Pete & Sheila: It’s An E. Family Affair

While important percussionists, the Escovedos are really more than just drummers. Their consistency in voice and commitment to their art transcends timbales and congas. They do it all – play, write, perform, record – and nothing slows them down. Furthermore, there doesn’t seem to be anything that they don’t take to with energy and commitment. It’s not a question of being bored on the road (they’re not) or liking touring better than recording (they love both equally), but how to make the best of every opportunity to play music.

“Each thing is an experience so it’s always fun to do something different and do it differently each time,” Pete says. “We can always use a different studio, different people each time, different musicians, different writers. And that becomes the challenge of it: How can we make this thing work?”

Here, finally, the lines between art and drumming start to blur. But even great artists can’t ignore business. And as we mentioned at the opening of this article, American pop consumers have finally embraced the sounds of Latin music. How does this affect the Escovedos?

“It’s definitely a plus for all of us, because I think now we’re finally getting a lot more recognition,” Pete said. “Radio stations are playing a lot of the music that’s not just Latin jazz, it’s the pop, it’s the traditional types of music like Texano, that comes out of Texas. When you think of Latin music, it covers a lot because each Latin country has their own specific style of music and playing. And so a lot of that is finally being brought out, the music of South America and Brazil. So much of it is out there and it’s great there’s finally an upsurge and Latin music is finally really taking hold.”

But, as Sheila explained, nothing is ever so simple. “I do think it’s wonderful that Latin music has come to the forefront now, but I hate to see that, now that Latin music has come out, Latin people are in,” she said. “For me, racially, it gets a little weird. I think it’s kind of sad sometimes that we couldn’t be recognized just as people instead of ’Latin music is in so Latin people are in.’ Sometimes I feel very strange about it.”

What, then, would make the difference? Is it somehow possible to actually give credit where credit is due? Or will the whole fixation just turn into a fad? “I would really like to see more recognition of the musicians and/or entertainers who have been around for a long time,” Sheila says. “They stuck to their guns with the music that they have wanted to play all of their lives, and have not changed or swayed either way.”

So it becomes important to recognize those who have made a difference, and not just gravitate toward albums that sell the most or stars who look the best. “It would be really nice if they would let some of these great musicians, while they’re still alive, perform and give them some of that prime time recognition,” Pete says. “Because I think what happens is that you look back in the years at a lot of the great musicians who have been at it for so many years, and of course we understand it’s all about ratings, it’s all about selling, it’s all about …”

“Record sales,” Sheila finishes.

“But at the same time, if you’re going to deal with music, then let’s deal with the music and great musicians,” Pete continues.

“Let’s just be fair about it,” Sheila says.

“Sure,” says Pete. “They don’t have to sell 50 million records, I mean, what does that mean?”

“Politically, sometimes, it’s incorrect.”

“It’s not about how many records you sell, it’s about …”

“The musicianship, yeah.”

“That’s what counts, I think.”

“That’s the problem too – not to cut in,” Sheila says. “But back in the day, when these musicians were first starting out, we didn’t have television like we do now, we didn’t have award shows. There are probably another five or ten award shows that popped up again this year. There’s an award for everything, and that’s what I’m saying – politically it would be nice for them to show some respect for some of these people who have been around that didn’t have the chance to do that.”

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