[fa:p:a=72157594267830938,id=292609699,j=r,s=s,l=p]AUSTIN DAZE: When did you first become interested in music?
PATRICIA VONNE: I got a good dose of the MGM musicals growing up. My parents always invited the mariachis to our house for festive occasions. My dad was a drummer – salesman by day. He always had a drum kit at home and put himself through college with a music scholarship. My mom loved to play the Spanish guitar and sing Mexican folk songs and have us harmonize with her. First live show in my hometown of San Antonio was Johnny Reno and the Sax Maniacs that changed my life! The power and passion of Reno’s performance was clearly a defining moment. Shortly after that, I saw a band called “Lone Justice” fronted by a female spitfire, Maria Mckee, dancing, playing guitar and belting it out and I just thought, “Hmm, I would love to be doing that.” That always stuck in the back of my mind: the guitar playing, singing gal who wrote her own music. I thought to myself, ” I have to crack that nut one day.”
AD: How did you “crack that nut?” And how did you learn to write songs?
PV: My goal was to write one song of my own. One song turned into two and two songs turned into a three song demo. I learned to play the guitar which helped me “crack the nut” in songwriting. It was invaluable because I was able to dissect my favorite Tom Petty and Mellencamp tunes only to find that they were similar and if not the same chord progressions! It was their distinctive emphasis on melodies that defined their unique style. Voila! I co-write a lot with my husband and he’ll either come up with the music and I’ll come up with the lyrics or both. He has taught me the art of crafting songs. I believe writing songs is both a gift and a curse. Sometimes a song writes itself and sometimes it never gets written. And you never know when you will write your last song.
AD: At what point did you realize it was going to be your life?
PV: When I got married. We wanted a change. We wanted to perform more than just once a month in NYC so we both decided to start a whole new life together which included moving to the live music capital of the world, Austin, Texas. So we packed the U-haul and made our way down.
AD: It must have been a really big culture shock.
PV: It definitely was. Even though I am a native Texan, it took me about a year to adapt to the pace and change. Music wasn’t a hobby anymore. I was very concerned about the work factor. In the first year I lost my health insurance because you have to keep a certain amount of commercials and movies running nationally. I have been here six years and with my music profile I am able to generate work a bit more in film and TV. Through Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM) I’m able to have health insurance. So some things you have to sacrifice and some things you just have to adapt to.
AD: What makes Austin special to you?
PV: The first thing I think of is freedom. Austin is the liberal pocket in the conservative state. There are a lot of artists that move down here to express themselves. It’s also close to home, where my parents live, and you can’t beat the quality of life. That’s it in a nutshell. It all comes down to family, career and quality of life. Austin really personifies that for me.
AD: Some musicians feel that having so many musicians here can be a double-edged sword: “it’s the best and the worst thing about this town.”
PV: There is competition but you have to utilize what’s given to you. SXSW has been very helpful for me to tour Europe. We go there three times a year – we are going there at the end of this month. When I first moved to town it was difficult to get bookings and it was a painful “Catch 22” since the venues have to see you live. But if they don’t give you a gig, how are they going to see you live? Because of that reality I’ve always been a firm believer in going to the source. Going to the artist themselves. I still book my own gigs and have been extremely fortunate to have been given the chance to open for my heroes like Chris Isaak, Los Lobos, Joe Ely, Alejandro Escovedo, Tito and the Tarantulas. They all helped me by giving me that one chance.
AD: What do you think about the “do it yourself” way of thought in regards to being a musician? We’ve heard that you live by this standard – we do also. Why do you think this is not a more common practice among musicians?
PV: I live by that standard out of necessity. It also runs in my family. My father is a self-made man. He is the eldest of 11 children from the Valley so he had to blaze the trail and finish college when finances were not available to him. My brother made this film El Mariachi, by donating his body to science at Pharmaco when finances were not available to him. You must know what you want and just go for it. Having a mission in life makes life worth living. The “do it yourself” mentality allows you freedom as a musician since the whole musical climate has changed so dramatically. In the past, it was the musician’s job to craft songs and the record label’s job to maintain the business side of things. Nowadays, with the rare exception, they won’t sign you unless you are already famous or successful or have already done the grueling work that they are supposed to do. Even Bono has said that U2 would not have a chance in hell if they hit the scene today. What a shocking reality. More power to the artist if they can successfully run their own business, record their own album, and license it. That way they own their own songs and masters.
AD: In your eyes, what do you think can be done to better the lives of musicians here in town?
PV: The first thing that comes to mind that thankfully has already been done is the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM). Another thing that comes to mind that hasn’t been done yet is lower the rent and property taxes.
AD: Tell us about your new CD.
PV: It is scheduled for a Spring 2007 release. Produced by Carl Thiel. It will feature my band: Robert LaRoche on guitar, Dony Wynn on drums, Scott Garber on bass, and special guest artists: Tito Larriva, Steven Medina Hufsteter (The Cruzados), Johnny Reno, Michael Ramos, Rick Del Castillo, Joe Reyes, Mike Hardwick, and more. It will be a bilingual mix graced by the amazing talents of these musicians.
AD: We have to ask: does it help or hurt you to have a famous sibling in town?
PV: Professionally speaking, Robert gave me my first speaking role in a major motion picture, “Sin City.” He included my song “Traeme Paz” in his film “Once Upon a Time in Mexico.” So yes, definitely it has helped me. Personally speaking, I’m so grateful to have brothers and sisters. We are very supportive and protective of each other. The only thing that could ever hurt me is if something hurt them.