El Paso Music Scene

Lisa Montes Interview

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by Charles Hurley

EPMS: You're from El Paso, right?. When did you leave, and why?

Lisa Montes: I was born and raised in El Paso. I left El Paso in the fall of 1993 to study at Santa Clara University in Northern California.

EPMS: How many years did you live here?

Lisa Montes: I lived in El Paso from birth to age 17. I loved growing up in El Paso! I left a few days after my 17th birthday for college.

EPMS: Where did you go to high school?

Lisa Montes: I went to Loretto Academy.

EPMS: You started off wanting to be a dancer, but a foot injury messed up that idea. What did you go through to becaome a dancer?

Lisa Montes: I was really shy as a child, so public performing wasn't something I naturally gravitated towards, but my childhood friend convinced me to enroll in a jazz dance class with her -- and once I did, I never looked back. From the moment I learned the first movements in jazz, I fell in love with dancing. I loved the creativity and athleticism involved -- it was invigorating.

As a child, I studied jazz at the British Ballet Academy, and modern and ballet with Annie Blanco . When I was thirteen, I auditioned for the Orchesis dance group at Loretto under Madeline Jastrzembski and really blossomed there as a dancer. I think being in a supportive team environment, and having the opportunity to challenge myself in so many varied styles of choreography really brought out my passion for dance. I continued my passion at Santa Clara University with minor in dance and took on as many dance classes, and performances as my schedule could handle. After graduation, I studied and performed several years at Zohar Dance with Ehud and Daynee Krauss in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was at Zohar that I really grew into my own as both a dancer and performer.

EPMS: When you sustained your foot injury, how long did it take you to decide to get into music?

Lisa Montes: Inside, I had always dreamt about getting involved with music. I loved singing in the privacy of my room and the car growing up, but being shy prevented me from even considering trying it in public. When I had to stop dancing, I couldn't imagine not having a creative outlet, and I had one of those "now or never" moments. I knew that I could let shyness prevent me from pursuing a dream and finding joy in another creative expression, or I could find a way to overcome it and pursue music. So pretty quickly, I started going to open mics locally, listening/watching other musicians, asking questions, absorbing the music scene, etc... I took baby steps and kept pushing myself until I found the courage to take the microphone and sing.

Its been an amazing journey ever since, and I'm grateful for the experience. Looking back, dance prepared me for the challenges of this musical journey and the door closing on dance was necessary so that I could become the artist, singer and songwriter I was always meant to be.

EPMS: In college you minored in dance. In what did you major?

Lisa Montes: I majored in both Spanish and Psychology, with an emphasis in Gerontology.

EPMS: Spanish and Psychology with an emphasis in Gerontology, music, dance... Boy, you are into a lot of things. Have you always been so eclectic? What else are you into?

Lisa Montes: Yes, I have a very adventurous and curious spirit. Iíve always been fascinated by life, people, and places, so I try to experience as much as I can in my lifetime. Aside from my passions for music and dance, I really love photography, the ocean, water sports, and traveling.

EPMS: One of your recent performances was at Smith Ranch Chili Cook-off and Music festival. That's in Northern california, right?

Lisa Montes: Yes, Smith Ranch is in the San Francisco Bay Area. The chili cook off at Smith Ranch was a fundraiser for the San Francisco Bay Area local Alzheimer's Association.

EPMS: Do you cook chili?

Lisa Montes: I try, but lets just say I'm a "chili cook in progress."

There are so many great chili cooks in Texas and in El Paso. Maybe they can teach me the secrets to blending the right spices...

EPMS: Do you eat chiles? which ones?

Lisa Montes: My favorite chili is Hatch Green Chili! I've yet to find any other chili like it. I love jalepenos, poblanos and chipotles as well in Mexican cuisine. And in recent years, I've become quite a fan of Thai chili.

EPMS: "Border Town" is about "running away from her home town, and a failing relationship, to a border town to renew her heart." The video seems to take place in a little border town. Have you spent much time in little border towns?

Lisa Montes: I have spent some time in San Diego/Tijuana, but El Paso/Juarez is my favorite border town, because it's home. I was thinking of El Paso when I wrote the song - it's where I always return to get grounded and re-energized. I think there's something very special about border towns and the unique blend of culture and spirit each has.

EPMS: The music video was filmed on location in San Josť and Gilroy, in Northern California, at the end of July during the "hottest weekendĒ in recorded history." How hot was it?

Lisa Montes: It was definitely a hot weekend for California standards -- well above 100 degrees. People are used to average 85 degree temps in the summer and many buildings are not equipped with air conditioning out here. We filmed both indoors and outdoors during the three day video shoot and the hot tempuratures definitely created some unique challenges.

EPMS: During the filming of your music video, were you there during all the shooting and production?

Lisa Montes: Yes, I was very fortunate to be able to participate in all three days of production.

EPMS: What did you learn from doing that video?

Lisa Montes: Wow, where do I begin. Filming "Border Town" was my first experience doing a music video so everything was new to me. Don Fito Productions was amazing to work with! They had a great crew and since I was there during the entire three days of filming, I was able to watch them set up the locations and lighting for scenes, map out the path for the video cameras, and get the overall feel for the work involved in creating a seamless video. So much work goes into the pre-production, the actual days of filming and the post-production - it's really impressive what it takes to get 3-4 minutes worth of film! The Don Fito Productions team taught me so much about the value of working with good people and teamwork. "Border Town" is such a great video because of everyone's individual and shared contributions, and the good nature and dedication of the team. After the whole experience, I came away with a sense of great appreciation for the talent, patience, passion and vision of filmmakers and really was thankful that I had the chance to work with the Don Fito Productions on my debut video.

EPMS: How many videos did you make off your debut album, Wildfire?

Lisa Montes: "Border Town" was my first music video off of my album, Wildfire. We have not yet filmed any subsequent videos, but hope to in the coming year.

EPMS: Tell us all about this show you're doing this Saturday:

Lisa Montes: This Saturday, September 29th, from 5-7 P.M., I will be performing at the Ronald McDonald House Charities Chili Makin' & Tastin' event at Western Playland. Iím going to be singing my original songs off my debut album, Wildfire, and performing with local musicians from The Longhorn Dance Band, Sweetwater and Del Rio. Itís going to be a great event, benefitting families and children in need, and Iím really excited to have the opportunity to be a part of it all. Activities for Chili Makiní & Tastin' start at 2 P.M. - families can enjoy everything from live entertainment with Fungi Mungle, Ronald McDonald, and myself as well as fun competitions like jalapeno-eating, salsa making, chili tasting, and of course the rides at Western Playland. More information on this Saturday's event can be found at the Ronald McDonald House Charities website, www.rmhcelpaso.org/eventregistration.htm, and my website, www.lisamontes.com.

EPMS: What do you remember about El Paso?

Lisa Montes: I have so many great memories from the years I lived in El Paso. I remember colorful sunrises and sunsets with wide open skies, the smell of the oncoming rain and those amazing lightning and thunder storms, summers swimming at the Park Foothills pool with friends, the best Mexican food around, and mostly I remember El Paso as a friendly town to grow up in with people I love.

EPMS: Is this your first time back?

Lisa Montes: This will be my first time performing my music in El Paso, but I try to come home and visit every year for the holidays to spend time with family and friends.

EPMS: Aside from the show, what are you going to do in El Paso this visit?

Lisa Montes: I plan to fill up on as much of my dadís home cooking as possible --heís an amazing chef! Iíd like to spend time with my family and friends and drive around the city to see both familiar places and all thatís changed. El Paso has grown so much since I left! I plan to take a lot of pictures too so I can remember this homecoming.

EPMS: OK, thanks for your time, Lisa! Good luck with the show Saturday!

Lisa Montes: Thanks so much for all your time, and for helping to spread the word about this Saturday's event. Itís for a wonderful cause and your help and support is greatly appreciated!

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