Thursday, February 17, 2005
Todd Tijerina has an unassuming stage presence that lets you imagine that shy kid who picked up the guitar when he was 9 years old as a way of connecting with the world.
His parents divorced when he was 7. After that, everything changed. His dad moved from cheap apartment to cheap apartment as he struggled to make a living, and Tijerina found himself changing schools mid-year, over and over again. By graduation, he had attended 17 schools.
His outlet was music. He started with his brother's bass guitar until a neighbor took pity on him and sold him a $5 KMart guitar.
"It was a mercy sale," Tijerina said. "Every kid searches out avenues for self-expression, whether it's sports or art, and music was mine."
As a kid in his bedroom, listening to and imitating musicians such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, BB King and Robert Cray, Tijerina never imagined that he would be a professional musician.
After college, he took a job with an aid organization working with Guatemalan refugees and then with a group that provided assistance in El Salvador.
Through that job, he met the members of an El Salvadoran band and joined them on a seven-state fund-raising tour when they needed a guitar player.
"I started to wonder if I could make a living at this," he said. That was 1992, and within a year, Tijerina was making a modest living playing bar gigs.
Tijerina has played here before with a set list of original and classic blues songs. He is returning Wednesday and Thursday touring with his latest CD, "Welcome Home."
As we spoke on the telephone, I could hear kids playing in the background, an expected sound considering the title track of his album.
In his conversational singing style, he tells the audience about the birth of his son and how it has changed his life.
"My first album was simpler, and I stuck with standard blues topics -- bad luck, heartache and that kind of thing," Tijerina said. "With this one, I'm writing about more personal things. My son is the most important thing in my life.
"I'm trying to learn how to say those kinds of things."