The illustrious, highly acclaimed Texas-based musician and songwriter brings a brief tour to Michigan for shows in Grand Rapids and Three Oaks. The Local Spins interview and a playlist.
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After an illustrious, topsy-turvy, tragedy-laden, ever-evolving and much-celebrated career, Alejandro Escovedo has more than his share of riveting tales to tell, from the poignant to the inspiring.
“It does get personal,” Escovedo says of his solo shows. “You have to remember that my first solo album came as a result of a very tragic event in my life – the suicide of my wife. My first two albums were very much about that: grief and healing and all the things that come with an event like that.
“I’ve always been very open about that stuff in my writing. When I finally began to do more and more solo work, which I did grudgingly, I began to embrace it. It was really about telling those stories and talking about my life, because it has been a long and varied experience for me.”
Audiences in Michigan will get a rare opportunity to embrace that “long and varied experience” when the Texas-based Escovedo plays two shows as part of a brief Midwest tour – Thursday (June 15) at Midtown in Grand Rapids solo and Friday (June 16) at Three Oaks’ Acorn Center for the Performing Arts for the Acorn Music Festival as part of a trio.
Tickets, $45-$55, for the 7:30 p.m. Midtown concert are available online at themidtowngr.com.
Tickets, $100, for Day 1 of the Acorn Music Festival, which will also feature blues/soul singer Shemekia Copeland, The Bergamot, Buddy Pearson 3 and Nikki Morgan, available at acornlive.org. (Cracker, May Erlewine and more play the festival Saturday; Son Volt, The Crane Wives and others on Sunday.)
The son of a Mexican immigrant, Escovedo has been regarded by many as one of America’s most important songwriters and performers – starting his career with The Nuns punk band, roots rock’s The True Believers and alt-country’s Rank & File, before embarking on a solo career that’s deftly weaved rock ’n’ roll, Americana, folk and Spanish-language charm into his music.
A NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE AND A PENCHANT FOR HONEST MUSIC
Born into a family of 13 children – eight of whom are professional musicians – Escovedo has survived life-altering calamities while blazing his musical trail. In 2003, he collapsed after a show and was hospitalized for Hepatitis C, which nearly ended his life before he recovered after “a rigorous regimen of treatment.”
It inspired his album, “The Boxing Mirror,” a puissant collection that was followed by the compelling 2008 rock release, “Real Animal,” featuring songs co-written with Chuck Prophet. Along the way, he’s worked with the likes of Ian Hunter, Bruce Springsteen, John Cale, Peter Buck and many more.
Baring his soul through stories of travails and successes has been important, he told Local Spins, “because that experience isn’t your typical rock ’n’ roll rise to stardom kind of story. It was a lot of work, a lot of hardships and missteps along the way and whatnot.
“The writers that I’ve always loved – Leonard Cohen and Neil Young and Townes Van Zandt and John Prine – seem to have been very honest and open about their lives.”
Audiences at his solo shows can expect Escovedo to “take a little more time and space between songs and tell stories about songs and whatever’s on my mind at the time, and really concentrate on telling the story within the song.”
They can also expect to hear some of his favorites from an illustrious career: “Five Hearts Breaking,” “Sensitive Boys,” “Swallows of San Juan,” “Castanets” and “By Eleven,” as well his rendition of Hunter and Mott the Hoople’s “I Wish I Was Your Mother.” (Escovedo calls Mott the Hoople his favorite band since he was a kid.)
“The best part is that it’s just the song and I can present it in a way how I wrote it,” Escovedo says of his solo shows. “That’s a beautiful part of it for me. … It’s very primitive, it’s very minimal, but I love it.”
Escovedo, who lives with his wife, Nancy, and two dogs outside Austin, follows his brief Midwest swing by traveling to Alberta to work with a theater group on a one-man show based on a memoir he’s writing. There also are plans for an upcoming release of a double-album that will feature “a very different take” on some his older material, as well as a new record titled, “Luna.”
The projects are just the next adventure in what’s rolled out as an impactful, action-packed career for an artist who’s always stuck to his guns, in spite of the ups and downs of a rock ’n’ roll life.
“I think what I did do right is I did stick to my music. I wasn’t swayed by trends or anything else,” he said. “I’ve always found my own voice. I didn’t sell a lot of records, but when I do leave this, I think I’ve left a very strong body of work that I can be proud of.”
Congrats to Local Spins readers Tim Jones, David Ellyatt and Keith Jacobsen. They won tickets to see Alejandro Escovedo on Thursday. Sign up for Local Spins email updates and chances to win tickets to upcoming concerts at https://localspins.com/subscribe-local-spins-mailing-list/.
ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO: The Local Spins Top 15 Playlist on Spotify
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