Talk Music: Grammy Award winner Bobby Flores to play Schroeder Hall
July 24, 2013 at 2:24 a.m.
Acclaimed musician Bobby Flores - whose music career began at 6 years old and grew into international tours and a Grammy Award - is bringing his Yellow Rose Band on Saturday to Schroeder Hall.
The former first fiddle player for Ray Price, who also contributed to albums with Freddy Fender, Johnny Bush and more than 400 others, caught up with Get Out to talk about his heroes, his new projects and what winning a Grammy Award meant to him.
Do you consider yourself more of a singer or a player - how do you balance the two?
I started playing when I was 6, so I've been playing just about all my life, but I was singing, too. It's a real hard call on which one sticks out for me.
I really didn't know any differently; balancing the two always came naturally.
My dad played guitar around the house and sang, and my mom had a duo with her sister, performing at social functions and banquets. I was around it all the time, so I just thought that's what you were supposed to do.
After the Grammy for your contributions to "La Musica de Baldemar Huerta," what doors did that open up in your career?
It didn't really change direction. I've been producing records for 30 years or so, and I have my own recording studio, so I get to work with a lot of other artists. I'm in the middle of several album projects right now.
I've been on staff at three studios in San Antonio. They call me for session work as a session leader, I write the chord charts, the string arrangements and horn arrangements.
My friends at "Studio M" dropped off a work CD for me that they wanted string arrangements on. I popped it in my truck, and thought, "That sounds like Freddy Fender."'
That's how I got to do that.
It was a blessing to be a part of that. I did that on his last two CDs before he passed away.
It allowed people to hear what I do as far as string arrangements go.
I do that for other projects all over the world - they email it to me, and I email it back.
People ask me to do fiddle tracks or guitar tracks. I've done it from Sweden, France and Canada, all over the U.S.
What did it mean to you to help with Freddy Fender's final album?
I was thrilled to see him get the Grammy before he passed on.
It was very rewarding to me, and I was thankful to be a part of that for him.
The last two CDs were old beautiful Spanish boleros, so to me, he sounded his best on those songs. Those were his roots and where he came from.
His heart and soul completely came out in those songs.
It was the peak of his performance, so it was even extra special, plus, my grandfather sang a lot of those old Spanish songs, so it brought back a lot of memories of him.
It was really great to be a part of that. I was so happy for Freddy.
Before the Grammy, you were already established, having played with dozens of country and western musicians, including Ray Price. What experiences did you take away from that?
My very first record, for those of us who remember what a 45 looked like - it was "Touch My Heart."
Ray's always had a very special place in my heart.
It was such an honor to lead his string section. I was just in hog heaven.
Every gig that I've ever worked with Ray has just been a real special one.
He's probably been my biggest influence.
I still get to work with him a couple of times a year, but it's kind of a standing invitation if I'm off to go share the stage.What are you doing to keep Western swing alive?
We're real fortunate to be a part of several organizations, such as Western Swing Monthly, and there's several western swing groups who promote what we're doing.
What's great to see is we're actually seeing a lot of younger folks come out and do the swing dancing like they do in Austin.
We're seeing a good mix now of not just older folks but a lot of college folks who have heard the music, like the songs and they like to dance.
We'd love to see more, but it makes us really fired to up to see the younger couples get out there and get into the music.
My band is a real special group of people. They're all session musicians, and we have three fiddle players. We keep 'em on the dance floor.
What's your practice routine like?
It's mostly in my mind at this point.
Players who've been playing a long time, we don't have the practice times that a lot of people have.
I go straight to the recording studio first thing in the morning, about 4 o'clock, I cross the sidewalk and go to my music academy. I'm there till 9 or 9:30, then I'm back at the studio till 11:30 or midnight.
The only time I have to practice is in my head on my way to a job. I might be thinking of a new riff over a progression I want to try. I can't just whip my fiddle out in the truck, so I run through it mentally.
Formal practice time is real hard to come by, and it's a real treat when I get to sit down and practice something for a while.
It seems like you've played your cards right. How does a musician get to the status you've earned?
I feel blessed to be this deep in music every day. That's one reason I started the school, Bulverde Academy of Music. I wanted to have a place for serious students who wanted to pursue music
We teach at the university level, and it's a live performance-based school. Students who want to pursue any of this, that's what we teach there: performance, writing, marketing, we get into all of the above.
It's real hard to just go and try to do that on your own. You have to do a lot of moving and hanging with people.
From the academy, our students go to Juilliard, Berklee, University of North Texas.
What projects are you working on right now for your band?
I'm just about to wrap up my gospel CD, which has been going on since 2009. It's just been hard to get to, but that should be out relatively soon.
I've got my annual music camp starting next Sunday. It's four days and nights in Eastland, Texas. It's just blown out of the water. We have so many students coming this year. There are classes during the day and campfire jams at night.
We have our annual Western Swing Cruise coming up in January leaving out of New Orleans and going to Key West and Nassau. All that information is on the website.
There's never a dull moment, that's for sure.