Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on Feb 28th 2010 3:45PM by Carl Atiya Swanson
How would you describe your sound?
Oh, God -- hard-core rocking country-slash-rockabilly, I guess.
How did you get started in music?
I grew up a child of the Fifties, so I grew up with a lot of great American music influences, from jazz to the first rock 'n' roll I started hearing on the radio, from Elvis and Buddy Holly. And then when we moved out to California I became entranced with Buck Owens and Tammy Wynette, and then as the pop culture would have it, then came the Beatles and the British Invasion and I kind of forgot about Elvis for a while and just got into blues. Then after that, I fell back into country. I played all kinds of music. I started out in garage bands when I was 16 years old in San Diego, and when I moved back here [to Texas] I had already had a full-on career. I had signed to Warner Bros. and established myself and was just living my life.
What are your musical influences?
That's a complicated thing for me to put into one word because I am a songwriter, a lead guitar player and a singer, so I have three influences that come from whichever of those areas you're looking at. Probably one of my biggest influences for guitar would be somewhere between Jeff Beck and Albert Lee; for songwriting, it would be somewhere between Merle Haggard and Bob Dylan; and for singing, it would be somewhere between Ella Fitzgerald and Tammy Wynette. How's that to confuse everybody? [Laughs]
Your newest record, 'Girl of the Century,' is getting some good press. How does that feel?
Yeah, it is going really good, it is getting up some charts and it is been really fun to watch people react to this record. It almost reminds me of how people were reacting to the first record [1987's 'Rosie Flores']. A lot of critics have said that this is the one that takes us back to the first record, and it's being up there and comparable to the first record. A lot of the critics through the years have been saying, "Oh, she can't beat that first record. That first record was a classic. This one's really good but not as good as that first one." The critics have been all over my ass about that. [Laughs]
There's a lot of different sounds on the new record: original rockabilly tunes, Johnny Cash covers, and the title track starts off as a poetic ballad. Why all the changes?
I'm glad it was recorded the way it was recorded because it's got a really cool sound to it and it's diverse, which is what I like people to think about me, I don't like to be in just one bag. I like to take people on a journey; that's what I do on every record and in my shows, too, so that they're not listening to the same kind of song every song. To me, when I go see a band like that, I can get a little bored: Maybe because I'm a musician, I tend to think, "Well, they've done that rhythm a bunch, move it around a little bit!" [For the song 'Girl of the Century'] I wrote the melody for it and I picked the lyrics out of a book of paintings and poetry. The guy who you will always see on the credits for that is Tony Fitzpatrick, and he is a really cool outside artist, a folk artist who lives in Chicago. He is quite famous in the music world for doing Steve Earle's album covers.
You won a Peabody Award for narrating a documentary on rockabilly music, 'Whole Lotta Shakin'.' What's it like to win a Peabody?
It was mind-blowing. I never thought I would win a Peabody Award; I didn't even know if anyone would know what they were when I won it [laughs]! Is that kind of like a Grammy, except for documentaries and writing [laughs]?
How do you keep a career going all these years?
I am about to turn 60, and I'm one of these ladies that developed in my own way, and if I'm still rocking and rolling it's because I've lived my life in my own way. I haven't had anyone put any heavy-handed influences on me except for the people I've wanted to have influence me. I get to choose the records and choose the producers and choose the musicians and dress the way I want to dress, and I feel I've stayed young that way. People tell me that I should be huge by now and why aren't I huge, but that's not happiness for me. I live my life going out on the road and meeting people; people invite me over to their house. A lot of people who are huge get on their bus, go to the stage, get back on the bus and go back to the hotel. They don't get to have coffee with really cool people in their house and wake up and meet their kids and their dogs. I've made so many great friends, and to me, that's my success.
Carl Atiya Swanson is a contributor from Seed.com. Learn how you can contribute here.