitheater that's famous in the Denver area, to come to this small town of a few thousand people and be like, Billy Strings, he brings a festival here. I mean, we know why the place is amazing, but do you have a sense? Do you get feedback from these artists on what's amazing to them as traveling performers to make the effort to come to this place?
Eddie Sandoval (48:01): Yeah. Well, I think I could say as an artist, these folks just want anybody and everybody to listen to what they have to offer creatively. And so it's pretty interesting to see how large of an industry it is, but also how small it is and the word of mouth that travels quickly about. In this case, in particular, we have just a premier set of venues in Central Colorado. So if somebody wants to get out past the Denver- Boulder area, they want to see the Rockies and they want to share their music, they look for these places that can provide a good space.
(49:00): And so along with the Belly Up and what we're doing, what the Lariat is doing and our friends down in Salida at Stoke, it's a pretty amazing place to host music. Clearly, the musicians will come here and see the beauty of these mountains and then when they're just treated with such grace and hospitality at the Surf Hotel, I think that gets shared amongst their peers.
(49:39): So yeah, it's pretty cool thing to be a part of. I think, those first years, it was hard. They were cold calling artists to come try to play at these venues and now we've shown people in the industry that this is really a special place to come and perform.
Adam Williams (50:05): That's incredible.
Eddie Sandoval (50:06): Yeah.
Adam Williams (50:06): And I'm grateful for it as somebody who's here and gets to even just take a walk along the river with my wife while there's a concert at the ... It permeates the vibe of the town when these artists are here and performing. So I appreciate that's there. I appreciate the venues and now your role in booking artists and leading the way here.
Eddie Sandoval (50:32): Yeah, it's amazing. It's really cool to be a part of it. And music, in my opinion, is one of those things that can really bring people together through the feelings that culminate with it, joy, happiness and wonder through this beautiful art form. It's really awesome to be a part of it. And for me personally, I've always listened to older music, music from the '20s and '30s and the '60s and the '70s and kind of got stuck on that for most of my life.
(51:20): And now to be in this role to really explore what's out there, it's pretty amazing to have my eyes open. It's like this awakening of all these hardworking artists who are putting such great music out all over the place. So to share that with people in those communities is ... I'm really grateful for that.
Adam Williams (51:48): Eddie, I appreciate all of this. I appreciate who you are, your passions that you bring to food and music and community. Thank you again for coming in here. It's been an honor to talk with you.
Eddie Sandoval (52:01): Thank you, Adam. Thank you for everything you do and connecting our community with this thoughtful and insightful vision and project that you have and it's a real pleasure to be here with you.
[Transition music, instrumental guitar]
Adam Williams (52:28): Thanks for listening to the We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream Podcast. If our conversation here today sparks curiosity for you, you can learn more in this episode show notes at wearechaffee.org.
If you have comments or know someone in Chaffee County, Colorado who I should consider talking with on the podcast, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We invite you to rate and review the, We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream Podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify or whatever platform you use with that functionality.
(52:57): We also invite you to tell others about the Looking Upstream Podcast. Help us to keep growing community and connection through conversation. Once again, I'm Adam Williams, host, producer and photographer. John Pray is engineer and producer. Thank you to KHEN 106.9 FM, our community radio partner in Salida, Colorado. To Heather Gorby for graphic and web design. To Andrea Carlstrom, Director of Chaffee County Public Health and Environment. And to Lisa Martin, Community Advocacy Coordinator for the We Are Chaffee Storytelling Initiative.
(53:26): The We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream Podcast is a collaboration with the Chaffee County Department of Public Health and the Chaffee Housing Authority and it's supported by the Colorado Public Health and Environment Office of Health Disparities. You can learn more about the Looking Upstream Podcast and related storytelling initiatives at wearechaffee.org and on Instagram and Facebook at We Are Chaffee.
Lastly, until the next episode, as we say here at We Are Chaffee, share stories, make change.