Three brothers set out many years ago to save an ailing family business by combining family traditions with popular music.
The tradition is conjunto, the popular music is rock ‘n’ roll, and the business is Los Lonely Boys.
For the Garza brothers, becoming successful working musicians was just a part of growing up in their native hometown of San Angelo, Texas.
In 2004 Henry, Jojo and Ringo Garza wrote “Heaven,” a song that stayed at the number one spot of the adult contemporary charts for 16 weeks and catapulted them into a life of fame. Now the band of brothers is on the road again promoting their new album, called “Revelation.”
The Daily Lobo sat down to talk with bass player Joey “Jojo” Garza to discuss the new album’s direction, the hard road to stardom and the importance of Willie Nelson.
DL: What was the direction you and your brothers were going for on the new album?
Garza: “The direction is what we live every day, and a lot of the songs move in that direction. The songs are about life, love and they are about appreciating what you have, man, even if it’s not a lot. It’s all about love and family and, quite honestly, brother, that’s the direction of all our albums.
One of the things that separates this album from the rest is that we stepped outside of just working with each other and incorporated other writers as well as two different producers. Each song has its own direction. No two styles are alike. I wouldn’t even call it a style-based album; it’s a no-style-based album.”
DL: Can you define conjunto? What does it mean and how is it incorporated in your music?
Garza: “Yeah, conjunto music is basically traditional Mexican music … at least for us it was traditional Mexican-American, because that what we grew up with. This music is what my dad and his brothers played, my mom’s dad and her brothers played and what we grew up pretty much listening to.
Conjunto consists of a drummer, a bass player, a 10- or 12-string guitar that’s kind of on the more bass side of guitar as well as an accordion. It’s probably related to Norteño music, which is really fast, and I know at some point they’re all connected. It’s something our dad and his brothers did, and like I said, my mom’s side of the family was also very musical; she’s a great singer. The Lonely Boys didn’t really have a choice to do anything else.”
DL: How did you and your brothers decide who was going to play what instrument?
Garza: “We started on guitar. Our dad taught us guitar first. Henry’s the oldest brother so he played first, and by the time I was born Henry was already writing songs. Ringo kind of tinkered with it a little bit, but he was more singing at that age. We got a piano in the house — a kind of keyboard — and we all started playing that. Then we got a set of drums that wound up in the house.
I don’t know how we even wound up with this equipment, man. I think our dad was holding it for some friends, you know, wink wink. As we got older, the music just started to pour out of us and everything became an instrument. I remember one of the songs me and Henry were easily doing was (singing) ‘Wild Thing’ dunt dun dunt dun dunt dun. We were like ‘wow, it sounds like the song.’
My mom and dad separated, and she took Ringo for a summer. She came back and traded me for Ringo, and he learned to play the drums while I was gone. They were playing while I was gone, and when I came back, Ringo was playing drums and Henry became the lead man. I came home to a band that was short a bass player.”
DL: Tell me about meeting Willie Nelson. Was he a big influence on your band?
Garza: “He was a big influence on our dad. Our dad really liked Waylon (Jennings) and the gang … The Outlaws. He always felt like he was the missing Outlaw. Meeting Willie was something we got to do before our dad. We got to meet our dad’s hero. Definitely at some point they met and everything, and they’ve even recorded a couple of tunes together just for their own houses.
I am telling you right now, Willie Nelson and his family are some of the best people you’ll ever meet, if people get that opportunity. For him to take us under his wing like that and put us on tour with him for that year that he did, we will always be really grateful.”
DL: You and your family have a great inspirational story of moving to Nashville only to come back to San Angelo disillusioned. Has this been the experience that keeps pushing you and your brothers to succeed?
Garza: “Oh yeah, man. I mean, that’s where our mom and dad come from as well as our familia; we come from the struggle. It was never about trying to get famous or nothing like that, bro. That’s how we ate. That was our law firm or our doctor company or roofing company. We were the music company.
The struggle is still on today. Everybody’s going through it, man. You want to say I’m doing this for a reason; I was sent here for this message. We are here to bring households together because there ain’t no damn reason that a family can’t enjoy something like music together, man.”