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5 Latinx Artists Reimagining Country Music: Kat & Alex, The Mavericks, Leah Turner, Michael Salgado & Veronique Medrano

(L-R): Michael Salgado, Kat & Alex, The Mavericks, Veronique Medrano, and Leah Turner

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5 Latinx Artists Reimagining Country Music: Kat & Alex, The Mavericks, Leah Turner, Michael Salgado & Veronique Medrano

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, GRAMMY.com is spotlighting five Latinx artists creating country music on their own terms. Get to know Kat & Alex, The Mavericks, Leah Turner, Michael Salgado, and Veronique Medrano.

GRAMMYs/Oct 16, 2021 - 12:16 am

As Americana as country music is, the genre has roots in the region of Mexico closest to the borders. Many country music crooners have romanticized the U.S.-Mexico border in their lyrics as a place for partying or for banditos. In fact, Latinx country music artists are woven into the fabric of country music history, particularly the Tejanos from Texas. Among the greats, Tejano singer Freddy Fender scored a No. 1 on Billboard's country music chart and all-genre Hot 100 chart in 1975 with "Before the Next Teardrop Falls." Over 20 years later, another Tejano, Rick Trevino topped the country singles chart with his song "Running Out of Reasons" and the Spanish-language version "Se Escapan Mis Razones." Latinx artists in country music isn't a new phenomena, but instead fertile ground to explore deeper, less stereotypical expression in the genre.

As Latin music has become a global force in the past decade, country music artists have taken notice and tapped the market for crossover collaborations. Blake Shelton worked with Cuban-American superstar Pitbull on "Get Ready," Kane Brown collaborated with Mexican-American singer Becky G on a reggaeton remix of "Lost in the Middle of Nowhere," and Carrie Underwood sang in Spanish alongside Spanish artist David Bisbal on "Tears of Gold." Country music is becoming more inclusive, allowing more Latinx and Black artists into the fold that are redefining the age-old sound. Lil Nas X really shook things up with his 2019 hit "Old Town Road", and now Mickey Guyton is reclaiming an important place in the Black-rooted genre.

Long after the reign of Fender and Trevino, there's a new generation of Latinx artists proudly embracing country. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, here are five more Latinx country artists to look out for.

Kat & Alex

Married couple Kat Luna and Alex Garrido first made an impression as standouts on the 18th season of "American Idol" in 2020. Now going under the name Kat & Alex, the Miami-born singer/songwriters auditioned with the song that brought them together: Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper's "Shallow" from A Star Is Born. sSince then, Kat & Alex have made a name for themselves in country music while leaning into their roots — Luna's in Cuba, and Garrido's in Puerto Rico. The duo have released English and Spanish versions of songs like "How Many Times" and "Heartbreak Tour", tracks that shine thanks to the chemistry they share as a real-life couple. They're able to recapture the passion and fire behind the lyrics of their English songs in Spanish while maintaining that traditional country twang. Kat & Alex's TikTok offers further highlights, including Spanish translations of songs by Little Big Town, Rascal Flatts, and Tim McGraw.   

The Mavericks

The Mavericks have long been a staple in the Americana music scene, and have Cuban roots from Miami by way of frontman Raúl Malo and guitarist Eddie Perez. Malo formed The Mavericks in Miami and later relocated to Nashville in the late '80s, and the group earned their first Grammy Award in 1995 for Best Country performance for "Here Comes The Rain" (with seven other nominations to their name). Over three decades into their career, The Mavericks decided to tap fully into their Latin roots on their first Spanish album, En Español. Malo sounds amazing in Spanish, as he translates the band's soul and blues into his family's native tongue in songs like "Recuerdos" and "La Sitiera" — showing that Americana music is not just tied to the U.S., but the greater Americas as well. They give the genre a colorful kick of Latin music influences through layers of additional percussion and royal horns. The Mavericks have performed their songs in Spanish at festivals like Austin City Limits and the Latin Alternative Music Conference.

Read: 5 Latinx Rappers To Know Now: Santa Fe Klan, Chucky73, J.I The Prince Of N.Y, Yoss Bones & BIA

Leah Turner

Mexican-American singer/songwriter Leah Turner has been making noise in the country music scene for nearly a decade. Hailing from the country music capital of the world, Nashville, Tennessee, Turner made her debut with the release of her self-titled EP in 2014. In 2019, she explored her Latinx roots with the release of the "Vaquera Mix" of her single "Blah Blah Blah." Last year, Turner reclaimed the age-old country music trope of the South of the border escapade in "Once Upon a Time in Mexico." This month, she blended her country and Latin music roots in her new single "Vaquera and the Cowboy." She trades the steel guitar that's typical of country music for a Spanish guitar while never losing the twang in her voice. Turner is ending off Hispanic Heritage Month with the release of her EP, Lost in Translation on Oct. 15.

Michael Salgado

A longtime staple of the Tejano music scene, Michael Salgado built his career on crossing the genre with the Norteño music that's typical of Mexico's northern states that border Texas. In 1995, he launched his career with the release of his debut album, Reina de Mi Vida. At the 2011 Grammy Awards, Salgado received a nomination for Best Norteño Album for No Vengo A Ver Si Puedo... Si Por Que Puedo Vengo. He also has two Latin Grammy wins to his name, including Best Tejano Album in 2016 for Por Cielo Y Tierra. After decades of fans demanding a formal country music album, Salgado released Blame It On The Beer earlier this year — with highlight "Honky Tonks and Cantinas" best exemplifying the collision of country and his Latinx roots. He brings out the steel guitar while drawing lyrical allusions to his life as a Mexican-American. Salgado has soul in his music in English or Spanish, and his success proves Tejano music is country music.

Read More: 5 LGBTQ+ Latinx Artists You Need To Know

Veronique Medrano

Veronique Medrano is a proudly Tejana singer/songwriter from the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas. Through her Tejano and regional Mexican music, she proves that there's an overlooked intersection between those genres and country music. Medrano released her first album, Encantadora, nearly a decade ago in 2013, and has since been nominated at the Tejano Music Awards four times. Last year she released La Novela, an EP which touches on the experience of a Latina growing up close to the Texas and Mexican border. Earlier this year, she released another EP, Crying, in which she sings the title country song in both English and Spanish. "Crying" gets an extra Latin touch on the banda version, featuring Omar Sanchez Omi. She brings together the steel guitar and accordion that's typical to Latin music while belting out her multicultural heart. The emotions in her voice are tangible in any language. Akin to a historian, Medrano excavates and honors  the Latinx and Tejano roots in country music..

5 Black Artists Rewriting Country Music: Mickey Guyton, Kane Brown, Jimmie Allen, Brittney Spencer & Willie Jones

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GRAMMY SoundChecks With Gavin DeGraw

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

On Aug. 28 Nashville Chapter GRAMMY U members took part in GRAMMY SoundChecks with Gavin DeGraw. Approximately 30 students gathered at music venue City Hall and watched DeGraw play through some of the singles from earlier in his career along with "Cheated On Me" from his latest self-titled album.

In between songs, DeGraw conducted a question-and-answer session and inquired about the talents and goals of the students in attendance. He gave inside tips to the musicians present on how to make it in the industry and made sure that every question was answered before moving onto the next song.

 

Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year

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Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year

Annual star-studded gala slated for Nov. 4 in Las Vegas during 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Week celebration

GRAMMYs/May 15, 2017 - 01:36 pm

 GRAMMY.com

 Internationally renowned singer/songwriter/performer Juan Gabriel will be celebrated as the 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year, it was announced today by The Latin Recording Academy. Juan Gabriel, chosen for his professional accomplishments as well as his commitment to philanthropic efforts, will be recognized at a star-studded concert and black tie dinner on Nov. 4 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nev. 

The "Celebration with Juan Gabriel" gala will be one of the most prestigious events held during Latin GRAMMY week, a celebration that culminates with the 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards ceremony. The milestone telecast will be held at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas on Nov. 5 and will be broadcast live on the Univision Television Network at 8 p.m. Eastern/7 p.m. Central. 

"As we celebrate this momentous decade of the Latin GRAMMYs, The Latin Recording Academy and its Board of Trustees take great pride in recognizing Juan Gabriel as an extraordinary entertainer who never has forgotten his roots, while at the same time having a global impact," said Latin Recording Academy President Gabriel Abaroa. "His influence on the music and culture of our era has been tremendous, and we welcome this opportunity to pay a fitting tribute to a voice that strongly resonates within our community.

Over the course of his 30-year career, Juan Gabriel has sold more than 100 million albums and has performed to sold-out audiences throughout the world. He has produced more than 100 albums for more than 50 artists including Paul Anka, Lola Beltran, Rocío Dúrcal, and Lucha Villa among many others. Additionally, Juan Gabriel has written more than 1,500 songs, which have been covered by such artists as Marc Anthony, Raúl Di Blasio, Ana Gabriel, Angelica María, Lucia Mendez, Estela Nuñez, and Son Del Son. In 1986, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley declared Oct. 5 "The Day of Juan Gabriel." The '90s saw his induction into Billboard's Latin Music Hall of Fame and he joined La Opinion's Tributo Nacional Lifetime Achievement Award recipients list. 

At the age of 13, Juan Gabriel was already writing his own songs and in 1971 recorded his first hit, "No Tengo Dinero," which landed him a recording contract with RCA. Over the next 14 years, he established himself as Mexico's leading singer/songwriter, composing in diverse styles such as rancheras, ballads, pop, disco, and mariachi, which resulted in an incredible list of hits ("Hasta Que Te Conocí," "Siempre En Mi Mente," "Querida," "Inocente Pobre Amigo," "Abrázame Muy Fuerte," "Amor Eterno," "El Noa Noa," and "Insensible") not only for himself  but for many leading Latin artists. In 1990, Juan Gabriel became the only non-classical singer/songwriter to perform at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City and the album release of that concert, Juan Gabriel En Vivo Desde El Palacio De Bellas Artes, broke sales records and established his iconic status. 

After a hiatus from recording, Juan Gabriel released such albums as Gracias Por Esperar, Juntos Otra Vez, Abrázame Muy Fuerte, Los Gabriel…Para Ti, Juan Gabriel Con La Banda…El Recodo, and El Mexico Que Se Nos Fue, which were all certified gold and/or platinum by the RIAA. In 1996, to commemorate his 25th anniversary in the music industry, BMG released a retrospective set of CDs entitled 25 Aniversario, Solos, Duetos, y Versiones Especiales, comprised appropriately of 25 discs.   

In addition to his numerous accolades and career successes, Juan Gabriel has been a compassionate and generous philanthropist. He has donated all proceeds from approximately 10 performances a year to his favorite children's foster homes, and proceeds from fan photo-ops go to support Mexican orphans. In 1987, he founded Semjase, an orphanage for approximately 120 children, which also serves as a music school with music, recreation and video game rooms. Today, he continues to personally fund the school he opened more than 22 years ago.   

Juan Gabriel will have the distinction of becoming the 10th Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year honoree, and joins a list of artists such as Gloria Estefan, Gilberto Gil, Juan Luis Guerra, Julio Iglesias, Ricky Martin, and Carlos Santana among others who have been recognized. 

For information on purchasing tickets or tables to The Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year tribute to Juan Gabriel, please contact The Latin Recording Academy ticketing office at 310.314.8281 or ticketing@grammy.com.

Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013
Grizzled Mighty perform at Bumbershoot on Sept. 1

Photo: The Recording Academy

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Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 04:22 am

Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.

By Alexa Zaske
Seattle

This past Labor Day weekend meant one thing for many folks in Seattle: Bumbershoot, a three-decade-old music and arts event that consumed the area surrounding the Space Needle from Aug. 31–Sept. 2. Amid attendees wandering around dressed as zombies and participating in festival-planned flash mobs to Michael Jackson's "Thriller," this year the focus was on music from the Pacific Northwest region — from the soulful sounds of Allen Stone and legendary female rockers Heart, to the highly-awaited return of Death Cab For Cutie performing their 2003 hit album Transatlanticism in its entirety.

The festival started off on day one with performances by synth-pop group the Flavr Blue, hip-hop artist Grynch, rapper Nacho Picasso, psychedelic pop group Beat Connection, lively rapper/writer George Watsky, hip-hop group the Physics, and (my personal favorite), punk/dance band !!! (Chk Chk Chk). Also performing on day one was Seattle folk singer/songwriter Kris Orlowski, who was accompanied by the Passenger String Quartet. As always, Orlowski's songs were catchy and endearing yet brilliant and honest.

Day one came to a scorching finale with a full set from GRAMMY-nominated rock group Heart. Kicking off with their Top 20 hit "Barracuda," the set spanned three decades of songs, including "Heartless," "Magic Man" and "What About Love?" It became a gathering of Seattle rock greats when, during Heart's final song, Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready joined for 1976's "Crazy On You."

Day two got off to an early start with performances from eccentric Seattle group Kithkin and Seattle ladies Mary Lambert and Shelby Earl, who were accompanied by the band Le Wrens. My highlight of the day was the Grizzled Mighty — a duo with a bigger sound than most family sized bands. Drummer Whitney Petty, whose stage presence and skills make for an exciting performance, was balanced out by the easy listening of guitarist and lead singer Ryan Granger.

Then the long-awaited moment finally fell upon Seattle when, after wrapping a long-awaited tour with the Postal Service, singer/songwriter Ben Gibbard returned to Seattle to represent another great success of the Pacific Northwest — Death Cab For Cutie. The band celebrated the 10-year anniversary of their album Transatlanticism by performing it from front to back. While a majority of attendees opted to watch the set from an air-conditioned arena, some of us recognized the uniqueness of this experience and enjoyed the entire set lying in the grass where the entire performance was streamed. 

Monday was the day for soul and folk. Local blues/R&B group Hot Bodies In Motion have been making their way through the Seattle scene with songs such as "Old Habits," "That Darkness" and "The Pulse." Their set was lively and enticing to people who have seen them multiple times or never at all.

My other highlights of the festival included the Maldives, who delivered a fun performance with the perfect amount of satirical humor and folk. They represent the increasing number of Pacific Northwest bands who consist of many members playing different sounds while still managing to stay cohesive and simple. I embraced the return of folk/pop duo Ivan & Alyosha with open arms and later closed my festival experience with local favorite Stone.

For music fans in Seattle and beyond, the annual Bumbershoot festival is a must-attend.

(Alexa Zaske is the Chapter Assistant for The Recording Academy Pacific Northwest Chapter. She's a music enthusiast and obsessed with the local Seattle scene.)

Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs

Neil Portnow and Jimmy Jam

Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images

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Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs

Jimmy Jam helps celebrate the outgoing President/CEO of the Recording Academy on the 61st GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Feb 11, 2019 - 10:58 am

As Neil Portnow's tenure as Recording Academy President/CEO draws to its end, five-time GRAMMY winner Jimmy Jam paid tribute to his friend and walked us through a brief overview of some of the Academy's major recent achievements, including the invaluable work of MusiCares, the GRAMMY Museum, Advocacy and more.

Portnow delivered a brief speech, acknowledging the need to continue to focus on issues of diversity and inclusion in the music industry. He also seized the golden opportunity to say the words he's always wanted to say on the GRAMMY stage, saying, "I'd like to thank the Academy," showing his gratitude and respect for the staff, elected leaders and music community he's worked with during his career at the Recording Academy. "We can be so proud of what we’ve all accomplished together," Portnow added.

"As I finish out my term leading this great organization, my heart and soul are filled with gratitude, pride, for the opportunity and unequal experience," he continued. "Please know that my commitment to all the good that we do will carry on as we turn the page on the next chapter of the storied history of this phenomenal institution."

Full Winners List: 61st GRAMMY Awards