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Hector Tellez Jr: The Cuban Shaking Up America’s Rock Scene

4 years in the past, Cuban-born musician Hector Tellez Jr. was residing in Havana: enjoying native golf equipment a number of nights every week, delivering passionate performances of well-oiled melodic blues rock. His type, merging the grit of Muddy Waters wailing on electrical guitars with the tender-hearted but mysterious air of Jeff Buckley, was not all the time welcomed by the locals, nevertheless.

“In Cuba, it’s a Spanish language nation, so I struggled a bit singing rock songs in English,” Tellez Jr. tells SPIN on a current FaceTime video name from a pal’s yard, wanting each bit the brooding rocker, save for some frequent smiles. He’s sporting a cut-off muscle tee that reveals off just a few tattoos and a pair of round-rimmed sun shades that look straight out of the John Lennon playbook. “There have been plenty of naysayers, individuals who have been like, ‘What do you suppose you’re doing? You’re Cuban; you need to be singing in Spanish.’”

One of many believers was Betty Malo. The Nashville-based designer, stylist, actuality TV star, and spouse of The Mavericks frontman Raul Malo was visiting the nation, one thing she typically does to find new musical expertise, when she occurred upon a set by Tellez Jr. at Havana’s famed Fabrica Del Arte membership. “I didn’t know who he was, however I used to be mesmerized,” she says. “His voice attracts you in as for those who’ve by no means heard rock n roll earlier than, and his guitar enjoying is a magic carpet trip Hector takes you on … I knew in three seconds he was a star.”

Quickly sufficient, Malo signed on to be Tellez Jr.’s supervisor and satisfied him to maneuver to Nashville to additional his profession, understanding he’d match nicely into the rock revival scene that has been dominating Stateside, driving on a wave of chart-toppers — like The Black Keys, Greta Van Fleet, and Jack White — who faucet right into a basic period. The transfer, although, was dangerous, as it will take Tellez Jr. miles away from the inspiration he’d already constructed as an artist.

Hector Tellez Jr
(Credit score: Edward Crowe)

His earliest musical reminiscences got here from his father, Hector Tellez Sr., a well-liked Cuban bolero singer who discovered fame within the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. Tellez Jr. describes him as a “crooner, a Sinatra kind,” however surprisingly admits that he by no means really needed to be like his dad.

“I used to be born into music, however I by no means needed to be a musician. I used to be not into that,” he says. That was, till he was round 11 and his dad’s stay performances began to resonate. “There could be a number of events in my home. Quite a lot of musicians would come, and so they’d play songs all evening. It was actually wonderful.”

By the point he was an adolescent, Tellez Jr. was prepared to select up a guitar. “[My dad’s] a self-taught musician, so he was like, ‘I don’t know the way to train you … simply have a look at me and attempt to mimic what I’m doing,’” Jr. says. He quickly grew to become obsessive about it, tapping his dad for vocal instruction when he began writing his personal materials.

Tellez Jr. says he’s realized 90% of what he is aware of from his father, in addition to the hand-me-down blues tapes from his brother that have been a gateway to the riffs of Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Jimi Hendrix. “Once I began to take heed to blues,” he says, “it’s the place I began to grasp the guitar extra and the way you should utilize it as a special voice.”

Now primarily based in Nashville, Tellez Jr. has shortly built-in right into a community of musical heavyweights that he continues to glean classes from. By means of Malo, Tellez Jr. met Thirty Tigers proprietor David Macias, who despatched the budding artist’s demos to Barrett Martin (Screaming Bushes, Mad Season). It was prompt musical alchemy, with Martin signing on to supply Tellez Jr.’s upcoming materials. To assist fill within the gaps in instrumentation wanted for the undertaking, Martin referred to as on another notable colleagues.

“[Barrett] stated, ‘I’m going to ship your tracks to a few associates,’ after which he talked about [Nirvana’s] Krist Novoselic. He stated, ‘Do you thoughts if I ship your songs to him? He would possibly wish to work on this,’ and I used to be like, ‘Are you kidding me?’” Tellez Jr. says with amusing. “I’ve liked bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden; I’ve been an enormous fan of their work since I can bear in mind … We didn’t have the Web or something again then in Cuba, so we simply traded cassettes and blend tapes with plenty of that music.”

Tellez Jr.’s different collaborator, one other connection by Martin, is R.E.M.’s Peter Buck. In reality, Novoselic and Buck felt so strongly about what they heard in Tellez Jr.’s materials, they agreed to visitor on his rollicking, thigh-slapper of a single “Silver Blue Jellyfish,” launched on Sept. 30.


“​​It was a very nice expertise working with them. They have been so humble and got here into the studio and stated, ‘Hector, that is your album. What would you like me to play?’ … It was like they weren’t celebrities and I used to be the star,” remembers Tellez Jr. “They inspired me to embrace my fact and do no matter I wish to do fairly than following the gang.”

It’s a private ethos Tellez Jr. says he has adopted in lots of features of his life. He describes himself as a non secular one that typically quotes Buddha on his social media pages and has evangelized the teachings of Don Miguel Ruiz’s groundbreaking philosophical guidebook, The 4 Agreements, noting that spirituality, meditating, and doing yoga and tai chi have helped him attain a psychological aircraft that aids in writing songs like “Silver Blue Jellyfish.”

That new single is the primary style of Tellez Jr.’s as-yet-unnamed debut album that will likely be launched in 2023 by The Mavericks’ Mono Mundo Recordings. But already, the monitor is constructing anticipation for extra from Tellez Jr., branding him as an rising voice in a style that may typically grapple with discovering extra various voices.

Tellez Jr. just lately made his first nationwide TV look on PBS’ thirty fifth annual Hispanic Heritage Awards as a part of Hispanic Heritage Month. Martin and Buck backed Tellez Jr. through the efficiency, which showcased notable artists (like Los Lobos, Julieta Venegas, Carlos Vives, and Daddy Yankee) who’ve in their very own manner modified the panorama of Latin artists in America — one thing that Tellez Jr. hopes to do as nicely.

“I be ok with being Cuban and being right here within the States representing my nation and tradition,” he says, noting that two songs on his upcoming debut LP will likely be totally in Spanish whereas others will likely be bilingual with a Spanish refrain. He’s additionally contemplating making his second album totally in his native tongue.

“I wish to make a tribute album to my Spanish influences that I’ve too — my dad and plenty of conventional Cuban singer-songwriters which can be wonderful however not many individuals know besides Spanish-speaking international locations,” he says. “I wish to join with everybody that speaks my language.”



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