Features March 4, 2024

Slow Joy: Emotional Honesty and Universal Appeal

by Ely Corliss

Digging Deep

Esteban Flores, the visionary behind the solo project Slow Joy, stands out not only for his unique blend of grunge, emo, and shoegaze but also for his deeply introspective approach to music creation that is both hauntingly personal and universally appealing to fans of the genre(s). 

Hailing from Texas, Flores lives in Dallas, with his wife and his dog, where he has been for the last decade. With his music, Flores has just recently fostered a project that serves as both a personal catharsis and a sonic exploration, resonating with a wider audience then he expected it would through its raw emotion and authenticity. This unique fusion, coupled with the project’s inception rooted in personal loss and therapeutic discovery, paints a vivid picture of an artist dedicated to exploring the depths of the human experience through music.

Making Music for Nobody Else

“It’s really a solo project. A lot of the homies will jump in and play with me but it’s usually a revolving door because everyone is everywhere. I have guys in New York, guys in L.A., guys over here in Texas… we are kind of on the older side, so it’s hard to get someone to do all of the things.”

Contrary to how he may feel, Flores, 31 at the time of this interview, is still a relatively fresh face on the scene. In just a few short years, Slow Joy has garnered millions of streams across Spotify, Instagram, and TikTok, enabling Flores to dedicate himself to music full-time for the past year or so. Having spent his high school years in various bands, he once doubted his prospects in the music world. Flores, who had always aspired to achieve the success of the bands he idolized, found himself grappling with the realities of adult life in his 20s.

The journey of Slow Joy began in a moment of profound personal crisis, following the loss of Flores’s mother. Music, once a central pillar of his life, had been relegated to the background as the realities of responsibility and grief took hold.  “My mom had just died, she left behind two of my sisters and they were both in school. I had to get the real job… It’s just one of those things where life caught up to me and I can’t keep doing this chasing the dream thing. It was then that I was just kind of done with it. I wasn’t going to do music anymore.” It was during this period of introspection and sorrow that a therapist suggested music as a means to process his grief. This advice led Flores down a path of self-discovery and artistic rebirth. “So I started music again but with no hope of anyone ever seeing it,” Flores recalls, marking the beginning of Slow Joy as a project defined by its commitment to authenticity and emotional honesty.

“I don’t want to chase the wind anymore.”

Flores’s approach to songwriting these days is deeply personal, prioritizing connection and self-expression over his previous aspirations for commercial success or critical acclaim. He seeks to maintain the integrity of his artistic vision, focusing on creating music that resonates on a personal level. “That’s always where I start when writing lyrics. Is this something that I connect to on a personal level?… Is this something that I care about? I don’t want to chase the wind anymore…” This philosophy has resulted in a body of work that is both emotionally charged and intimately relatable, offering listeners a glimpse into Flores’s inner world.

Musically, Slow Joy is a testament to Flores’s eclectic influences and his journey of musical discovery. Despite a conservative upbringing that limited his exposure to a wide range of music, Flores has embraced the sounds of grunge and other genres with a fervor that speaks to his deep connection to music as a form of expression. “I just recently started to get into grunge music,” he admits, highlighting his late but passionate embrace of a genre known for its raw emotion and powerful social commentary.

A One Man Show (Almost)

Flores’s approach to recording is reminiscent of the practices more commonly associated with artists in Nashville, known for their emphasis on live instrumentation, collaboration, and the organic development of songs. This methodology is clearly evident in Flores’s hands-on approach to his music. A multi-instrumentalist, he plays nearly all the instruments on his records, a testament to his versatility and dedication to the craft. However, this approach is not without its challenges, as Flores humorously recounts his experience recording his last single, “I Don’t Hate You”: “I usually try to play everything besides drums. I did drums on my last single, I Don’t Hate You. That song I just wanted to do everything. Then I did it and I was like I never want to do that again.” As he chucked. “It’s so stressful being the only guy. So I try to get as many other instrumentalists as I possibly can on stuff. It’s part of my process. I try to jump around, play different things, and get inspired by different things. It makes it more fluid for me to just play everything.”

The Dream Collab

This collaborative spirit extends to Flores’s work with other musicians and producers, particularly in his upcoming EP, where he worked with Mike Sapone, an American producer whose influence spans 3 decades of working with bands like Brand New, Taking Back Sunday, Boston Manor, The Front Bottoms, Mayday Parade, and Grouplove, among others. The partnership with Sapone underscores Flores’s commitment to collaboration and openness in the recording process, allowing space for each musician’s unique contribution to shape the final product.  “Lately, especially with this new EP coming out, I’ve really tried to focus on not finishing the entire idea…. If you have access to someone like (Sapone) you want to leave them space for them to do what they do and collaborate with them.” 

Connecting with the Crowd

The resonance of Slow Joy’s music with audiences around the world has surpassed Flores’s expectations, affirming the universal appeal of his deeply personal approach to music. “I didn’t anticipate any of this,” he reflects, marveling at the connection his music has forged with listeners across diverse backgrounds. This unexpected success serves as a reminder of the power of authenticity and the profound impact that music, born of personal struggle and introspection, can have on the human spirit.

Live performances offer Flores another avenue to connect with his audience, transforming each show into a shared emotional journey. The upcoming shows in Colorado, a state Flores holds dear, promise to be an immersive experience, showcasing the cathartic power of live music and the intimate bond between artist and audience.

Esteban Flores’s journey with Slow Joy is a narrative of resilience, creativity, and the transformative power of music. Through his deeply personal lyrics, unique yet familiar sound, and millions of authentic micro-connections with his fans, Flores has not only carved out a niche for himself in the music industry but has also offered a tool for people to process their own emotions and navigate their own paths through grief and self-discovery. His approach to recording, characterized by collaboration and an organic development of songs, no doubt will set him apart in the future. Slow Joy highlights the universal language of music and its ability to heal, connect, and inspire.

Catch Slow Joy in Colorado Springs, Denver and Greeley on 3/28-3/30, supported by Underseer and get your tickets at bandwagonpresents.com