West graduates launch solo music careers

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By Dave Kavanaugh

For years, singing siblings Fabian Montaño and Anita Lopez — both West Las Vegas grads — have enchanted listeners as members of Mariachi Paisano del Valle. Now both of them have launched solo careers, with a joint CD release dance set for 9 p.m. today, Sept. 9 at the Night Owl.

Here is the Optic’s Q&A interview with the two:

1. You've performed for years as part of mariachi groups. What made you decide to do a solo album?  

Fabian: Yes, I played with Mariachi Paisano del Valle for 12 years and always wanted to sing music. I played the trumpet for the group. I started singing in early high school and it actually became my passion more than the trumpet although playing the trumpet isn’t far behind. I got an opportunity to do a solo album a year and a half ago, which is something I always wanted to do, and decided that it was time to do my own thing. I enjoy entertaining people and hope I can sing for years to come.

Anita: I started off with Mariachi Paisano del Valle at the age of 14 when I was in the eighth grade at Valley Middle School. After 14 years I am still currently performing with the group.  A lot of people always wanted to know if I had a solo album out, but all I had was the recordings done with Mariachi Paisano. After four albums done with them, I later decided to do my own but not mariachi style since my voice was already featured with the mariachi group.  

I decided to an album with a stage band instead. Recording an album takes time and money so it was impossible at the time to do anything while attending college full time.  After college my husband Chris is the one who finally pushed me towards starting the project and I only dreamed that it would happen. Now that it is done I couldn’t be happier that my dream finally did come true. This is the reason for the CD getting its name “Mi Sueño.”

2. What have been the biggest adjustments to becoming a solo artist?

Fabian: Well the biggest adjustment is stage presence and song preference. With the mariachi group it definitely is a different kind of performance. People are there to hear the singer and of course the group but it’s a very passionate genre and usually people don’t dance a whole lot to mariachi. Whereas with spanish music, people are there to dance and the entertaining is all about the songs and the stage entertainment. Getting the crowd involved is a big part. That is something that is a big change. Also that all eyes are on you and people are paying attention to things that you do and say, so you have to be on you’re “A” game all the time.

Anita: I guess for me I always feel like I have a posse backing me up on stage with the mariachi group. I have been doing it for so long I feel comfortable singing mariachi anytime. Now it is a different scene for me as far as singing a different genre of music dancing on stage and knowing that it is all me. I do enjoy it and it is new and exciting to be singing different music.

3. Describe your influences, musical and otherwise, that we hear in your music. What artists do you enjoy most and why?

Anita: Growing up all my family including my parents sang. My dad always played the guitar and sang almost every day. For family gatherings we all tend to pull out the instruments and start playing and singing. Of course, being in the mariachi group always played a role in my musical background as well.  I remember in elementary when Martin Sena came with his mariachi group from Peñasco and performed for the Valley Middle School and I thought to myself, “I wish we had that program here.” Then he ended up teaching there when I was in eighth grade.

Musical influences include Lola Beltran, Linda Ronstadt, Ana Gabriel, Jose Alfredo Jimenez, Vicente Fernandez and Antonio Aguilar. I also really love the voices of Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera, and Toni Braxton. I like different genres of music and enjoy listening to anyone with a great voice! It amazes me to know that there are very talented people out there and there is room for all to become more in the future if they put their mind to it. My music reflects all these aspects in my life and I just want it to be me and I want to differentiate myself as a new artist.

God has been good to me. I love my family. My husband Chris and my three kids Analisya, Andres, and Cierra make everyday a blessed one. I hope that one day my kids will sing and love doing it as I do.

Fabian: My influences come from performers like Antonio Aguilar, Vicente Fernandez, and Jose Alfredo Jimenez. They had a real passion for singing and you can hear it in their songs. I try to bring passion to the songs I sing, along with a mariachi background, I try to bring a different sound to the music I sing as well. I have a real passion to singing that inspires me to be the best singer I can be for the people listening. The producer and I tried a different sound to the music we recorded such as, incorporating the Bajo Sexto, and the steel guitar into the music, which you don’t see too often in New Mexico music. It brings a slightly different sound in the music, in my opinion, sort of like Tex Mex, Norteño, New Mexico styles of music, and country feel. It seems like it has all four genres into one.

I really enjoy listening to different artists of different genres, but I would have to say for me Vicente Fernandez for his passion in singing and his voice, he truly has a god given talent that you will not hear anywhere else. Also performers like Marco Antonio Solis that put a really good show on and has an excellent voice. Of course other favorites are Antonio Aguilar, for his corridos. I like listening to the old school songs because people really had to sing without any help from today’s technologies. In New Mexico I would have to say the Sparx along with Lorenzo Antonio, because they have excellent vocals and stage presence. They are the top notch performers in New Mexico, in my opinion.

4. What are you proudest of about the new album? Do you have any personal favorites of the songs on there? Talk about what went into choosing and/or singing them.

Fabian: Well first of all that I was able to do the album! I never would have thought that I would have done my own album this soon. And second that I was able to sing songs that I really enjoy singing. For me if you really like a song, you will sing it with more “ganas” then if someone told you to sing a song you don’t really care for.

My personal favorites are “El Pastor” and “Mas Que Tu Amigo.” I have to say though I really like all of them. In choosing “Mas Que Tu Amigo,” I really wanted a good cumbia that wasn’t a traditional one that we have heard over the years. I found this song although it was done several years back, It has a really new sound to it with the big brass and of course its style. I enjoy hearing it as much as singing it, and I'm sure the people listening will as well.

“El Pastor” is a song I picked because of its range and also because we wanted to do a gospel song on the CD. Of course this song is traditionally a mariachi song so that is the way I kept it. It has a very good arrangement with falsetto in the chorus. I wanted to do a song that brings out my voice and of course has a gospel background and this was the one that fit all criteria.

Anita: I am happy that it is finally completed. It took me a while to choose all the songs that I really wanted to sing. I wanted to choose songs that were not done or redone recently.  I tried to bring something new to the table and give listeners something fun and different. I wanted a mix of everything cumbias, rancheras, boleros and even bachatas.

I really enjoy all of them but I like “Quitame Ese Hombre,” which has been playing on 89.1. I also like “Maldita Ignorancia,” which was a new and fun song that we kind of rearranged in the studio on the spot!