Like all good fairy tales, Rick Trevino's story needed a little adversity. While not quite meteoric, his ascension as a mid-nineties country recording artist was hindered by nothing more than a speed bump or two. So getting dropped by Columbia Records in 1999 seemed like the gut check Trevino needed to stir his resolve and infuse his music with newfound maturity. But he got more than he bargained for. Much more. In My Dreams, his first album for Warner Bros., stands as the culmination of a painful but liberating four-year process during which Trevino was forced to dismantle his career and rebuild it, literally, from the ground up. In so doing, he was forced to come to grips with the musical and ethnic heritage he'd always kept at arm's length.
Hindsight reveals the inherent conflicts that would eventually surface in a good-looking Latino kid who so quickly assimilated mainstream culture. On the surface, however, it all seemed easy. Perhaps too easy. Trevino's family, originally from a Houston barrio, moved to a predominantly Anglo suburb of Austin to raise Rick and his siblings. Young Trevino worked hard at his weekly piano lessons, but music was always second nature to the country fan with the big voice. As a 19-year-old college student and aspiring singer he had every intention of shopping himself to record labels, but Sony signed him before he could get around to it. He went on to establish himself as a successful middle-of-the-road hat act with a half-dozen hits and a gold record to his credit.
The first significant script departure came with 1998's Los Super Seven, a confluence of prominent Mexican-American artists including Freddie Fender, Los Lobos, Flaco Jimenez, Joe Ely and, to the surprise of many in Nashville, Trevino. Well-known for his straight-up cowboy image, Trevino was regarded as Mexicano in name only. Los Super Seven earned him newfound respect, however, with critics, fans and, most importantly, his Los Super Seven peers. In 1999, it also earned the group a Grammy for Best Mexican-American Album. A month later, Trevino suffered the first major setback of his career: Sony released him from his contract.
"I was heartbroken, Trevino recalls. "I'd been there seven years. I had just gotten married and had a new baby. I hadn't had a hit record in a while and the tour dates were slowing down. My wife was playing with my son in his room. I walked in and my words crumbled as I told her. I just broke down. We had to talk about selling the house we'd built. It was devastating."
As the emotions of the moment passed, Trevino became more philosophical about his misfortune. "I'd gone straight from college to euphoria. From Texas A&M to a tour bus. Losing my deal with Sony was hard, but it made me hungry. After I got out of my funk it was time to regroup and move ahead."
Beginning to inflect his traditional country with the ethnic flavors of his heritage, Trevino performed for a handful of labels at a local Austin club. The show was electric and it spawned a Nashville showcase for the industry. The room was packed, a who's-who of label executives lining the front row. The stage was set for Rick Trevino's triumphant return. His year of soul searching had been a prelude to this preordained victory. "I was sure we were going to get a deal," Trevino says. The only thing left was a replay of that magic set in Austin. But it didn't happen.
"I was nervous as all get-out," Trevino says. "I had a good performance, but it wasn't my night. The stars didn't line up. We finished the show and I was on the bus by myself going, 'This is not good.' The next day on the way home my manager was calling and telling me all the people who passed. I got home and broke down again--called my business managers and asked them what I had to sell.
That little bit of adversity suddenly became free fall. "After that it got worse," Trevino says. "My band stopped believing in me, and they weren't the only ones. Nobody said it, but I heard it loud and clear: 'Rick Trevino is over.' They didn't say it to my face, but I heard it from everybody--friends and family."
In a sense, they were right. Rick Trevino was over, inasmuch as that stage of his career was concerned. And he was starting over--from the very beginning. "It made me finally go back and deal with my personal issues with Mexican music," Trevino says of the process that started during the Los Super Seven project. Trevino's dad had been a Tejano musician, and his son grew up hearing that music at family gatherings. They weren't happy memories. "I always associated it with family dysfunction and alcoholism," the younger Trevino admits.
Exorcising those demons led to a focused woodshedding period. "I started going to Waterloo Records in Austin," Trevino explains. "You could listen to all the CDs you wanted and they'd re-shrink wrap them for you. So I'd bring these huge stacks and listen to Townes Van Zandt, Robert Earl Keen, Willie Nelson, Los Lobos, Shawn Colvin and Elvis Costello. I was immersing myself in music in a way I'd never done before. Now they have a rule at Waterloo: You can only listen to five CDs. Because of me."
Trevino began incorporating his studies in his work. "I started experimenting musically. I was using accordion as a substitute for Marty Robbins' trumpet players and instead of lead guitar it was gut string. I wanted the flavor you hear on 'Ring of Fire.'"
He took on weekly club gigs. "When you go from playing Austin once a year at the rodeo to playing a club every week, it's weird," he admits. "There's not that buzz you get from having hits on the radio. Nobody gives a sh--. And it's not their fault. That was a real humbling experience, but I made a point to learn from each of those gigs.
The clock on his Cinderella story having long since struck midnight, Trevino's tour bus became a van. "I had to take over driving duties because everybody in my band was so bitter that we weren't in a bus anymore," he says. "My back would be killing me by the time we would get to the next town, but I'm getting paid to sing."
That commitment kept a small core of believers in Trevino's camp. The only record executive to visit Trevino after his fateful Nashville showcase was Warner Bros.' Paul Worley. The accomplished producer encouraged Trevino to write with Raul Malo, an association initiated on the second Los Super Seven album. Malo, the creative force behind The Mavericks, eventually produced the record, with Worley serving as executive producer. Rick and Raul, along with songwriters Jaime Hanna and Alan Miller collaborated on writing nine out of the ten songs on the record.
During that period, Trevino released a Los Super Seven offshoot solo project, the critically acclaimed Mi Son on Vanguard. He and Malo also laid the foundation for In My Dreams. "I was amazed at how much of the production went down during the writing sessions. Raul produced most of the record as we wrote the songs," Trevino says.
Trevino found he didn't have much trouble communicating his vision to Malo. "It's almost like we read each other right away," he says. "I didn't have to come out and say a lot." Asked to define his sound, Trevino replies, "It's a little bit Buck Owens, Marty Robbins and Glen Campbell along with Raul's unique influence."
In the end, that statement reveals Rick Trevino's ultimate victory. "You can't get some places without struggle," he says. "Whether we have huge success or not, I'm proud of what we've done."
--- from the official Rick Trevino website