Up-and-Coming Musician Tall Juan Calls Rockaway Home


Tall Juan just finished up performing at popular California music festival Coachella, is gearing up for a world tour and is ready to drop his debut album, “Olden Goldies” on May 5. Joining the ranks of other up-and-coming artists like Mac DeMarco and Lewis Del Mar, this promising musician also calls Rockaway home.

Originally from San Antonio de Padua in Argentina, Tall Juan, born as Juan Zaballa, found himself moving to New York about five years ago. He spent some time living among the Latino communities of Queens such as Jackson Heights, where he befriended fellow musician Juan Wauters of Uruguay. Tall Juan spent some time playing with Wauters’ band, The Beets, and was inspired to start his own music career. After spending a while crashing at a practice place with fellow musicians in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where the living conditions were not ideal, Tall Juan wanted to find a place that felt more like home.

Tall Juan had first heard about Rockaway through a little band called The Ramones. He had been a big fan since the age of eight and the Queens-based punk rockers have had a big influence on Tall Juan’s own music. When he moved to New York, he started going to Rockaway to use the beach and when his friends suggested moving to Rockaway, he was right on board. “We went to see this house, which was beautiful, and started going late nights to check out the neighborhood. We didn’t know if it was the right move initially, but we finally did it and came out here and I think it was perfect,” Tall Juan said. He’s called Arverne home for about three years.

One of Juan’s former roommates was Mac DeMarco, another new artist who has made a name for himself in recent years. The Canadian-native drew some attention to Rockaway after giving out his address in one of his songs. Juan says DeMarco moved to Los Angeles about six months ago, but fans still come to the house looking for him. “They come and I tell them that that I’m sorry, he’s not here anymore, but I give them things he left behind like old sunglasses to keep,” Tall Juan said.

Before leaving, DeMarco helped Juan to record his own music and invited him to be his opening act for some shows. “We’re still good friends. He helped me whenever he could,” Juan said. When not busy touring across the country or world, Tall Juan retreats back to Rockaway. Some of his favorite local spots include Last Stop, Breezy Shakes and Dogs, Plum Tomatoes, Goody’s, and the beach, bay and boardwalk. “It’s really nice to hang out and walk along the boardwalk now that it’s back. The beach is the best part of Rockaway of course, but I also like where I live near the bay. I like to watch the ducks and swans there and being close to the wildlife reserve. When I was in Argentina, I was away from the city in an area that was like the Rockaway of Buenos Aires, so I really feel at home here,” he said.

 He’s also found it to be a good spot for inspiration. “I wrote maybe half of the songs on my album, right in my room in Rockaway. A lot of the time I would go to the beach for a walk in winter and come back with an idea,” he said. His new album even has a song called “Far Rockaway” and the idea for his album name, “Olden Goldies” came from a neighbor. “I was at this new 99 Cent store across from Goody’s for its grand opening and they were playing this really cool, old hip-hop music and we told the owner that we liked the music and he said, ‘this is the olden goldies.’ We though that was really cool. My friend who helped me with the album, Matthew Volz, was with me and said, ‘whenever you put out an album, you have to name it that.’” So he did.

“Olden Goldies,” Tall Juan’s first full-album, drops Friday, May 5. The album, which includes 15 songs, will be released by BUFU Records, a small label owned by Ben Katzman, who also lives in Arverne. The album has been in the making for about three years. “Since I started playing music, I recorded a few demos and I did one recording in a professional studio, but I didn’t like the results, so I decided to record everything again and I think it came out way better. I really like the vibe,” Tall Juan said.

Tall Juan says his lyrics are inspired by love, heartbreak and social issues. “I try to make it as personal as I can,” he said. He also says he doesn’t have a particular sound, as it is always changing due to different influences. “When I was inspired by Juan Wauters, he used a nylon string guitar, so I started using that too, and then I started playing with a classical guitar, playing rock and roll with nylon strings. I don’t have a particular sound, though. It’s changing all the time. I really like the vibe of The Ramones and other Queens artists, like Paul Simon, but I just recorded a song that sounds African. I’m still on my way to finding my own sound,” he said.

You’ll be able to hear Tall Juan’s sound at his album release party on Sunday, May 14. He’ll be performing at Baby’s All Right in Williamsburg (146 Broadway). Tall Juan will play songs from his new album, but the show will also be a Rockaway musician showcase, also featuring Ben Katzman’s DeGreaser, WILD YAKS and others. The show starts at 9 p.m. and goes on until midnight. This 18 and over event is $10 and tickets can be purchased at http://ticketf.ly/2o7AaPj

The Brooklyn show will be the last chance to see Tall Juan in the area, before he heads out on his world tour. In April, the new artist was given the opportunity to play among some of the most famous musicians out there at California’s Coachella Festival. Now he’s taking his music around the world, hitting stops in France, Spain, Germany, UK and the Netherlands, starting May 18 through mid-June, followed by a tour in Japan.

Tall Juan hopes to inspire others through his travels. “Being able to travel and do what I like to do is a dream. I remember how happy I would be to go see live shows and I felt so inspired to do something like that. I would love to be able to share that with others and make them feel the same way,” Tall Juan said.

For more information about Tall Juan, check him out on Facebook or TallJuan.com. You can also hear his music on www.bufurecords.com


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