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Austin-based songwriter Alejandro Escovedo originally wanted to be a filmmaker before he found himself in the punk-rock band The Nuns, the band that kicked him onto the music scene. Escovedo, a former member of the now-defunct The True Believers, will open the 2013 St. Regis Big Stars, Bright Nights concert series at Deer Valley on July 4. (Photo by Todd_Wolfson)
Alejandro Escovedo said that when he opens the 2013 St. Regis Big Stars, Bright Nights concert series at Deer Valley's Snow Park Amphitheater with Los Lobos and Los Lonely Boys on July 3, the audience will be in for a nice surprise.

"The tour has been really cool and it's starting to pick up speed," Escovedo told The Park Record during a phone call from his home in Austin, Texas. "We're all mingling and collaborating with each other. I'm really looking forward to the show in Park City."

Escovedo will perform selections from his 30-plus years in the music business, including some from his most recent CD, "Big Station," that was released last year.

The singer and songwriter recorded the album in Austin at Jim Eno's studio.

"Jim is the drummer for the band Spoon and has a nice little studio here," Escovedo said. "It was an interesting record because we tried to do so many things."

Escovedo wrote the songs with his longtime friend and collaborator Chuck Prophet and recruited producer Tony Visconti, who has produced such artists as Iggy Pop, the Moody Blues, T. Rex and Paul McCartney & Wings, to oversee the sessions.

"When Chuck and I wrote the record, we used a drum machine and tried to get more rhythm into it," Escovedo said. "Then we worked with Tony to choose which songs were going on the album. Although we didn't agree on some of the songs, I am very happy the way it turned out."

Escovedo's path into music started with his family.

"Out of 12 children, eight of us play but it did come late to me," he confessed. "To tell you the truth, my first choice of expression was writing. I always loved to write when I was a kid."

Escovedo also explored the idea of becoming a filmmaker.

"My mother was the one who influenced me with film," he said. "She really loved movies and we would see every one that came out.

"She would also read to me stories about the movie stars and how they made the movies," Escovedo said. "So, I tried to make one."

He and his friends tried to make a movie about the worst band in the world.

"Since we couldn't play any instruments at that time, we became that band in the movie," he said laughing.

That band eventually became the punk-rock band The Nuns, which started Escovedo's career while he lived in San Francisco, Calif.

"Even when we went to play shows, we were so bad that we literally had the audience come up and tune our guitars for us," he said. "But that was my first foray into music, so it kind of came in an off-hand and backdoor way."

At first, Escovedo didn't like playing live.

"It was a terrifying and very awkward experience for me at first," he said. "I used to turn my back to the audience so I could play, because I was so scared, you know? It took a long time for me to get over that."

Escovedo kept at it and, after relocating to Austin, formed two bands — The True Believers, with his brother Javier, and Rank and File.

"When I was in True Believers I wrote my first song and I went back to my interest in films and writing to help me with that," he said. "I mean, I enjoyed movie soundtracks and liked the way images and music worked together to create tension and drama. So, my first intention with my songs was to write three-minute movies in songs. It took a while for me to get there, but that was my intention."

When the band broke up, Escovedo was reluctant to embark on a solo career.

"I really didn't want to do it because I was scared," he said. "I didn't want to lead a band. I just wanted to be in one, because being in a band was all about the fantasy of living the same live that Keith Richards and Johnny Thunders did. I wanted to look cool, you know? I had to get a special haircut and buy a good guitar and create a good sound.

"So, when True Believers imploded, I realized that if I was going to continue doing music, I had to do something that I had never done before," he said.

Escovedo did some soul searching and realized how much his brother's music had influenced him.

"He played in big Latin orchestras and I had developed a love and respect for Ronnie Lane and Slim Chance, and liked the composer Erik Satie," Escovedo said. "I also liked the way the Velvet Underground used strings, and enjoyed how Lou Reed used strings on the record 'Street Hassle.'"

Those artists help create a blueprint for Escovedo to follow.

"You could say I was trying to create something like having a string quartet play with Crazy Horse or The Stooges," he said. "That's the part that made things a little different."

Escovedo also knew that he had to write songs that not only had good structure, but also had some personal roots; two elements which he still strives for today.

"A lot of times I'll feel things deep inside and will experience a crisis in my life, or joy, you know," he said. "We all have some significant event or events that sort of change our lives.

"So, I'll look around me, hear things or talk to people or see a movie or read a book that connect with me in some weird way and will go from there and write songs," he said. "I try to look outwards. Even when I write with other people like my friend, I make sure we are looking outwards."

When Escovedo plays at Deer Valley, he knows how important it is to make the set list interesting.

"After playing all these years together, we know when an audience is falling asleep and when they want something that will wake them up," he said. "I know if I played only what I wanted to play, we would just do three or four long songs like, a John Coltrane record."

But that isn't going to happen.

"The band and I just did this retrospective where we re-learned 60 songs," he said. "I brought in a bunch of musicians whom I worked with in the past and it was great.

"So, since the band knows all these songs, I've kind of let the band help me decide what we're going to play," Escovedo said. "I like to involve the band in these types of decisions, because they give me a different perspective. They'll throw in some old songs that they would like to play or some that I'd even forgotten about or shied away from in the past, and I will remember when I wrote it, and, it makes me happy to see what I've done up until now."

Alejandro Escovedo will open the 2013 St. Regis Big Stars, Bright Nights Concert Series at the Snow Park Amphitheater at Deer Valley when he, Los Lonely Boys and Los Lobos play on Thursday, July 4, at 6:30 p.m. Reserved tickets are sold out, but general admission lawn tickets for $35 are still available. They can be purchased by visiting www.ecclescenter.org or by calling (435) 655-3114.