Alejandro Escovedo reflects on Texas music and his journey prior to Gruene Hall
Alejandro Escovedo is a true Texas original. He hails from a musically inclined family and his father came here from Mexico. Settling in Austin in the '80s, he's also spent time in California and New York. Since then he has produced music, both in bands and as a solo act, that generally falls into the “cowpunk” label.
Touring relentlessly, Escovedo has built a devoted fan base that includes some of the music industry’s most respected personalities. Those friends came in handy when he suffered from a previously diagnosed but untreated case of Hepatitis-C and needed help paying his medical bills. Back in full health by 2005, he has since produced six albums, including 2012’s Big Station.
Gruene Hall owner, Pat Molak, had this to say about Escovedo's upcoming performance: "We’re very excited that Springsteen’s soul brother, Alejandro Escovedo, born in SA (in the USA) will be returning to Gruene Hall, bringing his very high quality, unique style of music with him. We love San Antonio – he’s a San Antonio native so we’re all looking forward to this rare show at the old Dance Hall."
We spoke with Alejandro recently about his February 8 performance at Gruene Hall, his take on Texas music past and present, and where his music comes from.
CultureMap:You come from a very musical family, but also are the son of an immigrant. That is a pretty unique story. How has that shaped your perspective and approach to making music?
Alejandro Escovedo: I was influenced by my older brother’s and father’s music and record collections. My mother was born in San Marcos, but my dad was from Mexico so they had different experiences but we found this common ground and love for records. My family had a huge influence on what I write about and how I wrote it.
CM: What does it mean to play Gruene Hall?
AE: It’s very historic, it’s a great treat. The last gig I did there we had quite a beautiful show, so I’m looking forward to playing there and having Amy Cook play with us.
CM: Besides Gruene Hall, what’s your favorite venue to play?
AE: The Continental Club.
CM: What’s it like working with Jon Landau (Bruce Springsteen’s manager)?
AE: He’s been wonderful, very supportive, very interesting in his opinions and outlook, the things he finds important. It has changed my life. The exposure and type of shows I’ve been playing and things I can do have changed.
CM: "Wave" is a pretty interesting song. It has an REM sound to it. Is this song about immigration? Or something larger?
AE: The song was inspired by my father and his stories he told me about leaving Mexico in order to find his parents who had gone to Texas to find work. It was the first one of a song cycle about his life. It was the inspiration for the play, By the Hand of the Father, that I did. It was stemming from his story.
CM: What’s the state of music in Texas right now?
AE: I think it’s really healthy right now. A lot of music is made here and there are a lot of good clubs to play. In Austin, there are so many styles: there’s new jazz guys in town, new rock bands, and there’s a little scene on the East Side.
CM: How has touring changed over the years?
AE: It’s changed quite a bit. It’s not as easy as it once was. As you get older it changes too. If I was just starting a band now, I’d be going through the same motions I was then of sleeping on your friends couches and what not.
CM: Do you like where you’re at now better?
AE: I’m not sure I do. [Laughs] It’s cool being with your mates, one of those “all for one and one for all” type things. But the physicality of it is not what it once was. All those things you have to do to get a decent gig, traveling around in the bus and what not.
CM: What is your favorite Texas band... other than your own, of course?
CM: What bands have you seen recently?
AE: The Ghost Wolves, the Happen-Ins, and the Mastersons.
CM: What’s next for you?
AE: Hit the road in March, SXSW, some shows with Los Lobos and Los Lonely Boys in the summer. Then I’ll start thinking about another record.
CM: You’ve played with Los Lobos for a long time, what fuels that partnership?
AE: They have always been inspiring to me, I love them so much, on a lot of levels. I’m always learning something from them. They’re just wonderful people to hang out with.
Gruene Hall is located near San Marcos, about 45 miles south of Austin. You can purchase tickets through the venue's site.