For the last couple of years local musician John Paul Ortiz, has performed throughout the Crossroads, from farmers markets to Fossati’s Delicatessen and now every Wednesday night at El Paso Tacos and Tequila.
While John Paul, 34, plays various music covers on his guitar, it is the original compositions that take on more significant meaning and connects him with his older brother as he continues to grow as an artist.
His brother, George Michael Ortiz, 35, of Alamo, writes the poems that John Paul puts to music.
When the two were in high school in the late 2000s, George Michael was going through a lot of heartache from break-ups and started writing poetry as way to deal with the emotion he was feeling, he explained in a phone interview.
At the time, unknown to him, John Paul was learning to play the guitar, he said. Their father kept an old guitar in an upstairs room and he would hear his brother playing it.
One day John Paul asked his brother if he could look at his poetry book. Despite being shy and embarrassed by his poetry, he gave his brother the OK to go forward, George Michael said.
“It was very personal. We’ve always been close, so I said ‘you know what man give it a shot,’” the older brother said.
After waiting for a bit, John Paul composed a song based on one of the poems. Despite John Paul claiming it was not very good, his brother was blown away, he said.
“I was really choked up because I was going through a lot of hurt and heartache,” George Michael said. “It almost seemed like a mirror, like how I wanted to sing it, if I ever could; how I wanted to play it, if I played guitar; it would be exactly like that.”
From there, they worked on an album together called “Sorrow Filled Skies” under the name Love Me Last.
John Paul went on to perform at various venues in the area.
But life eventually happened and both brothers moved away from the Victoria area, which kept them from communicating and collaborating, John Paul said.
John Paul moved to Northeast Pennsylvania with his wife and child where he didn’t play guitar live for people outside of church events, he said.
The family moved back to Victoria in 2019 because his mother was ill at the time, but she recovered.
John Paul got the itch to perform again in March 2020 to see how far he could go with their music, he said.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic happened. But unlike other situations where it was seen as a hinderance, the pandemic actually provided an opportunity for John Paul to knock off the rust, relearn to play and develop the calluses on his fingers he lost from not playing for so long.
He remembers the reaction he received when everyone saw his first Facebook post saying he was going to be playing at the Farmers’ Market.
People told him they still had his first album.
That more subdued environment allowed for him to grow as a performer again, he said.
As Downtown Victoria continues to come alive, John Paul is growing as a performer with it.
“There were a lot of places that would normally have full bands that couldn’t because of COVID and I think that really gave me a lot of opportunities,” he said. “Ten years ago none of this stuff was down here. None of it seemed as accessible as it is now. I feel a lot of people are more open to live music.”
He is enjoying growing as a musician at the same time downtown Victoria is growing as a destination.
“Everyone is just a community working together,” he said.
Between the pandemic and the music the brothers have stayed connected through video chats. They are working on a new album called “Of All the Hearts in the World she She Chose You,” he said.
They have a lot of ideas for the album, but John Paul has his brother’s full support, George Michael said.
In the meantime, John Paul will continue to share his brother’s poetry through his music everywhere he plays.