The Caliente Column

Gary Hobbs: Soy El Mismo
By Doug Shannon (tmaxgroup@yahoo.com)

It's easy to underestimate Gary Hobbs' popularity. He's one of Tejano's
most laid-back performers, forgoing choreography and flashy light shows.

Six Tejano Music Award nominations and a Top 10 CD, "Soy El Mismo," go
a long way toward giving Hobbs he recognition he's sought.

In spite of his being an awards' finalist several times, he's still
waiting to win the prize.

"Having my name next to SELENA and EMILIO was quite an accomplishment.
If you're going to be complaining about it, you should boycott it. I've
never won a Tejano Music Award but you always see me there," he said.

"I don't know why I should worry about it, but I do want to win one.
It's not just for my ego, or my 19 employees; it's for my family, my
friends, and people who have sponsored us."

Hobbs is married and has an 11-year-old son and an eight-year-old
daughter.

The 35-year-old Eagle Pass native has taken on a new Western look.

"I've always been a jeans and boots kind of guy from my high school
days to when I was working at Trevin~o's Music Store."

But a photo session with Robert Lopez a few years back changed his
simple attire.

"He suggested we try an Italian double-breasted suit. I said, 'I don't
like suits.' But he told me I wouldn't have to wear a tie, just a nice
silk shirt. So we took that photo and before you know it, an image was
born."

Not only does he look Western, he spends much of his free time tending
to his ranch.

"I've owned cattle for the past two-and-a-half years," he said, "There
are some Coca-Cola cowboys out there who don't know the darndest thing
about a ranch. Not only have I lived on a ranch, I continue to own one
and work on one."

Perhaps his biggest project of the past year was building the all-digital
Faith Studios in Eagle Pass where he recorded and produced "Soy El Mismo."
He's also using the facilities to record young acts like LEONEL Y SU
FORMULA and LIZA JIMENEZ.

His new look, his ranching, and his band Grupo Mezquite made the title
of his CD inevitable.

"It seemed as if we were changing in a lot of ways, but I was still the
same person. I was going back to the way I was before people even knew
me, so I felt like I should name the album 'Soy El Mismo.'"

On the new album Hobbs' voice is as casual and relaxed as a comfortable
pair of jeans. Unfortunately the electronics distracts from his vocals
at times, such as the clunky drum programming on the ballad "No Ya No"
and the synthesizers that nearly drown him out on "Por Favor Corazon."

The results are much better when his singing is at the forefront of the
mix. Ranchera "Quiero Que Vuelvas" falls into this category, as does
cumbia "Tu Me Haces Sentir," where Hobbs sounds like a teenager high on
puppy love.

Seven of the disc's songs were written by keyboardist Charlie Castillon,
including the hit single "Por Favor Corazon."

"Charlie is a young, romantic, sentimental, mushy kind of guy," Hobbs
said. "A lot of what he writes about actually happened to him."

So, who was the heartbreaker that inspired Castillon to write "Por Favor
Corazon"?

"I wouldn't like to mention the name because she's a Tejano singer,"
Hobbs said.

The song is a sequel to "Te Vas A Acordar," the title track of Hobbs'
1993 disc. That CD is close to platinum, with 80,000 units sold.

"We didn't like 'Te Vas A Acordar' very much," Hobbs admitted, "but it
sold. We like 'Soy El Mismo' better."

Hobbs said he wonders if "Te Vas A Acordar" had its sales hindered by
the "12 Super Exitos" compilation released last fall.

"'12 Super Exitos' was a total surprise. I was in Dallas at an autograph
party and I saw it at a record shop. The first thing I thought was that
it might hinder 'Te Vas A Acordar' from going platinum. I didn't see
the reasoning behind it, but I supported it because EMI has always
supported us, even when we weren't selling."

If Hobbs was surprised by the sudden release of a greatest hits CD, fans
were even more surprised by MAZZ keyboardist Brando Mireles joining
Grupo Mezquite last June, then returning to Mazz in September.

"It was amicable for us to go our separate ways," Hobbs said. "Band-wise,
business-wise, and production-wise, we had different views. He was here
nine weeks and on a certain Sunday he went to play with Mazz without even
letting me know. I got hold of him on Wednesday and told him that wasn't
very professional, that people were already confused as to whether he
was with me or not.

"I still admire him very much as a musician. I don't think he gets enough
credit for producing and arranging."

Hobbs' touring schedule takes him out of state more often, but he says
he enjoys playing new states and venues.

"If we could maintain our level of success for the next five to 10 years,
I would be overjoyed. A lot of people say, 'Wow, you made a great
comeback!' But I was never gone."

Grupo Mezquite is: Mario Cervera-Drums/Percussion; Rene Rodriguez-
                   Guitars; Ruben Pacheco-Bass; Carlos Castillon-
                   Keyboards; and Carlos Iglesias-Accordion.