Rock icon talks Woodstock, Rob Thomas, new album

Rock icon talks Woodstock, Rob Thomas, new album

How do you define that Carlos Santana guitar sound?

Even the man, himself, is stumped.

It has something to do with passion and emotion, the rock legend says. But beyond that, he tries not to think about it too much.

All he knows is this: He can pick up any guitar, anywhere, and it comes out sounding like him.


“I have no idea!” Santana says and laughs. “I just close my eyes and feel my gut and my heart and make ugly faces. And there it is.”

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Carlos Santana

That soulful guitar tone is familiar one for Santana’s many, many fans, including the ones who will be packing Sunday’s nearly sold out Hertz Arena concert. The Grammy winner’s distinctive sound will be all over the night’s setlist with his band Santana, including likely contenders “Oye Como Va,” “Black Magic Woman,” “Evil Ways,” “Soul Sacrifice” and Rob Thomas collaboration “Smooth.”

Santana, 74, talked about his sound and a whole lot more during a recent interview with The News-Press and the Naples Daily News. The interview touched on everything from new album “Blessings and Miracles” (out Oct. 15) to how God helped him get over his fear at Woodstock.

Reporter Charles Runnells: The timing is perfect for this interview. I just watched the Netflix documentary “Count Me In,” which features your wife (and Santana drummer) Cindy Blackman Santana. She’s amazing! What’s it like touring together?

Santana: It’s a wonderful experience. Being with Cindy is a real gift, because I have never met anyone with the energy that she brings.

First of all, her devotion to — her energy is like an Olympic athlete. The diet, the exercise she does daily. Sometimes we play 2½ hours, or two hours, and then she takes a badass drum solo with so much energy.

She has this stamina. And when she’s not on the drums, she’s just an incredible, sweet, lovely person.

Carlos Santana

You talked about her stamina, but you’re playing those same shows with her, too, doing 2 to 2½ hours. Did you guys have that drive and energy in common?

To tell you the truth, something told me inwardly that I needed a trainer to teach me how to breath correctly. So I have breathing exercises and (I learned) how to stretch. … So I learned three things: Balance, equilibrium, confidence.

And you bring all three of those to the show?

Yeah, so I don’t pass out in the middle of the set!

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Let’s talk about the new album. Why did you make it? There are a lot of collaborators on “Blessings and Miracles.” You had a huge hit with (the 1999 album) “Supernatural,” and this is a similar concept.

Yeah, it’s a wave. I call it a wave. This “Supernatural” wave, and now it’s a “Miracles” wave. … Seems like there was divine intelligence working behind the scenes to connect me with all those artists in “Supernatural” and all those artists here again.

(On the new album) we share with Kirk Hammett from Metallica and Mark Osegueda from Death Angel, with Stephen Winwood, with Diane Warren — she wrote two songs in here — with Chick Corea. It was the last song he created before he went into the next reality. …

When I sit down and listen to it (the album) from beginning to end, it’s what I wanted to do: To be inspiring and uplifting.

I’m excited about Kirk Hammett! I’m a metalhead. Are you going in a heavier direction? 

Yeah, I tended to go that way. We also did a song called “Peace Power” with Corey Glover (of Living Colour) singing it. … But when you hear this album, you’re right. I could easily do a whole album of just hard-ass, kicking music like AC/DC or Metallica. Because we can.

Cindy can do that, and I can do that. It’s just a matter of getting with Kirk Hammett and crafting the songs and just burning. … There are two or three songs like that (on the album).

Carlos Santana

The first single is already out, “Move.” You’re reteaming with Rob Thomas (of Matchbox Twenty). What’s it been like collaborating with him again?

We continued to share with our brother Rob, you know. He created a couple songs on different albums in the past besides “Supernatural.” … So him and I, we’ve been in touch.

So this wave of “Move” in “Blessings and Miracles” — here comes that wave, that BIG wave. That’s what this is.

So you’re just catching the same wave again?

This is another, seventh wave. When you catch it, you go past the beach all the way to the lobby of the hotel, all the way to the parking lot (laughs).

I know the album title comes from your idea of spirituality, and I know spirituality is very important to you.


Does that spirituality extend to when you play guitar, or to music in general? Is there a spiritual connection happening?

I think we are in a place where we can accept the theory of Nikola Tesla and Einstein, that the metaphysical and the physical can dance together. You know?

Metaphysical is something that shamans understand: Aborigines, American Indians, Siberian shaman. … But when they both get together, the metaphysical and physical, then you’ve got Santana. Which is the energy that can go to the four corners of the world and you can partake in the middle of the room with grandparents, parents, teenagers and little children.

Unity, harmony, totality: That’s what metaphysical and physical gets you.

So when you pick up the guitar, do you feel yourself tapping into that energy — into the universe?

Yes! The first time I saw that, really really saw it — I wasn’t even in the body — it was at Woodstock. Someone else took over for me. ‘Cause I kept praying, “God please help me, please help me.” You know?

On one hand, I could have been totally petrified and paralyzed with fear. And then I said, “No, God, I believe if you just help me stay in tune and on time, I believe I can do this.” You know?

So ever since Woodstock, I learned to have the confidence that I am worthy to manifest something beyond my knowing.

Carlos Santana

I’ve heard it said that you can pick up any guitar and play it, and no matter what, it’ll come out sounding like a Carlos Santana solo. Is that true?

Yeah, it’s not a boast or bragging. It’s a fact. Once you feel musicians like Stevie Ray (Vaughan) or Jimi (Hendrix) or Eric (Clapton) or myself — certain musicians, from the first note, you know who they are, no matter what amplifier they’re playing and no matter what guitar they’re playing. Some people just have a signature sound vibration.

So how would you describe your sound? I know it when I hear it. But what makes it a Carlos Santana solo? What makes it your sound, your voice?

I think if I was a teacher or I was allowed to teach at a musical school like Juilliard or Berkl, I would say … I need you to focus on three things: Feeling, emotion and passion.

Put that into every single note, and you can more than make a living playing music.

Connect with this reporter: Email or connect on social media at Charles Runnells (Facebook), @charlesrunnells (Twitter) and @crunnells1 (Instagram).

If you go

What: Carlos Santana

When: 8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 19

Where: Hertz Arena, 11000 Everblades Parkway, Estero. 

Tickets: $36-$126 (plus applicable taxes and fees, prices subject to change). Parking on site is $25.

Info: 948-7825 or

Avi Adkins

Avi Adkins is a seasoned journalist with a passion for storytelling and a keen eye for detail. With years of experience in the field, Adkins has established himself as a respected figure in journalism.

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