On Art of the Song this morning, songwriter and guitarist Todd Tijerina is highlighted.
About the artist:
Todd Tijerina (Tee-her-ee-na) is one of the few individuals possessing the right amounts of talent and determination to make a successful living playing music. And like most career musicians his passion started early. “A friend lent me a bass guitar when I was nine years old and I began teaching myself some simple lines,” he recalls. “Shortly thereafter, a teenaged neighbor who knew I wanted to play guitar told me he just happened to have one for sale, a K-Mart electric going for five bucks. Within minutes I was back on his doorstep with a handful of coins and two singles. Man, I was so excited! My first real guitar!” Todd began teaching himself songs from his favorite albums and quickly realized what he wanted to be when he grew up: a professional musician.
Todd was born and raised in the working class suburbs of Chicago. “My family was poor, so when the rent was raised or money was tighter than usual we would move someplace more affordable. I feel that having lived in so many places as a kid made me aware of differences and helped broaden my perspectives. And I feel this has helped me as a songwriter. Always being the new kid on the block made me feel a real need to prove and express myself to the other kids, so they would know me as someone worth knowing. Music became the perfect avenue.”
Although Todd grew up in the blues capital of the world, it wasn’t until moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico in his late teens that he was exposed to the art form. “Some friends of mine and my older sister had turned me on to Robert Cray and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Their styles were new and really grabbed me, like nothing I had heard before.” Through the music of Robert Cray and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Todd was led to other blues greats like B.B., Albert, and Freddie King, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, T-Bone Walker and others who would become major influences for him in his playing, singing and song writing. He immersed himself in the guitar, practicing every minute he could. And he began listening to contemporaries such as Smokin’ Joe Kubek, Duke Robillard, Tab Benoit, Robben Ford, Luther Alison and others. “I also began really taking notes on the vocal stylings of different artists like Robert Cray and B.B. King. Those are two of my favorite singers.” Of his mentors Tijerina says, “Man if I own their album, they’re an influence.”
Though his music is categorized as blues-rock, you can hear jazz and funk influences in his song writing and playing. One can also detect a bit of southwestern blues flavor, not surprisingly as that is the region where Tijerina has spent most of his musical career touring from New Mexico to Texas, Colorado and Arizona making a living playing his unique brand of high octane and yet lowdown blues. Just as the fertile soil we all walk upon was once something different, a myriad of rocks, plants, ancient animal carcasses and hard mineral deposits, Todd has intertwined his introverted and passionate personality with his influences to create something that is new and potent. “I live to play”, says Tijerina of his obsession “I’ve always loved music, but the blues is my first real and lasting sweetheart.”
Regarding Todd’s talent, Aiding & Abetting states, “From the first note he strikes on his guitar it’s apparent that something great is happening…Tijerina plays with an almost incomprehensible intensity.” And the Albuquerque Journal says, “Tijerina creates some of the densest and trance-inducing blues since Vaughan put down his guitar for the last time.” The Salt Lake City Weekly adds that, “Todd Tijerina is more ego-free soulman than six-string showboat. Not that he can’t burn a fretboard with the best of ‘em–one spin of his new disc, The Lowdown, proves that–but Tijerina and his band lay down a tune and a rock-solid groove well before the solo sparks fly, not the other way around.”
Todd’s move back to Chicago in 1997 provided him opportunities to work as guitarist for Chicago blues veterans Byther Smith, Harmonica Hinds, Jumpin’ Willie Cobb, Kax and the Blacklight Show, BB’s daughter, Shirley King, and others. Migrating to Albuquerque in December of 2000, Todd brings his Chicago experiences to the region that has always inspired him and contributes to his original sound.
His soulful style rolls from lyrical and sweet to harsh and howling. His voice, like his guitar, is at times smooth as silk, and at other times hard and demanding, yet always clear and direct. Truly a fiery and captivating performer.