By Nichole Harwood
Back in 2019, international artist Baz Francis Duarte made Albuquerque, New Mexico his home and newfound creative residence. Later that year, in collaboration with the Mansion Harlots, he presented his newest song and music video, “Panda Eyes,” a showcase of the vast cultural oddities of Albuquerque.
Duarte has had a lengthy career in music not only as a solo artist, singer, guitarist, songwriter, and pianist, but also as the co-producer in the bands Magic Eight Ball and Mansion Harlots. After more than a decade in the biz, he’s played his music in over 20 countries across four continents.
Originating from England just outside of London, Duarte said that he initially visited the United States in 2001, dreaming as a teenager that he would one day live in California. His dream came to fruition as an adult, and after some time spent playing the streets of Los Angeles, a scholarship for his wife from the University of New Mexico brought him to Albuquerque.
From there, Duarte has only watched his music career continue to grow, his travels to and from New Mexico shaping the voice of his music in new and interesting ways.
“When you do that desert driving and spend long hours on the road doing that, you contemplate a lot of things going on in your own life,” Duarte said. “You have that capped into a background that’s unfamiliar to your roots. So, adjusting to desert life is one thing, but it’s also the scenery upon which you have your personal experiences, whether it be with my wife, whether it be with my little puppy, or whether it be playing a show. I think that, forthcoming, my writing will be affected more by the traveling element rather than staying still.”
Duarte was inspired to become a musician at the age of fifteen when he heard his favorite band for the first time, a Welsh band by the name of Manic Street Preachers.
“There was something about their music that—it combined the elements of rock that were popular in the 90s and really drenched them in this mournful sense of melody, and it completely sucked me in,” Duarte said.
As the years passed, he began to be inspired by a bitter-sweetness in rock. Duarte said his music throughout his career has been inspired by Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Axl Rose and Kurt Cobain. The combination of these influences make Duarte hopeful that he injects what he considers to be soul into his music, resulting in a sound he describes as both melodic and soulful.
“To me, personally, whether it’s to other people, my music is uplifting,” Duarte said with a smile. “Because it’s my outlet to do what I love, and that makes me feel good. And apparently it makes a few others feel not so bad, either.”
Since he started living in New Mexico, Duarte has continued what he does best: sharing his music with another audience. Duarte has played at several music venues since moving to the Land of Enchantment including the Red Velvet Underground, Zia Amazing Maze, the Cafe Bella Coffee, and the Eye Brewing Company.
Soaking up the culture of the Duke City, Duarte even purchased his iconic outfit from the “Panda Eyes” music video from local business Off Broadway. Duarte has described his experiences in Albuquerque and New Mexico in general as hugely different to Los Angeles, and otherworldly compared to the UK. While he returned to England over Christmas last year, he said he no longer feels it is home anymore.
“I feel as American as I do English,” Duarte said. “I feel as Spanish and Colombian as I do American. My wife is Spanish-Colombian, and that’s why my surname’s Duarte. My stage name is Baz Francis. I changed my name back when we were dating—we weren’t even married, I just got adopted by her family.”
Duarte said that, as part of a household with strong Spanish and the Colombian elements, he has found himself embracing Albuquerque, New Mexico, and their large Hispanic community. It’s been educational, Duarte said, for him to see the ways in which the art and the ancient, pre-white history affect the area.
“To me, it is just so far removed from England. There’s a beauty in that, because I see a sense of identity here when you go somewhere where you’re out of your comfort zone. And, yeah, certainly weather-wise, it’s been an adjustment coming here. But culturally, that combination of white, Hispanic, and Native American gives this town just a very unique personality. And I really am quite fond of the place now,” Duarte said.
As of now, Duarte has released five albums in total. Three come from his band, Magic Eight Ball. He also boasts a solo album live-recorded in Egypt titled “Trainwrecks in the Desert.” His latest album featuring the song “Panda Eyes” was released with Mansion Harlots as “All Around A Fairground.”
With large panda eyes to the future, Duarte encourages musicians from New Mexico and beyond to reach out for future collaborations and encourages fans to follow him on social media to follow his next live shows.
Until then, he encourages new musicians to block out the naysayers and surround themselves with good people. Additionally, he says they should follow what they believe in rather than what is scheduled for their life by someone else.
Music, Duarte said, is one of the most beautiful things as it gives a warm embrace to it’s listener.
“You could be having a terrible day, and that song you love comes on the radio, and it feels like that singer is letting you know it’s gonna be alright,” Duarte said. “I’ve had many instances in my life where a song just appeared on a speaker and has soothed that pain. The best compliments that I’ve ever received in my life, the one thing that has really touched me, is when people say that they listen to my music at a time when things were bleak for them, and it helped them through that. I don’t know what they get from my music that does that. I don’t really need to know. But I’d say that that’s the most pure and beautiful way in which I like my music to be received.”
For more on his creative expeditions across Albuquerque and New Mexico, you can follow Baz on social media at:
@bazfrancis8 on Instagram
@bazfrancismusic on Facebook