“From Small Town Texas, to the Stages of the World”
or “How to Learn as Many Musical Styles as Possible in One Lifetime”
I was born in Refugio, Texas. It’s one of the oldest towns in the state, near the Gulf Coast, a little North of Corpus Christi. My mother was born there, too, and about 40 miles toward the coast is another small town called Austwell. That’s where my father grew up. As a child, my family would always be sure to visit home after relocating to Houston when I was still an infant. My earliest musical memories are from attending the Conjunto street dances in Austwell that usually got going on Saturday nights during holidays. It was the early 70’s. I was eight or nine years old, and remember being especially fascinated by the drummers. Working-up a sweat, watching them play those steady, almost urgent, pulsing beats always made it seem exciting just to be there. Right then, I knew what I’d be doing from now on. November and December on the Southern Gulf Coast is usually a balmy 70 degrees, or so. Good dancing weather.
Texas is a vastly diverse place. An eager, open-minded creative kid can absorb and learn as much as he wants about any art growing up here. Accordingly, I’ve had the privilege of studying and performing a wide range of music. My first professional gig was with an excellent Jazz guitarist in Houston named Clayton Dyess. He taught me almost everything I know about music theory and notation. I was 15 years old, playing night clubs in downtown Houston, and learning on-the-go. After a few of years of that, I moved to Austin in 1983, at the urging of a couple of friends who were already here.
Almost immediately, I got calls to play bass with groups around town. My first professional national tour came in 1987 with a Reggae/Carribean group called Dan Del Santo and His Professors of Pleasure. Again, learning several new styles of music from all over the world. Dan was a great bandleader. And yes, we were every bit as colorful as the moniker suggests! From then onward, every few years, I’d move on to learn and experience another style of playing to satisfy my own curiosity. Eventually, I landed a touring gig with Alejandro Escovedo. First in the mid-90’s as bassist, then in the early part of the new century as ‘cellist. Among many bandleaders, one of my more recent touring experiences was with Argentine guitarist Federico Aubele. Yet again, learning a new style. This time, how to play with computers.
A big inspiration for the music I’m making now is derived from the inherently deep passion for life and love that comes with Latino blood. I’ve been fortunate enough to experience music through myriad opportunities, and feel as though I’m now well-equipped to filter my life through this art. I hope to share this with as many listeners as possible.
Steve Bernal 1/16/’09