On 'Top of the Mountain'
Musician Patricia Vonne credits Texas roots for her worldwide success
Fans of Patricia Vonne’s music will soon hear more of her blend of Tex-Mex, Latin, folk, and rock when her seventh album Top of the Mountain is released on May 25. But the native San Antonian musician/actress/filmmaker is already busy on the road in Europe playing before crowds long familiar with her music.
In an interview from Germany, CultureMap caught up with Vonne before her May 26 show at the Continental Club to discuss her new album, a piece of work she said involves “more attitude and grit than what I have done before.”
“The album is both vulnerable and playful at the same time,” she explained. “Singing about love lost, life lost, future possibilities, and past reflections, and most importantly the triumph of the human spirit.”
Vonne began the recording process for her new album last August, using a crowdfunding campaign to help finance production. According to Vonne, the new album contains “wider sonic landscapes” that are products of her collaboration with producers Rick Del Castillo on the English rock songs and Michael Ramos on the Spanish tunes.
The new album also includes co-writes with the likes of Alejandro Escovedo, Joe King Carrasco, New York roots rocker Willie Nile, and Steven Medina Hufsteter, lead guitarist of her favorite band, The Cruzados.
The inspiration for the album's title, said Vonne, is an almost universal fear of change. “We often keep needed change from occurring,” Vonne said. ‘To embrace it is to feel almost as if you’re jumping from a high cliff, out into the unknown, but ultimately you must have faith that it’s God’s plan and therefore in God’s hands.”
A true artist, Vonne has garnered plenty of attention and accolades beyond her music. Last year, she received the Best Animation Award at the Madrid International Film Festival for the video to her song “Huerta de San Vicente," a tribute to Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca. (Vonne and Michael Martin provided illustrations for the music video; she shot and edited the piece.)
A visit to Lorca’s summer home in Granada, Huerta de San Vicente, left a major impact on Vonne. “Everything in the home was left the way it was when he died,” she explained. “His untimely death by Franco’s regime was tragic and senseless. They tried to destroy his works but failed. Through this song and animation, I celebrate his life and his contribution to the world.”
Vonne will be back stateside in mid-May following a month-long European tour. “My music is a cinematic sweep of Southwestern mythology, south of the border Mariachi sizzle,” she said. “I find that the audiences in Europe have a deep respect and reverence for Texas music.”
She’s cultivated a strong following there since her days as a touring band member with Tito and Tarantula, which scored many of her brother Robert Rodriguez’s films. Movies such as From Dusk Till Dawn and Desperado are cult classics in Europe, especially Germany, and Vonne herself has been featured in Rodriguez’s Sin City big screen adaptations.
But even with her music recognized worldwide, Vonne remains more than appreciative of the musical and cultural roots that took a strong hold years ago in San Antonio. “This beautiful city has always harvested a hybrid mix of sounds and flavors,” she said. “This cultural melting pot has inspired all my albums to be original and bilingual."
Vonne expresses pride at being in the same, diverse company of area music stars, such as Flaco Jimenez, Charlie Sexton, Rosie Flores, Nina Diaz, Christa Bell, and Steve Earle.
“I think San Antonio is one of the most important cities for Latin music in America,” she added. “It’s got its own identity and it may be under the radar, but just look at the caliber of musicians that have come from this culturally rich city.”