Next month Americana singer/songwriter Ondara will just about be celebrating the one-year anniversary of the release of his third album, Spanish Villager No: 3, when he headlines The Lounge at World Café Live on Wednesday, September 13th (The album dropped September 16th of 2022, courtesy of Verve Label Group.) The concept album sees Ondara – who grew up in Kenya listening to ‘90s alt-rock, before falling in love with Bob Dylan, and relocating to Minneapolis in 2013, after being granted a visa through the immigration lottery system – building upon a character he claims to have been created by his subconscious mind for the subject of a short story, eventually turned into a graphic novel.
The Spanish Villager represents an alter-ego of Ondara’s, experiencing the same anxieties that Ondara did when moving to a foreign land. And Spanish Villager No: 3 is comprised of the Spanish Villager’s commentaries on the current state of America, and the world itself, boasting songs such as “An Alien In Minneapolis,” “A Blackout In Paris,” “A Seminar In Tokyo,” “A Drowning In Mexico,” and “A Shakedown In Berlin,” for which he released a visualizer this May. And during a recent phone chat, Ondara tells me that the song isn’t about quite what you might expect: “I remember the first time I wrote the lyrics to that song, sitting in an Airbnb in Paris, and there were some protests going on outside. It was originally going to be called ‘A Shakedown in Paris,’ but I already had a Paris song [laughs].”
The origins of Ondara’s latest album date back to a time when American life had him questioning his move to the US, and whether or not he should move back home. But amidst this questioning, the Spanish Villager served to help Ondara reevaluate what he has characterized as his original, “romance with America,” as an immigrant. When I ask if the past year spent with Spanish Villager No: 3 has helped to evolve this romance, he tells me, “That’s good question [laughs]. I’m certainly developing a healthier relationship with America, in that I’m more in tune with the everyday realities of it.”
Ondara has spent much of the time since the release of his third full-length touring the record throughout Europe and North America – including many intimate headlining dates, in addition to a number of dates opening huge stages for Rodrigo y Gabriela — on what he has dubbed the Rebirth Tour, which features an ultra-simple setup of just him and an acoustic guitar. “The reason it’s called the Rebirth Tour is because I’m trying to go back to the beginning, where it all started,” he tells me. He explains that much of the need for this rebirth is due to the constraints of the pandemic (immediately prior to which, he was supporting The Lumineers in arenas): “After not doing it for a long time, it’s been really great… Being able to connect to audiences, after years of not touring, has been really nice.” But, when I ask him if he has a preference for playing either the huge rooms, as support, or settings with the intimacy of The Lounge, he tells me that it is this connection that is what really matters: “I enjoy playing anywhere, really. It’s really more about if the audience and myself are having a good time and a good connection.”
*Get your tickets here.