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ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO: AUSTRALIAN TOUR INTERVIEW

DRW Entertainment is proud to present, for the first time in Australia & New Zealand, much loved Mexican-American singer-songwriter Alejandro Escovedo. Alejandro will perform at the Port Fairy Folk Festival and at side shows on the East Coast in March 2019.

Recipient of the Americana Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as the Austin Music Award’s Townes Van Zandt Songwriter Award, the legendary Mexican-American singer-songwriter will tour on the back of his acclaimed new immigration-themed album The Crossing. Many would argue that such is the popularity of Escovedo, that he has stolen the mantle of Austin, Texas’ favourite son from Stevie Ray Vaughan (although his recent move to Dallas may have diluted that notion).

As comfortable performing with a string ensemble as he is with an amped-up power trio, and as likely to bare his soul in his lyrics as he is to lay out some serious rock & roll swagger, Escovedo had already played an important role in punk (with the Nuns), roots rock (the True Believers), and alt-country (Rank & File) before he launched a solo career that’s seen him work with everyone from John Cale to Bruce Springsteen.

Alejandro’s latest album, The Crossing, released in September 2018 and one of the most acclaimed of his career, looks at matters of immigration and the broken Promised Land that is America through the focused and unflinching poetry Alejandro is known for. Recorded with Italian musician Antonio Gramentieri, the album tells a story of a pair of young Mexican and Italian musicians trying to find a home in today’s America. It includes cameos from underground rock royalty in the personages of MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer, Stooges guitarist James Williamson and Peter Perrett and John Perry of The Only Ones, as well as Texan country great Joe Ely.

Australian Musician’s Greg Phillips spoke to Alejandro this week about the upcoming Australian tour.

Alejandro, we are so glad that you are finally going to make it to Australia.
I’m excited about coming to Australia, you know … I have never been. My first trip down under and I’ll be playing with Tim Rogers, it will be good times.

Why has it taken so long for you to get to here?
It’s a combination of things. I don’t remember ever been asked to come down and play, it’s just never happened and it’s been too bad I wish I had gone earlier but better late than never I guess.

Because you have never toured here and some folks will not know a lot about you, I wanted to go back a bit. Who were some of the people that made the biggest impact on you growing up?
My father was musical, he sang all the time. He played a little guitar, very crudely but he played. He loved country music and Mexican music exclusively. Then my mother loved big band jazz. I come from a large musical family. My older brothers played Latin jazz and salsa so there was all kinds of stuff. Then a girl, my cousin who raised me pretty much and she was a rocker, loved Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, The Big Bopper and especially Elvis. She was an Elvis freak. So I grew up listening to all of that kind of music that would be played in our house. Then when I moved to California I started to follow my own kind of interests and I used to love the Rolling Stones and Yardbirds, The Pretty Things, Troggs, the ‘garagey’ stuff. Then I fell in love with Bowie, Roxy Music, Mott The Hoople, T Rex, that kind of scene, which led to the MC5 and New York Dolls, Stooges and Velvet Underground.

Your old punk band The Nuns was the support act for the final Sex Pistols gig. What do you remember about that gig?
The Sex Pistols gig was … it was the end of punk rock as we knew it and it was also a kind of a look behind the curtain of the music industry. I saw how corrupt and messed up it was. It was a strange gig because as the Sex Pistols was falling apart, it seemed liked everything I had believed in rock n roll was falling apart also.

In 2004 there was a tribute album released of your music called Por Vida. When did you first become aware that they were putting that together?
Right around that time I was sick, I was quite ill and people like Bloodshot Records started to do a lot of benefits and so did the Continental club in Austin and that kind of sparked this wildfire of benefist and from that the record came out. It was a beautiful thing to happen. I had nothing to do with it apart from being humbled by the gesture.

Were there any tracks that you were really surprised by?
Not really, I loved them all. I thought it was a great record. I can tell you the first tracks I heard were John Cale’s version of She Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and Ian Hunter’s version of One More Time. I was very ill at that time so emotionally I was a little fragile and I remember just being really overwhelmed emotionally by those two because they were both real heroes of mine those guys.

Your current album is The Crossing. When you came up with the concept for the record, what did you hope to achieve?
We came up with the concept of the album when I was touring with Don Antonio in Italy. We did one tour where we did 32 shows in 10 different countries and it was a really inspiring tour. I went back two months later and toured Southern Italy and it was there that we started to see the connection between Mexican culture and Italian culture. That’s when we started to devise the story of a young boy in Southern Italy and young boy from a southern state in Mexico. They both meet at the age of 14 at a restaurant where they are both working in Galveston Texas and it’s there that they devise a plan to go in search of the music and film and the art that they love in America. What they come across is a very different America, a very closed and paranoid America.

In the America you are currently living in, do you think the message and the lyric is more important than it’s ever been?
It seems to have struck chord with people just because there is so much discussion about the wall and Trump and his policies and they’ve been very abusive to people and divisive. The record seems to have more resonance than it would have if I had put it out 5 or 6 years ago. So yes, I think it is very reflective of what is happening in the country at the moment.

What was it like working with Wayne Kramer and James Williamson on this record?
I love those guys and they were great guys to work with. I mentioned earlier that they were heroes of mine for years and years. They have both been very supportive of the whole project. They both came to Austin and played the opening night of the tour that we just did for The Crossing. I had James Williamson, Wayne Kramer, Joe Ely, Johnny Moeller and John Perry of The Only Ones.

In an interview I read recently, you were talking about working with David Bowie’s product Tony Visconti and you said that the stories you get from guys like that are just as important as their production work. Could you expand on that for me?
Making records is a lot more than just being at the studio and a lot of it has a lot to do with the relationship you have with the musicians and the producer. The producer brings a lot to the table in that he sets the table in a way because he’s the one who is at the helm of the project. His vibe is very important to the creativity and inspiration and confidence you find in order to make something that is different, that is unique, that may have a story to tell, sometimes a message. It is important that the producer, in his experience talks about different projects that he has worked on. With John Cale, he told me a lot of stories about The Velvets and different records that he has made with Nico and The Stooges. Tony Visconti brought a lot of history and stories about his work with different bands, whether it was working with Bowie or T Rex or other groups like The Moody Blues. So all of that exchange and all of that kind of history plays into building your confidence in a way, in order to rise above whatever limitations you may have drawn within yourself. It is up to the producer to find these things inside you that maybe you had suppressed for whatever reason. He finds them and plays on that and hopefully will inspire you to shed a lot of the walls you might have built inside yourself. It’s important that the stories and a relationship develops in a way that you feel very comfortable in the studio.

You have very eclectic music tastes but have also used many different sounding guitars over the years. Do you seek out different guitars for certain sounds you want to make or do you just simply like a lot of guitars?
You go for sounds. I have some guitars that are great for just making lot of noise and making feedback. I love playing with feedback and some guitars are better for that than others. I have a 56 Gibson acoustic guitar that I have used for almost every record I’ve made because for me it’s like the greatest guitar ever. It sounds beautiful and anyone who has ever heard it or used it in the studio with me will agree that it is just a very special guitar. So I always have to have that guitar with me. I am very comfortable with that guitar and have written so many songs on it that it is important to have that with me.

What will you bring with you for this tour?
I’ll bring an acoustic and I will bring a Les Paul Junior with me

What about your pedalboard?
It’s a pretty standard pedalboard. I have a boost. It kinda distorts a little bit but not a lot. It’s not a fuzz pedal or anything. That goes through a tremolo pedal and then I go through an Echoplex. Then I also have a boost pedal on there and an AB pedal and I have a Neve DI for my boost, so I can AB between my electric and acoustic.

What about the set list for the Australian tour? How far back in the catalogue will you go?
Since I have never played there before, people were telling me I should probably dig a little deeper into the catalogue and give them a retrospective of everything. I think I’ll be playing old stuff, new stuff and middle period also.

What is happening recording wise next? Are you working on new material at the moment?
We just finished a 40 day tour of The Crossing. I will be doing some recording with Don Antonio when I go back to Italy and then I plan to record back here in the states with Mitch Easter and Peter Buck , Scott McCaughey and do some more recording at the end of the year probably.

ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO – AUSTRALIA/NEW ZEALAND MARCH 2019

SUN MAR 3 CAMELOT LOUNGE, SYDNEY
MON MAR 4 CAMELOT LOUNGE, SYDNEY *** 2ndshow just announced***
TUES MAR 5 LIZOTTES, NEWCASTLE
WED MAR 6 JUNK BAR, BRISBANE (early & late shows)
THU MAR 7 JUNK BAR, BRISBANE (early & late shows)*** 2ndnight just announced
SAT-MON MAR 9-11 PORT FAIRY FOLK FESTIVAL
TUES MAR 12 THORNBURY THEATRE, MELBOURNE
WED MAR 13 CARAVAN CLUB, MELBOURNE
FRI MAR 15 TUNING FORK, AUCKLAND
SAT MAR 16 CAROLINE, WELLINGTON
SUN MAR 17 BLUE SMOKE, CHRISTCHURCH

ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO AUSTRALIA NEW ZEALAND TOUR 2019