To describe Alejandro Escovedo's career may take some time, and not just due to its lengthy history, but because the guy's been all over the place.
He comes from a wildly musical family, which includes his niece, Sheila E – the former collaborator and finance of the late Prince.
Escovedo's helped found one of the West Coast's early punk bands, The Nuns, played guitar for the cowpunk-defining group Rank & File, belted out straight-up rock with his brother Javier in the band True Believers and eventually embarked on a solo career that’s produced 14 albums.
No matter what he's playing, the singer-songwriter's music is its own unique blend of Americana, fusing elements of alt-country, blues, folk and even punk into an incomparable roots rock sounds that's all his own. A true pioneer that's been quietly behind many of today's popular musical genres, Rolling Stone even stated that “[to] call Alejandro Escovedo the godfather of modern country rock would sell him short.”
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“I think that if you were to try to explain me to someone, it would be difficult to explain what it is I do,” Escovedo joked about the diversity of his musical endeavors. “I play with this band called Church on Monday. They're a jazz band out of Austin. Then I play with a band out of Denton [with] these younger, indie rock kids in a band called Midlake and The Fieros who work with St. Vincent and things like that. I live in Dallas now, so I'm using a lot of musicians from there – some great, great musicians.”
Although he is credited as being a strong influence in some of today's modern music, Escovedo continues to draw inspiration from his past muses. Every year around his birthday he puts on a themed concert at the Moody Theater in Austin, performing his own songs and paying tribute to the music that has influenced him. Shows have included exploring the history of music in and around Austin, from the gospel group The Bells of Joy to the Butthole Surfers, and this past January's “A Thousand Kisses Deep: The Leonard Cohen Influence.”
Even just around the house, Escovedo honors the legacy of the artists who have made a significant impact on his music.
“There's not a day that goes by without playing some Bowie of some kind, but that's kind of been true ever since the first time I heard him,” Escovedo said. “Bowie's always been a steady diet since 'The Man Who Sold the World,' you know? When I was a kid I lived in Santa Ana, Calif. and he was going through radio stations doing promo. He came to this little town and we went over there to see what he looked like. He was more in his Greta Garbo kind of vibe and we just thought he was the most beautiful thing we’d ever seen.”
Now, Escovedo is taking advantage of that rich history filled with powerful influences and experiences. He’s put together yet another album. In April he traveled west to Portland and began recording the new record with Peter Buck (R.E.M.) and Scott McCaughey (The Minus 5), The Decemberists’ drummer John Moen, and guitarist Kurt Bloch.
And while he intended on writing music about the time he found himself lost in the San Jacinto mountains, his direction changed, instead focusing on a traumatic experience he and his wife went through as well as simply watching the intriguing ways in which society is evolving.
“My wife and I were on our honeymoon in Baja and we were hit with a category four hurricane, and we survived that,” Escovedo said. “That has more to do with what the record is about, and just what's kind of happening in our world today. The political environment is pretty volatile and there's a lot of craziness involved in that. A lot of things right now are affecting me. Getting older and seeing the world become what it's become has been very interesting. There certainly is plenty to write about.”