THE prolific and extraordinary Patricia Vonne…
has been discussing her new album, Top of the Mountain. It is a full and intriguing record that boasts her traditional mix of English and Spanish-sung lyrics. I ask her about the album’s themes and why she concentrated on the idea of human embrace and uplift.
She talks to me about her upbringing and career so far; whether she has a favourite memory from music; if there will be tour dates outside of her home in the U.S.; what advice she would offer new artists of the moment – I ask what it feels like to be hailed as a Renaissance woman of Austin, Texas.
Hi, Patricia. How are you? How has your week been?
I’m in Germany on a five-week tour promoting my seventh album, Top of the Mountain - so, I’m having a great time sharing my music and rockin’ each town!
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
I’m a Latin Roots rocker from San Antonio, Texas residing in Austin. All my albums are bilingual. My music is Texas-influenced Roots Rock with a Latin flavor. My song, Traeme Paz, was featured in the film, Once Upon a Time in Mexico.
Your seventh album, Top of the Mountain, is out on 25th May. What are the main themes and ideas you investigate through the record?
Triumph of the human spirit (Top of the Mountain); finding love the second time around (Tidal Wave); the power of the Holy Spirit (Illuminaria); love lost (God’s Hands); a wedding song (Canción de la Boda); Western mythology (Western Blood); Elvis (Graceland Trip); a song for my mother (Madre de Perla); human survival (City Is Alive); the challenges of dating in this day and age of online dating and #MeToo (Lil’ Lobo) - and Lekker Ding is a coquettish love song inspired by the Dutch band, Golden Earring. It’s a charming Dutch phrase meaning ‘sweet thing’ - which the lead singer called out to me when I shared the bill with them.
There is a celebration of the human spirit and the need to embrace something powerful and healing. Do you think, in these turbulent times, that message is paramount?!
Yes. It is paramount that we the people need to stand up and use our voices to resist the powers that be - that are devoid of human decency and moral compass. We are living in dark times.
The first track, Citadel, expresses this urgency: “This world is changing/our hands are tied/I’ve seen hatred lead the blind/Out of darkness comes the light/no more hatred no more lies”.
Have you noticed a shift from your earliest material? How do you manage to stay fresh but keep your identity intact?
For me, it’s about finding inspiration. I found tremendous inspiration with each song, and some were exciting collaborations. I love to travel and meet people from all over the world. I love languages and incorporating different cultures into the music. I’m always searching for a fine muse and curiosity ignites the fire.
You are a recent winner at the Madrid International Film Festival - Best Animation for Huerta de San Vicente. How did that make you feel?! Tell us more about that video…
That experience was life-altering. The honor of winning Best Animation in Lorca’s ancestral country is the greatest honor and confirms my intention of keeping his spirit alive and honoring his contributions. An added gift was meeting his niece, Laura Garcia Lorca. She invited me to an exhibition celebrating his life at Residencia de Estudiantes, which was the progressive school in Madrid where he met his influential friends Salvador Dali and Luis Buñuel.
I wrote the song as a homage to Federico García Lorca; one of the most influential Spanish poets of the 20th century. He was also a playwright and theatre director who, in a career that spanned nineteen years before his untimely death during the Spanish Civil War, resurrected the most basic strains of Spanish poetry.
Lorca spent summers at the Huerta de San Vicente from 1926-1936. Here he wrote some of his major works such as Romancero Gitano (Gypsy Ballads, 1928), Bodas de Sangre (1933’s Blood Wedding); Yerma (1934) and Casa de Bernarda Alba (1936), which I feature in my animation.
I visited his home, which is now a museum, in Granada, Spain and the experience was so impactful it inspired the song and animation.
I used original illustrations and stop-motion photography; illustrations by Patricia Vonne and Michael Martin. Rotoscoped by Johnny Villarreal (Edge of Imagination Station); music and lyrics shot and edited by Patricia Vonne.
You have been called a Renaissance woman of Austin, Texas. What is Austin like for an ambitious songwriter?
Austin offers a great quality of life. It’s a liberal pocket in a conservative state. It’s the home of many influential artists, so the potential to be able to collaborate with them is great. With over 4000 musicians in Austin, the competition is also stiff, so it keeps you on your game.
We have entities like Austin Music Foundation that offer complimentary educational programs about the business, which is very helpful.
Every night of the week, you can go out and listen to live music, which is very inspiring. One of my favorites is Jimmie Vaughan at his weekend residency at CBoys. He gave me the best tip on guitar-playing since I’ve been playing lead on my instrumental compositions...he told me: “Just play what you hear”...
Which musicians mean the most to you? What sounds did you grow up around?
I would listen to the Cruzados, Lone Justice; Johnny Reno, Buddy Holly and Elvis...
I was greatly influenced by the Mexican folksongs of the Mariachis growing up in San Antonio. My parents encouraged music in the house and we would sing as a family, with my mom accompanying us on Spanish guitar and teaching us how to harmonize.
I feel honored to have worked with or shared the bill with some of my musical heroes like Joe Ely, Rosie Flores; Charlie Sexton, Alejandro Escovedo; Texas Tornadoes, Johnny Reno; Joe King Carrasco, Raul Malo; Los Lobos, Flaco Jimenez and Doyle Bramhall, to name a few.
Can we see you perform soon? Where are you heading?
A complete list of live dates is on my website. I’m on tour in Europe right now promoting Top of the Mountain. I have C.D. release parties back home in Austin TX at the Continental Club, May 26th; June 2nd at Sam’s Burger Jt. in my hometown of San Antonio and June 8th in Houston at the Continental Club. I’ll be returning in the fall in Europe.
Will you head to the U.K. at all? Are you a fan of our music?
I toured the U.K. back in 2006 and got to perform a private event for Sir Michael Parkinson. I struck up a conversation with him about the film, The Slipper and the Rose, with British actress Gemma Craven (which is a family favorite). I enjoyed it immensely. I’d love to return.
What do you hope to achieve in 2018?
After the release of my new album, I look forward to producing more music videos and animation films with my own Bandolera Productions.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
Touring as a member of Tito and Tarantula...
They scored many of my brother’s films, From Dusk Till Dawn, Desperado and Machete. Tito Larriva, the lead singer-songwriter, had a band called the Cruzados. They were hugely influential in my music. On my debut album, I wrote El Cruzado as an homage. On my new album, I co-wrote Western Blood with the lead guitarist of the Cruzados, Steven Medina Hufsteter. That was a dream come true - and I got to play lead guitar on the recording. I feel like an honorary Cruzado!
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Believe in yourself and your art. You have one life to live...so make it count.
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