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Rick Trevino strives for overnight success

By Jeffrey B. Remz, November 2003

Don't accuse of Rick Trevino of being an "Overnight Success," the leadoff song on his new album, "In My Dreams," his first major label album in six years.

The song details life on the road about the long drives "to Oklahoma and Arizona/what's a thousand miles or two/for a big star/in an old car."

But the song title is actually deceiving because Trevino also sings "it's been living on easy street/it's all worked out so perfectly/it's just part of the life I guess/of an overnight success."

If only life were so easy for the Texan, who rose to prominence as the first Latino to hit the country charts in about 15 years when he struck it rich in the mid-'90s with half a dozen hit songs.

When Trevino first hit the charts, he was a young lad of only 22 and on the start of a pretty good roll.

But the "easy street" didn't last forever. Trevino changed gears, went back to his Mexican roots with a super group and later his own album before resurfacing with "In My Dreams" with Mavericks lead singer Raul Malo producing the disc, which sounds very much like something The Mavericks would record themselves. In other words, country with Latin inflections.

"I just felt like it was so appropriate for where I am right now," says Trevino in a telephone interview from his Austin area home about "Overnight Success."

"We're still taking a dag gum band around the country. I took a van from Austin to Ship Rock, N.M. We drove 30 hours. We get back, and you realize you've driven 30 hours, but only performed 75 minutes of music. To me, that's overnight success. To me, it's about the not so glamorous side of this whole thing...I'm doing a lot of free shows right now, a lot of shows for radio, a lot of shows for promoters."

Later during the week of the interview, Trevino says he will drive to Kansas City for a gig and straight back home with no dates in between. "I do it for music you know," he says.

In his former life, Trevino's music was filled with honky tonkers and ballads and wearing a big old cowboy hat, meaning that the very handsome Trevino was linked to the eventually heavily discounted hat acts of the '90s.

And while most of the hat acts have faded into musical oblivion, Trevino never packed it in.

He grew up on his father's Tejano music. His dad, Ricardo Sr., played in regional bands in Houston.

But his son was not enthralled with the music.

"My best friend was Thad Tucker," says Trevino, who moved to an Anglo part of Austin when he was about five. "My dad was playing Little Joe music (a Tex-Mex music star) in the living room. I was disgusted. I was five, six years old. (I was) my whole time until I got out of high school. It wore me out. My mom didn't like it. My brother didn't like it. My father loved it. It just drove us nuts."

Trevino cites another reason for his dislike of the music.

"My dad drank a lot too. He and mom have been married, gosh, about 35 years. There were times - many times - when he'd start listening to his Tejano music, start drinking, and they'd have a knock down, drag out argument. I hated it. Even to this day, I don't like Mexican music that much."

Trevino took piano lessons as a youth, which he balanced with his love of baseball. He eventually became quite good at piano and not too shabby at baseball, though he was unable to make the team at Texas A&M University, which he attended for several years.

He gave up both baseball and college for music.

Trevino played bars and clubs. In a twist of fate, a Sony label rep from the Boston area was stuck outside of Austin due to flooding conditions. He ended up at a little club where Trevino played. He wasn't playing that particular night, but the record label employee read a number of articles on the walls and heard good things about Trevino from employees.

He managed to get a tape of Trevino, which he passed onto Steve Buckingham, a producer at Sony. Buckingham liked what he heard, saw Trevino perform in Texas and signed him up.

In a decision that still irks Trevino, his first album was "Dos Mundos," an almost entirely Spanish country album, even though Spanish was not his main language. In fact, Trevino needed Spanish lessons.

"I didn't like that a bit because I didn't want people to think I was a Tejano artist," says Trevino of "Dos Mundos" ("two worlds"). "I still think it was stupid. I was 20 years old. Everybody thinks I'm a Tejano singer crossing over to the country format."

The label released his self-titled English album about seven months later in 1994.

Pretty quickly, Trevino found himself with big hits like "She Can't Say I Didn't Cry" and "Doctor Time."

On his 1995 album "Looking For the Light," Trevino also scored with "Bobbie Ann Mason" and on 1997's "Learning As You Go," the title track, a number one with "Running Out of Reasons to Run" and "I Only Get This Way With You."

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