Tish Hinojosa. Image courtesy of the artist.
As part of the opening weekend celebrations for our upcoming exhibition, Hubbard/Birchler’s Sound Speed Marker, Ballroom Marfa is hosting a free concert by The Tish Hinojosa Band at the USO Building in Marfa at 8pm on Saturday, March 1st.
Tish Hinojosa is an Austin-based singer whose music is a reflection of her borderland background, combining the sounds of Texas country music with a love of traditional Mexican folk tunes, inviting comparisons to Linda Ronstadt and Townes Van Zandt. She’s recorded a dozen albums — singing in both Spanish and English — since her now-classic 1987 debut, From Taos to Tennessee.
We talked to Tish via email about growing up in San Antonio, her years as a back-up singer for Michael Martin Murphy, and her favorite spots in Austin to hear new music.
How has living in Germany affected you and your music?
I spent 2004 through 2012 living in Hamburg Germany. Because my stay there was related to my love and marriage to a German, the effect was one at first of adventure and excitement and a willingness to absorb everything: language, culture, food, everything German.
Their musical influence or history is not something that could really be said to effect my singer-songwriter sensitivity, unless we were to talk about Bavaria and the southern German influence of the accordion on Mexican music due to German immigrants in Texas (which has in it’s way affected my music, but that’s more from a Texas standpoint).
My time in Germany was spent in very urban Hamburg, where cover bands, blues, R&B, and discos rule. This lack of contemporary appreciation of “my kind” of music… and the years of realizing the underside of the German culture I was actually in, left little effect except leaving me more and more homesick for the U.S.A. That’s why my marriage is over and I am back in Austin re-building my career.
Even though you haven’t been to Marfa in some time, what were your impressions of the town and the Big Bend region?
I am excited to visit Marfa. It seems that although it was always a stop on visits to river trips in Big Bend and to El Paso or to Alpine (especially to stay up for the Marfa Lights), it always seemed quaint and sleepy. As for the buzz I am hearing from Austin friends and colleagues, Marfa is now quite a cosmic center for art, culture, and an extension of “keep Austin weird”-ness. I am looking forward to experiencing it from this new perspective!
You’ve been making music for decades, so how do you think your work has changed and evolved since your first album?
[It’s] been a very adventurous journey. My very first recordings were Tex-Mex bubblegum singles released along border radio stations when I was in my teens. This record label actually went on to become the first and premier Tejano label later. I was an experiment for the label in the early ’70s.
My real singer-songwriter career blossomed in the early ’80s when I left my hometown of San Antonio where I had been singing cover songs for tourists on the Riverwalk. I entered the first two songs I ever wrote to the Kerrville Folk Festival song-writing competition in 1979 and won. I then moved to northern New Mexico where the country-swing, two-step-cowboy scene was in full bloom. I helped form a country band and learned and played songs of that genre, which was all-new to this San Antonio city girl. I continued writing and performing my own songs, first with this “country” sensibility, then later spreading out into social issues, Latino, and contemporary singer-songwriter writing.
You’ve said that your time in Nashville encouraged you to start writing your own songs; why is that? Did something in particular happen that motivated you?